The dispute between Apple and the maker of the popular video game Fortnite over in-app purchasing rules continued Sunday with Fortnite hosting a free online competition billed as the last time gamers will be able to play together across all platforms.
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The #FreeFortnite Cup was scheduled two days after Apple asked a federal judge in California on Friday to deny Fortnite maker Epic Games’ request to have the game returned to the App Store.
Apple removed Fortnite from its App Store on its iOS & iPadOS operating systems earlier this month after Epic Games “secretly” installed a “hotfix” into its app to bypass the Apple payment system.
“Epic knew full well that, in circumventing Apple’s processes and breaching its contracts, it was putting its entire relationship with Apple — including its Unreal Engine and other projects — at serious risk,” Apple wrote in its filing in U.S. District Court in Northern California. “Epic made the calculated decision to breach anyway, and then run to this Court to argue that its customers were being damaged.”
Apple and Google both take a 30% cut from in-app revenue purchases in games, which has long been a sore spot with developers. Epic Games sued Apple for allegedly violating anti-trust laws, according to Reuters, but Apple hit back Friday, arguing that Epic CEO Tim Sweeney had asked for special treatment.
The filing produced three emails showing Sweeney asked Apple for a “side letter” special deal to arrange for Epic to bypass in-app purchases and allow Fortnite players to pay it directly, as well as permission to launch a third-party “competing” app store for iPhones.
“If developers can avoid the digital checkout, it is the same as if a customer leaves an Apple retail store without paying for shoplifted products: Apple does not get paid,” Apple said in its filing.
“Over time, in part because of the opportunities Apple made available, Epic grew to a multi-billion dollar enterprise with large investors like the Chinese tech giant Tencent pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the company,” Apple continued. “Now, having decided that it would rather enjoy the benefits of the App Store without paying for them, Epic has breached its contracts with Apple, using its own customers and Apple’s users as leverage.”
Sweeney took to his Twitter account on Friday to dispute the filing, arguing that Apple’s claims were “misleading” and he had written Apple to “make these options equally available to all iOS developers.”
“Shoplifting??! C'mon Apple, your start was with the Apple ][, an open platform that booted up to a BASIC programming language prompt. Freedom to create and install software is fundamental to general computing devices. And you're reduced to calling us "shoplifters"?” the Epic CEO tweeted.
Fortnite is free, but users can pay for in-game accouterments like weapons and outfits.
Epic launched the #FreeFortnite campaign in an effort to paint Apple in a negative light and planned to launch a new short film called “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite," a seeming parody of Apple's iconic “1984" commercial that introduced the Macintosh computer.
Apple is also planning to end Epic Games' developer accounts and remove the company from iOS and Mac tools on Aug. 28, Epic said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.