Epic Games have stepped up their fight in the courts of public opinion with Apple by directly emailing Fortnite players on iPhone, iPad and macOS to pin the blame on Apple for the lack of an update to Fortnite Season 2 – Chapter 4, which kicked off yesterday on most other platforms. It’s the latest move in their battle with the tech giant, once again seeking to paint themselves is the most favourable light possible while their lawsuit goes through the US courts.
The email reads:
Apple is blocking Fortnite updates and new installs on the App Store, and has said they will terminate our ability to develop Fortnite for Apple devices. As a result, the Chapter 2 – Season 4 update (v14.00), did not release on iOS and macOS on August 27. […]
Apple limits competition so they can collect 30% of consumer payments made in apps like Fortnite, raising the prices you pay. Epic lowered prices through a direct payment option, but Apple is blocking Fortnite in order to prevent Epic from passing on the savings from direct payments to players. Epic has taken legal action to end Apple’s anti-competitive restrictions on mobile device marketplaces. Papers are available for our August 13, August 17, and August 23 filings. In retaliation for this action, Apple blocked your access to Fortnite updates and new installs on all iOS devices.
They also explain that players will be able to continue playing on the older version of the game, and direct those wanting a refund to contact Apple.
However, what this email fails to explain is that, in offering a direct payment option, Epic directly broke the terms of hosting their app on the iOS App Store. Whether they like or dislike Apple’s policies, they broke the rules knowing that Apple would remove their game from the store.
That’s exactly how the US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers viewed the situation when Epic sought injunctive relief to force Apple to restore the game to the App Store. Judge Rogers wrote:
Epic Games remains free to maintain its agreements with Apple in breach status as this litigation continues, but as the Seventh Circuit recognized in Second City Music, “[t]he sensible way to proceed is for [Epic to comply with the agreements and guidelines] and continue to operate while it builds a record.” “Any injury that [Epic Games] incurs by following a different course is of its own choosing.” Epic Games admits that the technology exists to “fix” the problem easily by deactivating the “hotfix.” That Epic Games would prefer not to litigate in that context does not mean that “irreparable harm” exists.
The Court did, however, provide injunctive relief to prevent Apple from entirely cutting off Epic’s developer access entirely and effectively ending support for Unreal Engine on their platforms.
At this point, the decision whether or not an update can be made is entirely in Epic’s hands. The Court has determined that Epic knowingly breached an agreement they disagree with and have even acknowledged that it would be easy to revert the changes. Apple have also stated that they would be happy to restore Fortnite to the store so long as it removes the direct payment option.
However, it seems that Epic are going to stay the course, at least for a little while longer, and they are carrying out a well orchestrated PR campaign to try and get their young audience on side. This started on the day of the app’s removal with the release of a poppy trailer that pastiched Apple’s iconic 1984 advert, coming with the hashtag #FreeFortnite, and has now continued with emails to their players.
The next hearing will take place on 28th September, where Epic will again seek an injunction to get Fortnite back onto the App Store, but for a full trial, Epic have said they need at least four months to prepare, and Apple don’t want to start for ten months. That in mind, and with the Court already having ruled that the game’s availability is up to Epic, it’s just a matter of how long they are going to cut themselves off from a substantial revenue source.
Meanwhile, here’s what Apple’s been up to:
A new era of @PUBGMOBILE is coming, featuring an overhaul of the Erangel map and a bold new look.
Check out the exclusive sneak peek here. https://t.co/ZmcDm6zKQR
— App Store (@AppStore) August 28, 2020