Epic Games Inc. Chief Executive Tim Sweeney said Wednesday that Apple told the maker of "Fortnite" that its ability to release software on Apple platforms won’t be reinstated until its litigation against the iPhone-maker is resolved.
Mr. Sweeney revealed in a Twitter thread Wednesday that he had sought the game’s reinstatement of its developer account last week. Earlier this month, a judge ruled that Apple was well within its right to boot "Fortnite" from its platforms after Epic breached the iPhone maker’s contract last year. Epic has said it is appealing the verdict.
"Late last night, Apple informed Epic that Fortnite will be blacklisted from the Apple ecosystem until the exhaustion of all court appeals, which could be as long as a 5-year process," Mr. Sweeney said in a tweet. Apple declined to comment.
The exchange is the latest development in the high-profile legal battle between Epic and Apple over the control the technology giant holds over its digital marketplace. The fight began a little more than a year ago when Epic filed a lawsuit that claimed Apple held an improper monopoly over distribution of apps on its mobile devices and forced developers to use its in-app payment system.
Apple has denied it conducts business improperly, arguing its app rules protect users and its fees are in line with industry norms and fair for the service it provides developers.
The 16-day bench trial in May attracted attention throughout the tech industry as a broader debate rages about the power tech companies hold over their platforms.
U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers on Sept. 10 rejected Epic’s efforts to force Apple to allow third-party programs to be downloaded onto its mobile devices outside of the App Store, deciding in favor of Apple’s in-app payment system and app rules.
She ordered Apple to stop prohibiting developers from communicating with users about alternative payment methods outside of their apps. Apple says it is reviewing the verdict.
The legal battle began in August 2020 when Apple removed "Fortnite" because Epic inserted its own payment system into its game, effectively allowing players to bypass the iPhone maker’s 30% commission on in-app purchases of digital goods.
Today "Fortnite" is available on consoles and computers and has around 400 million registered accounts, according to Epic.
Before the verdict, Apple had said it would welcome the combat game’s return to the App Store as long as Epic adhered to its rules.
On Twitter Wednesday, Mr. Sweeney said he sent Phil Schiller, a senior Apple executive who oversees the App Store, a letter on Sept. 16 saying his company would comply with Apple’s App Store requirements as long as it satisfies the judge’s orders. He also posted the Apple lawyer’s response in a letter dated Tuesday.
"Whether Epic chooses to bring Fortnite back to iOS consumers depends on whether and where Apple updates its guidelines to provide for a level playing field between Apple In-App Purchase and other methods of payment," Mr. Sweeney wrote in his letter posted on Twitter. He also posted a letter between Epic and Apple lawyers.
Since the verdict, Mr. Sweeney has expressed his displeasure with the findings, vowing to continue his fight and reiterating that he was fighting to have a free digital world. "Wouldn’t trade that away to get Fortnite back on iOS," he wrote on Twitter earlier this month.
That tweet caught Apple’s eye. "In light of this and other statements since the court’s decision, coupled with Epic’s duplicitous conduct in the past, Apple has exercised its discretion not to reinstate Epic’s developer program account at this time," Mark Perry, an outside lawyer for Apple, told Epic’s lawyer. "Apple will not consider any further requests for reinstatement until the district court’s judgment becomes final and nonappealable."
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