The escalation in the war that Apple and Epic, creator of the popular game Fortnite have been facing for days, could end up affecting many other iOS and Mac games, in particular all those that use the Unreal Engine, owned by Epic.
It’s the latest twist in an epic battle (pun intended) that could have dire consequences for both companies’ businesses.
On August 14, an update to Fortnite, a popular multiplayer game in which the goal is to be the only survivor in a battle that pits everyone against everyone, allowed players to buy virtual money for the game at a discount using a system own payment developed by Epic.
This change was a violation of the rules of the AppStore, which require that in-app purchases must be made through Apple’s payment gateway (and which requires the company to pay a 30% commission). Developers can implement their own payment system, but it cannot be linked directly from the app, as Epic tried to do. There are exceptions to this rule but they apply only to certain types of content subscription apps. Upon discovering this change, Apple removed the Fortnite game from the application directory. Google, which has similar rules, did the same on the Google Play store.
TENSION GROWS BETWEEN EPIC GAMES AND APPLE
Epic expected this reaction and built a whole marketing and public relations campaign around the decision, parodying Apple’s famous 1984 advertisement and accusing the company of having become a monopoly that stifles app and game developers. The company has also sued both Apple and Google in court for the withdrawal of the game from the respective stores.
Since then, the tension between Apple and Epic has only grown. Although the game is no longer available to new players, all those who had already purchased it could continue to download and play it throughout the current season of the game. On Android, in addition, the situation is less problematic because users can download the game from alternative app stores or even the developer’s own page.
But by violating the terms and conditions imposed on developers, Apple can completely remove Epic’s developer account, rendering the game and any other company app unusable, even for those who have already downloaded it. Besides Fortnite, Epic has another game on the
AppStore, Battle Breakers, which also offers purchases through the app but for which the company has not created an alternative payment method and is therefore still active.
Apple has set a deadline to do so on August 28. “The issue that Epic has created is one that can be easily remedied if they submit an update to their app that reverts the changes to meet the guidelines they agreed to apply to all developers. We won’t make an exception with Epic because we don’t believe that it is correct to put their commercial interests before the rules that protect our clients, “the company explained in a statement.
THE KEY IS THE UNREAL ENGINE
Epic, for its part, believes that this decision could end up affecting third-party developers. In addition to being known for Fortnite and many other games, the company is responsible for the Unreal Engine, an engine for games that other developers use to create their own titles. If Apple expels Epic from the developer program on August 28, the company will lose the ability to notarize Unreal Engine software for Mac.
The notarization process is a digital signature system that allows Macs to know that an application downloaded from the Internet, in this case the game engine, is secure and has been created by a trusted developer. Losing the ability to notarize the application would complicate the installation of the necessary tools to develop games or update those already created. “It would be catastrophic for the future of Unreal Engine,” the company explained. Epic has asked the courts to provisionally stop the suspension of the developer account for this reason.
“The cascading effect of losing current compatibility with the Unreal Engine will threaten the viability of the engine and disrupt the development of a constellation of applications and uses that rely on its graphics to render hundreds of video games, the human brain, Baby Yoda or spaceflight. “, explains the company in its request.
Although it may sound strange, Unreal Engine is used in multiple applications that go beyond electronic entertainment. It is the graphic engine that is used, for example, to create the virtual scenarios of the series The Mandalorian (hence the reference to Baby Yoda, one of the protagonists of it) or in medical simulations.