Today, the Apple vs Epic Games lawsuit has taken another turn as Microsoft, specifically General Manager of Gaming Development Experiences Kevin Gammill, have filed a statement of support for Epic Games. This statement related specifically to Apple’s threat to remove Epic’s access to the software development kit on iOS. That would be a huge and devastating move for a number of developers who rely on Epic’s Unreal Engine. If Epic cannot update and maintain Unreal Engine then third party developers would be very limited in being able to update or develop games on iOS.
In the statement, Microsoft specifically references Forza Street, one of its own titles, which runs on Unreal Engine. Additionally, Microsoft states that if support for Unreal Engine is removed it would either have to develop a new engine, an option not viable for smaller devs, or leaving its iOS players behind. The full statement can be read below.
I, Kevin Gammill, declare as follows:
1. I am the General Manager, Gaming Developer Experiences for Microsoft. In this role, I oversee Microsoft’s support of game creators (including game developers, audio engineers, level designers, game producers, etc.) within the Xbox ecosystem. Among other things, my team helps game creators achieve their creative goals. I have been an engineer for more than 30 years, including more than 20 years at Microsoft, and have more than 10 years of experience supporting game creators across multiple platforms.
2. Epic Games’ Unreal Engine is a critical technology for numerous game creators including Microsoft.
- (a) Game engines provide creators with a development environment that delivers the necessary graphics, rendering, physics, sound, networking, and other technologies that enable them to build games that run on multiple platforms.
- (b) Although some large game creators choose to develop their own proprietary game engines, many others, including small and independent game creators, utilize game engines built by and licensed from third parties.
- (c) Many of these creators do not have the resources or capabilities to build their own game engines and rely on the availability of third-party game engines, while other creators may choose to use third-party game engines to save development costs and utilize
- (d) As a result, Epic’s Unreal 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.
- (e) Microsoft has an enterprise-wide, multi-year Unreal Engine license agreement and has invested significant resources and engineer time working with and customizing Unreal Engine for its own games on PC, Xbox consoles, and mobile devices (including iOS devices).
For example, Microsoft’s racing game Forza Street is currently available on iOS and utilizes Unreal Engine.
3. Denying Epic access to Apple’s SDK and other development tools will prevent Epic from supporting Unreal Engine on iOS and macOS, and will place Unreal Engine and those game creators that have built, are building, and may build games on it at a substantial disadvantage.
- (a) Developing a game using different game engines for different platforms may be prohibitively expensive and difficult. In any event, it is not as cost-effective as using a game engine that supports different platforms.
- (b) As a result, game creators, including Microsoft, that are preparing to develop a game targeted at multiple platforms generally choose game engines based both on the functionality they provide as well as their ability to support development for those platforms.
- (c) If Unreal Engine cannot support games for iOS or macOS, Microsoft would be required to choose between abandoning its customers and potential customers on the iOS and macOS platforms or choosing a different game engine when preparing to develop new
- (d) Because iOS is a large and growing market for games, Apple’s discontinuation of Unreal Engine’s ability to support iOS will be a material disadvantage for the Unreal Engine in future decisions by Microsoft and other game creators as to the choice of an
engine for new games.
- (e) Even uncertainty about the Unreal Engine’s ability to continue supporting iOS and macOS will make it less likely for Microsoft (and, I believe, other game creators) to select Unreal Engine for their projects. When game creators are planning development projects,
which can last for years, it is important to have confidence that the chosen engine will continue to be available on and support all platforms on which the game creators plan to distribute their games.
4. Apple’s discontinuation of Epic’s ability to develop and support Unreal Engine for iOS or macOS will harm game creators and gamers.
- (a) 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.
- (b) Apple’s removal of Unreal Engine’s ability to develop updates and improvements for iOS and macOS could also harm already-launched iOS and macOS games built on Unreal Engine. 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.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1746, I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct and that I executed this declaration on August 22, 2020 on Lopez Island, Washington.
All of this has come about because Epic decided to introduce a new way to pay for in-game currency that bypassed Apple’s systems, dodging Apple’s 30% fee on transactions processed via Apple. In reaction to this, Fortnite was pulled from the App Store, with Epic then immediately filing suit. A similar chain of events also played out on the Google Play Store on Android.
Apple have come in for strong criticism over the last few months, with a war of words with Microsoft over the exclusion of their xCloud streaming app. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers will only be able to access game streaming via Android smartphones when the service launches in September.