Apple says Epic Games' lawsuit is a publicity stunt to 'reinvigorate' Fortnite
Tech giant declares the video game's 'popularity is on the wane'
The battle between Apple and Epic Games over the tech giant's powerful and popular App Store engaged in mudslinging and more legal action on Wednesday with Apple slamming Epic's Fortnite game.
On Wednesday, Apple filed a 37-page opposition brief ahead of a Sept. 28 hearing on its ongoing legal dispute with Epic. In the paperwork, Apple's lawyers charged, "Fortnite’s popularity is on the wane. By July 2020, interest in Fortnite had decreased by nearly 70% as compared to October 2019,"
The filing asks that the court throw out the game developer's latest injunction request to have the popular video game reinstated on the App Store, arguing the dispute is nothing more than a "marketing campaign designed to reinvigorate interest in Fortnite."
The filing also questioned Epic's motives.
"If Epic were truly concerned that it would suffer reputational injury from this dispute, it would not be engaging in these elaborate efforts to publicize it," Apple wrote to the court. "From all appearances (including the #freefortnite campaign), Epic thinks its conduct here will engender goodwill, boost its reputation, and drive users to Fortnite, not the opposite. That is not harm.”
Apple says the game developer "started a fire, and poured gasoline on it, and now asks this Court for emergency assistance in putting it out" despite the fact that Epic can end the dispute itself by simply removing Fortnite's in-app direct payment system, which allows the gamemaker to avoid paying a 30% commission fee to the tech giant.
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Epic's latest move comes after its access to Mac and iOS development tools were officially revoked by Apple last month, asking the court to stop what it has described as retaliation from Apple.
The gamemaker has argued that Apple's move causes "irreparable harm" and could cripple its Unreal Engine, used by many game developers to create their own products.
While Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled last month that Apple could not retaliate against the Unreal Engine, she would not reinstate Fortnite on the App Store, arguing that Epic's "current predicament appears of its own making."
Apple has previously said it would allow Fortnite back into the store if the direct payment feature was removed, but Epic has refused, saying that complying with Apple's request would "collude with Apple to maintain their monopoly over in-app payments on iOS."
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Apple says that Epic's claims of irreparable harm are baseless due to the fact that only 10% of Fortnite players play regularly on the iPhone and that popular video game still remains widely available on Microsoft Windows, macOS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Android.
The company also claims that Epic's reinstatement without the removal of the direct payment system could harm the integrity of the iPhone ecosystem and the privacy and security of around a billion iPhone users around the world.
"Epic is responsible for harming the very community it purports to be protecting," Apple said. "If Epic were really concerned about preserving iPhone users’ access to Fortnite, or developers’ access to Unreal Engine, it would deactivate the “hotfix” and comply with Apple’s policies pending resolution of its claims. Instead, Epic is holding its own customers hostage to gain leverage in a business dispute."
Apple adds Epic could use the Unreal Engine as a "second potential “trojan horse” that would enable Epic to carry through on its threats to undermine the App Store" that could "insert malware, or other unauthorized features such as alternative direct payment mechanisms, in the version of Unreal Engine for iOS devices, and thus the non-Epic apps that are available on the App Store and rely on Unreal Engine."
"By depriving Apple of the contractual remedy that it has to protect itself against Epic’s announced intent to subvert the App Store—the right to terminate its developer agreement—the injunction Epic seeks would leave Apple defenseless against Epic’s assault," the filing states.
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In addition to the opposition brief, Apple has filed a countersuit alleging Epic committed a "flagrant breach of contract" seeking an end to the direct payment system and "restitution and disgorgement of all earnings, profits, compensation, benefits, and other ill-gotten gains obtained by Epic."
The countersuit also seeks damages for harm to its reputation from Fortnite players and a public relations campaign against Apple that includes a parody of the company's "1984" television commercial and playable character "Tart Tycoon," who bears some resemblance to Apple CEO Tim Cook.