Why Apple terminated Epic Games' developer account

Apple has closed the developer account for Epic Games' new Swedish group and has effectively stopped Epic from launching its own store on the ioS platform.

4 minutes & 27 seconds read time

Apple has terminated Epic's new developer account and effectively stopped the Fortnite-maker from launching the Epic Games Store on iOS.

Why Apple terminated Epic Games' developer account 323

Epic Games has a goal: The company wants to break open the so-called Google-Apple duopoly in a bid to effectively revolutionize mobile gaming. As it currently stands, both Google and Apple take a 30% cut on all game revenues from the Play Store and App Store. Epic, and practically all developers, want better earnings, and the pathway to get there is through consumer rights.

In the Epic v Apple antitrust trial from years ago, Epic argues that Apple's policies aren't good for consumers because in-game items could actually be purchased for lower prices if made available through an alternate method. If purchased directly from the developer, the in-game goods could potentially be cheaper for consumers. This would require a store on iOS, though, and Apple requires its games to be sold and distributed through the App Store; devs can't offer their own storefront solutions.

That is, until now.

The EU's new Digital Markets Act (DMA) requires Apple to allow third-party app stores on iOS in countries that are part of the European Union. Apple has predictably complied with the new act.

That leads us to recent events.

Hearing of Apple's new compliance with the DMA, Epic Games applied for a new developer account. It was called Epic Games Sweden AB, and it was meant to introduce the Epic Games Store to iOS.

Epic Games Sweden AB had originally been approved, but was later denied. Apple wanted good faith assurances and a concise written explanation from Fortnite CEO Tim Sweeney.

"We recently announced that Apple approved our Epic Games Sweden AB developer account. We intended to use that account to bring the Epic Games Store and Fortnite to iOS devices in Europe thanks to the Digital Markets Act (DMA). To our surprise, Apple has terminated that account and now we cannot develop the Epic Games Store for iOS. This is a serious violation of the DMA and shows Apple has no intention of allowing true competition on iOS devices," Epic writes.

Epic published this info in a new tell-all blog post, complete with email exchanges between Epic's Sweeney, Gary Bornstein, and Steve Allison, and Apple's Phil Schiller and Apple lawyer Mark Perry.

"Epic intends to exercise its rights under the Digital Markets Act to develop and distribute the Epic Games Store as an alternative app marketplace on iOS devices in the EU," Steve Allison writes in an email to Apple.

In the emails, Apple's Phil Schiller lays out why he is dubious to approve Epic Games Sweden AB's account, and directly emailed Tim Sweeney to ask for a clear explanation on why Apple should approve the account and trust Epic again.

"In the past, Epic has entered into agreements and then broken them. For example, you testified that Epic Games, Inc. entered into the Developer Program with full understanding of its terms, and then chose to intentionally breach the agreement with Apple. You also testified that Epic deliberately violated Apple's rules, to make a point and for financial gain.

"More recently, you have described our DMA compliance plan as "hot garbate," a "horror show," and a "devious new instance of Malicious Compliance." And you have complained about what you called "Junk Fees" and "Apple taxes."

"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. Another intentional breach could threaten the integrity of the iOS platform, as well as the security and privacy of users.

"We invite you to provide us with written assurance that you are also acting in good faith, and that Epic Games Sweden will, despite your publications and rhetoric, honor all of its commitments. In plain, unqualified terms, please tell us why we should trust Epic this time."

Sweeney responded with a quick email:

Epic and its subsidiaries are acting in good faith and will comply with all terms of current and future agreements with Apple, and we'll be glad to provide Apple with any specific further assurances on the topic that you'd like."

Apparently this was not satisfactory to Apple, and Epic Games Sweden's developer account was terminated.

Here's the email from Apple lawyer Mark Perry that was sent to Epic's Gary Bornstein:

...Apple recently reached out directly to Mr. Sweeney to give him an opportunity to explain why Apple should trust Epic this time...

Mr. Sweeney's response to that request was wholly insufficient and not credible. It boiled down to an unsupported "trust us." History shows, however, that Epic is verifiably untrustworthy, hence the request for meaningful commitments. And the minimal assurances in Mr. Sweeney's curt response were swiftly undercut by a litany of public attacks on Apple's policies, compliance plan, and business model.

Perry points to a Tweet that Tim Sweeney made on February 26, just 3 days after Sweeney had delivered a statement promising full compliance from its Epic Games Sweden AB team.

Perry goes on:

"Apple is fiercely committed to protecting the integrity of the iOS platform, as well as its intellectual property. Apple's App Store rules, which Epic has flagrantly violated in the past, protect the security, safety, and privacy of its users.

...Given the past and current conduct of Epic, Apple cannot allow Epic Games Sweden AB to be part of its ecosystem.

Please be advised that Apple has, effective immediately, terminated the Developer Program membership of Epic Games Sweden AB."

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Derek joined the TweakTown team in 2015 and has since reviewed and played 1000s of hours of new games. Derek is absorbed with the intersection of technology and gaming, and is always looking forward to new advancements. With over six years in games journalism under his belt, Derek aims to further engage the gaming sector while taking a peek under the tech that powers it. He hopes to one day explore the stars in No Man's Sky with the magic of VR.

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