Apple nixes ‘Fortnite’ maker’s ability to make EU app store

Apple terminated Epic’s development account, preventing the gaming company from bringing Fortnite and the Epic Games Store to Apple’s iOS devices in the EU, the software company said in a statement. — Reuters

Apple Inc has stopped Epic Games Inc from opening its own app store for iPhone customers in Europe, a move the Fortnite maker says is a response to its criticism of the tech behemoth and a breach of sweeping new antitrust rules in the region.

Apple terminated Epic’s development account, preventing the gaming company from bringing Fortnite and the Epic Games Store to Apple’s iOS devices in the EU, the software company said in a statement March 6. Epic said this was a “serious violation” of the European Union’s new Digital Markets Act, which aims to increase competition in the industry.

Earlier this week, Apple updated the iPhone to support third-party marketplaces in the EU, along with side loading – the ability to download apps outside of the company’s App Store. Apple made the changes to meet requirements of the DMA, which takes effect Thursday.

Epic’s developer account had already been banned by Apple in the US and elsewhere since 2020, when Epic bypassed Apple’s payment system to sell in-app upgrades to users. That set off a firestorm between the two companies, ultimately resulting in Apple and Epic going to court. Apple mostly prevailed, but was forced by a judge to make it easier for developers to point customers to outside payment methods for in-app purchases.

After detailing its plans to comply with new EU regulations earlier this year, Apple moved to mend fences by granting Epic’s Sweden division a developer account in the EU. That has now been shut down, which Epic says is the result of criticism of Apple by chief executive officer Tim Sweeney.

“In terminating Epic’s developer account, Apple is taking out one of the largest potential competitors to the Apple App Store,” Epic said in the statement. “They are undermining our ability to be a viable competitor and they are showing other developers what happens when you try to compete with Apple or are critical of their unfair practices.”

Epic had slammed the way Apple chose to comply with the new DMA law, saying that new fees were unfair to developers. Sweeney described the plan as “hot garbage” and a “horror show”.

The game maker also published emails from Apple App Store chief Phil Schiller and company lawyers pointing to that criticism.

“Your colorful criticism of our DMA compliance plan, coupled with Epic’s past practice of intentionally violating contractual provisions with which it disagrees, strongly suggest that Epic Sweden does not intend to follow the rules,” Schiller said in a note cited by Epic. “In plain, unqualified terms, please tell us why we should trust Epic this time,” Schiller wrote.

Just a week or so later, on March 2, Epic said it received a letter from an Apple lawyer advising that it had terminated the developer account effective immediately.

On Wednesday, Apple said it had the right to terminate Epic entities from its platform, citing court determinations that the game maker had committed an “egregious breach of its contractual obligations”.

“In light of Epic’s past and ongoing behavior, Apple chose to exercise that right,” Apple said.

In an interview with Bloomberg TV Tuesday, the European Union competition chief Margrethe Vestager said the bloc intends to focus on app stores after the new rules come into effect. Vestager said she’s most concerned about smaller app stores being given fair access to operating systems run by companies that dominate the market like Apple, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft Corp. – Bloomberg

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