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Fortnite’s iOS return in doubt after Apple terminates Epic’s developer account

Apple is playing hardball with Epic and the EU
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Update (March 7, 2024, 12:35pm CET): The European Union has asked Apple to explain itself in regards to the termination of Epic Games' European developer account, as reported by Reuters, and launched an investigation into the tech giant's conduct.

A spokesperson of the European Commission quoted by the news agency stated: “We are also evaluating whether Apple's actions raise doubts on their compliance with the DSA (Digital Services Act) and the P2B (Platform to Business Regulation), given the links between the developer programme membership and the App store as designated VLOP (very large online platform).”

Original (March 7, 2024, 9:25am CET): Earlier this year, the European Union adopted some regulations that are supposed to force Apple to open up its iOS ecosystem to third-party stores and apps. Epic Games announced plans for a return of Fortnite to Apple’s devices in the EU due to these new rules back then, but it looks like the developer and Fortnite fans will have to curb those expectations. According to a statement by Epic, Apple has terminated the company’s developer account for the EU region, which it initially approved back in February 2024 (though Apple now says that this account was created without executive review from anyone at the company).

“To our surprise, Apple has terminated that account and now we cannot develop the Epic Games Store for iOS. This is a serious violation of the DMA and shows Apple has no intention of allowing true competition on iOS devices,” Epic Games stated. “In terminating Epic’s developer account, Apple is taking out one of the largest potential competitors to the Apple App Store. They are undermining our ability to be a viable competitor and they are showing other developers what happens when you try to compete with Apple or are critical of their unfair practices.”

Fortnite ad attacking Apple and referencing Orwell's 1984.

Epic Games started its public offensive against Apple in 2020.

Epic claims that Apple backed up its termination of the developer account by citing critical posts written by Epic CEO Tim Sweeney about the tech giant’s proposed compliance with the EU law, attaching the correspondence between the two companies to its statement. Lawyers in service of Apple accused the Swedish Epic Games subsidiary, under which the developer account was created, of being “part of a global effort to undermine or evade Apple’s rules.”

Apple also cited a legal judgment from the two companies’ bouts in front of US courts, permitting the corporation to terminate its relationship with any Epic Games entity at any time. And that kind of drives home how muddy this situation is: Though it’s technically about complying with EU law, both companies are based in the US and are bringing global interests into the equation – not to mention the bad blood created between both entities by its ongoing court battles since 2020.

Apple reacted to Epic’s public statement with one of its own (via TechCrunch), saying: “Epic’s egregious breach of its contractual obligations to Apple led courts to determine that Apple has the right to terminate ‘any or all of Epic Games’ wholly owned subsidiaries, affiliates, and/or other entities under Epic Games’ control at any time and at Apple’s sole discretion.’ In light of Epic’s past and ongoing behavior, Apple chose to exercise that right.”

It looks like this saga will continue.