Apple, one of the largest tech companies in the world, and Epic Games, the makers of the popular online game Fortnite, have been engaged in a spat over the last few weeks that threaten to shake the entire gaming industry.
But just recently, Epic Games got an unexpected ally in this dispute, Microsoft. The Windows giant through its general manager of developer experiences Kevin Gammill sent a letter in court to support Epic Games.
Gammill noted in the letter that Apple’s decision to pull out Fortnite from the app store will “harm game creators and gamers” in the long run. The reasoning behind this isn’t just based on the fact that Apple is pulling down one of the most popular online games from its app store.
Gammill argues that Epic Games also develops the Unreal Engine software suite, a set of tools that are popularly used by developers to make games, including the smartphone version of “Battlegrounds.” The engine by Epic games is also integral in the production of the Microsoft owned racing game “Forza Street.”
Apple’s decision to remove Fortnite from the app store didn’t end there. The company also canceled Epic’s Developer Program contract.
This decision means that Epic Games is no longer able to access Apple’s developer technology, something that will make it impossible to issue updates on its Unreal Engine on iOS. In essence, any gaming developer who uses the Unreal Engine to make iOS games will be significantly limited in the long term.
Additionally, developers who have already used the Unreal Engine to make games that are already available on the app store will no longer be able to issue any updates. At the end of it all, there could be massive long-term implications on the entire gaming industry.
Microsoft described the Unreal Engine in its court letter as “critical technology for numerous game creators including Microsoft.” The company also added that the move by Apple to ban Epic Games from accessing the app store will be counterproductive.
Fortnite was pulled from the Apple app store and the Google PlayStore after Epic Games issued an update that allowed its users to bypass the digital payment systems offered by Apple and Google.
In essence, the update simply allowed players to make in-game purchases directly from Epic, and at a 20% discount, without directly involving the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.
Google and Apple noted that the update violated their terms of service and therefore a decision to pull down the game was inevitable. Apple has, in fact, made it clear that it won’t make an exception for Epic Games arguing that its app store policy applies to all companies or creators.
Apple also accused Epic Games of putting its own business interest ahead of the safety of app store users. Nonetheless, the decision has now been contested in court and the first hearing already took place on August 24th.