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The controversy began when Epic Games tried to circumvent the payment system on Apple’s App Store and Google Play last week. Epic Games doesn’t want to pay the 30% commission that Apple gets on app downloads and in-game purchases, so they created their own direct payment system.
Apple banned Fortnite from its platform as a result, and took things a step further Friday by characterizing Epic’s direct payment system as stealing in a court filing.
“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's lawyers wrote.
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney responded with incredulity Friday.
“Freedom to create and install software is fundamental to general computing devices. And you're reduced to calling us ‘shoplifters’?” He said on Twitter.
Apple entered emails into the evidence that show Epic emailed Apple this summer, asking for a special carveout so that they can avoid the 30% commission fee. Apple responded by denying their request and saying that the company has never done that for anyone. That’s when Epic went ahead with its direct 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’s lawyers wrote in the filing. “Epic made the calculated decision to breach anyway, and then run to this Court to argue that its customers were being damaged.”
Sweeney responded Friday by saying that Epic did not actually want a special carveout, but for the changes to be made for all developers on Apple’s platform.
“I specifically said in Epic's request to the Apple execs, ‘We hope that Apple will also make these options equally available to all iOS developers,’” Sweeney tweeted Friday.
Apple said Friday that if Epic gets rid of the direct payment system and falls back in line with their guidelines, then Fortnite would be available within days again on the App Store.
But Epic doesn’t appear to be backing down. The #FreeFortnite Cup is set for Sunday and features a variety of anti-Apple prizes. Players that score 10 points will win a Tart Tycoon skin, a character with an Apple for a head that is a parody of an evil businessman. Players who score in the top 1,200 will get a piece of gaming hardware that is made by Apple competitors, such as Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, and Samsung.
“All of your friends. Awesome prizes. And one bad apple," Epic wrote. "We’re droppin the #FreeFortnite Cup."