Microsoft submits statement of support for Epic Games in Apple fight

The ongoing legal battle between Epic Games and Apple has expanded to involve Microsoft.

Kevin Gammill, the general manager, gaming developer experiences for Microsoft, has filed a statement of support for Epic in their restraining order against Apple.

In the statement, Gammill remarks that Epic’s Unreal Engine is “critical technology for numerous game creators including Microsoft,” and goes on to say  that the engine “is one of the most popular third-party game engines available to game creators, and in Microsoft’s view there are very few other options available for creators to license with as many features and as much functionality as Unreal Engine across multiple platforms, including iOS.”

Gammill believes that “Apple’s discontinuation of Epic’s ability to develop and support Unreal Engine for iOS or macOS will harm game creators and gamers.”

The two companies have been engaged in an escalating legal battle, that began after Epic issued a lawsuit following the Apple blocking Fortnite from the App Store for offering direct payment methods. This circumvents Apple’s 30 per cent cut of all in-app purchases, a revenue share that Epic CEO Tim Sweeney has been publicly critical of.

Following the lawsuit, Apple began preparations to revoke Epic’s access to Apple’s developer tools. In effect, this means any developer using Unreal Engine would be unable to update their games, essentially halting all support for a huge range of titles – including Microsoft’s Forza series.

On this note, Gammill states that even the uncertainty around the access to Apple’s developer tools is harming Epic and Unreal developers. If the access is revoked, Microsoft is less likely to use Unreal Engine for future projects, with Gammill speculating that this will be a broader trend.

“For game creators in the later stages of development utilizing Unreal Engine and targeting the iOS and/or macOS platform, Unreal Engine’s sudden loss of support for iOS and macOS would create significant costs and difficult decisions. The creator would have significant sunk costs and lost time using Unreal Engine for game creation, and would have to choose between (a) starting development all over with a new game engine, (b) abandoning the iOS and macOS platforms, or (c) ceasing development entirely.”

Additionally, he says that the move will harm existing Unreal Engine titles.

“If the game engine can no longer develop updates that take advantage of new iOS or macOS features, fix software bugs, or patch security flaws, this will harm games that have already launched on iOS and macOS (and, in turn, harm gamers). In addition, this situation could bifurcate a game’s player base, such that gamers on iOS or macOS cannot play or communicate with friends or family who are playing on other platforms.”

Xbox head Phil Spencer shared the statement on Twitter, adding: “Today we filed a statement in support of Epic’s request to keep access to the Apple SDK for its Unreal Engine. Ensuring that Epic has access to the latest Apple technology is the right thing for gamer developers & gamers.”

Microsoft has their own issues with Apple, outside of the latter’s ongoing spat with Epic. Microsoft’s plans to bring xCloud to iOS were recently scuppered, as Apple has refused to allow Microsoft’s streaming app onto Apple devices.

About Chris Wallace

Chris is MCV/DEVELOP's staff writer, joining the team after graduating from Cardiff University with a Master's degree in Magazine Journalism. He can regrettably be found on Twitter at @wallacec42, where he mostly explores his obsession with the Life is Strange series, for which he refuses to apologise.

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