The App Store fee showdown between Apple and Epic Games moved one stage further at the weekend, with the news that Apple has removed the games developer from its Developer Program.
The move by Apple could be serious for Epic, as it will now be prevented from developing and distributing software on Mac and iOS. It also could have dramatic implications for its Unreal Engine business.
Last Friday Epic Games filed a lawsuit against both Apple and Google, after it had issued an update for Fornite that allowed players to purchase in-game currency directly from Epic, bypassing Apple and Google’s payment systems and the 30 percent commission they charge.
Apple and Google then retaliated and removed Fornite from their respective App Stores, prompting the Epic lawsuit against Apple late last week.
In addition, it has emerged that Apple will also terminate all of Epic Games’ developer accounts and cut it off from its development tools starting 28 August, Reuters reported.
This is going to be a bit of a problem for Epic, because despite developing its own gaming titles, and it also makes tools for other game developers such as the Unreal Engine.
The Unreal engine allows millions of developers to create three-dimensional graphics, and it is also used by medical imaging companies and car designers, Epic reportedly said.
Apple’s move means that Epic will no longer be able to keep offering the Unreal Engine for Mac and iOS operating systems, which would impact hundreds of game titles and other software.
“The effects will reverberate well beyond video games; it will affect developers who use the Unreal Engine on Apple products in many fields,” Epic was quoted by Reuters as saying in its filing.
Epic has asked the US court to issue an order blocking Apple’s move.
“The ensuing impact on the Unreal Engine’s viability, and the trust and confidence developers have in that engine, cannot be repaired with a monetary award,” said Epic.
But Apple is not budging on the issue.
“The problem Epic has created for itself is one that can easily be remedied if they submit an update of their app that reverts it to comply with the guidelines they agreed to and which apply to all developers,” Apple was quoted by Reuters as saying in a statement.
“We won’t make an exception for Epic because we don’t think it’s right to put their business interests ahead of the guidelines that protect our customers,” Apple added.
Epic has sought to glavanise public opinion on the matter on social media, launching a campaign with the hashtag #FreeFortnite
It also released a short animated film styled after Apple’s famed ‘1984’ commercial, in which Epic boasted it had “defied the App Store Monopoly”.
Apple is coming under increasing pressure for the 15 to 30 percent commission it takes for most app subscriptions and payments made inside apps.
Apple reportedly makes $46.3 billion-per-year as part of its services segment, and analysts believe games are the biggest contributor to spending inside the App Store.
In July secure messaging app Telegram filed an official complaint with European antitrust officials against Apple and its App Store.
Apple meanwhile had recently commissioned a report that defended its fees, stating that the 30 percent commission was about average.
It should be remembered that Apple in June was hit with a double whammy, when European Commission, after a year of debating, officially opened two formal antitrust investigations over its App Store and Apple Pay.
Epic is getting a lot of support from music streaming service Spotify.
In March 2019 Spotify had filed an official complaint and accused Apple of unfairly using the dominance of its App Store to give the Apple Music service a competitive advantage.
Spotify had also previously complained to the EU that the app store represents a monopoly power.
And with the latest development, Spotify applauded Epic’s move.
“Apple’s unfair practices have disadvantaged competitors and deprived consumers for far too long,” Spotify was quoted by Reuters as saying.
Apple at the time strongly defended itself against Spotify’s complaints, and slammed the firm for using its App Store to dramatically grow its business, and then allegedly seeking to keep all the benefits of the App Store ecosystem (including hefty revenues), without making any contributions to that marketplace.
But it is not just Spotify and Epic suing Apple over its App Store.
In June 2019 two app developers filed lawsuits against Apple, alleging the App Store gives the iPad maker a monopoly on the sale and distribution of iOS apps.
It should be noted that Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has also been questioned about the App Store fees and the domination of big tech firms and whether it has hurt competition, in an antitrust hearing in Washington DC in late July.
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