Apple Strikes Back By Making Epic Games Look Like Jackasses, But It Seems to Have Backfired

Illustration for article titled Apple Strikes Back By Making Epic Games Look Like Jackasses, But It Seems to Have Backfired
Photo: Ina Fassbender/AFP (Getty Images)

Apple is claiming that Epic Games asked for a “special deal” to bypass its in-app purchase policies in a filing it released today. According to CNBC, former Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller, now a Fellow with the company, said Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney asked “for a ‘side letter’ from Apple that would create a special deal for only Epic that would fundamentally change the way in which Epic offers apps on Apple’s iOS platform.”

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In addition to allowing its users to pay Epic directly, Sweeney also allegedly asked Apple for permission to launch a third-party app store for iPhones. The filing also states that Epic Games claim of irreparable harm is “self-inflicted and the result of its choice to breach agreements,” and that its challenge to Apple’s App Store policies was “orchestrated.” Apple also argues that it is not a monopoly, that it has not engaged in anti-competitive behavior, and that it has not denied Epic Games to an “essential facility,” or to iOS on iPhone and iPad.

But according to Sweeney, Apple’s statement that Epic tried to procure a deal for themselves, and only themselves, is misleading. Earlier this afternoon, he tweeted an image of the entire email he sent to Apple that is referenced in Apple’s filing.

“We hope that Apple will also make these options equally available to all iOS developers,” said Sweeney near the end of the fourth paragraph. While it is in Epic Games vested interest to negotiate for a lower commission payment to Apple or the ability to side-load its own store onto iOS devices, it appears that Sweeney does make clear that he wants the same options available for all developers, not just Epic Games.

Epic Games announced earlier this week that Apple told the company it would terminate its developer account and cut Epic Games off from all iOS and Mac development tools. Epic Games said Apple was retaliating against the company for defying its App Store policies—policies that Sweeney has been in vocal opposition to for a while.

But Apple’s claim that Epic is showboating does feel a little accurate. Epic announced today that it’s holding a “Free Fortnite Cup” that will award winners with in-game prizes like a ‘Tart Tycoon’ skin (Tart Tychoon is Fortnite’s new Apple avatar apparently), but players who come out on top could win an Alienware gaming laptop or a Samsung Galaxy tablet.

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Have some inside knowledge about Epic Games’ strategy or Apple’s rebuttal? Or if you’re a developer who has had a similar experience dealing with the Apple App Store teams, you can reach me at jnelius@gizmodo.com, Proton Mail, or contact us anonymously via SecureDrop. DM for Signal.

Staff Reporter, Reviews at Gizmodo. Formerly PC Gamer, Maximum PC.

DISCUSSION

So, someone who is on Epic’s side on this, please explain this.

Epic wants companies to be able to host their own storefronts on iOS. An operating system maintained by Apple, on devices built by Apple (and thus not like a PC- you cant build an iPad from third party parts and put whatever OS you want on it.)

And as they’re making the same request of the Google Play store, which is on Droid- an open platform that already lets companies do things like this- they clearly want to continue benefiting from the game launcher being downloadable from those storefronts.

1: In what way does that benefit Apple or Google? They are businesses. Hosting the downloads and updates for programs that would make zero profit seems like a really dumb thing to ask.

2: Assuming Epic succeeds, how long before Epic, or some other company, tries to apply the same ruling to Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft? Why would they keep making consoles if they can be undercut on their own systems?

It might be fun to dog on Apple, but this mess could completely reshape the entire game industry, and unless you’re a devoted, PC only gamer, you might not like what it ends up being.