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Sweeney Asked Apple for Exception to TOS for Epic Direct Payments, Microsoft Files Statement of Support for Epic Games

Tim Sweeney

The ongoing drama between Epic Games and Apple continues to roll on; with Sweeney asking for an exception to made in Apple’s terms foe the Epic Direct Payments prior to the removal of Fortnite and the lawsuit, and Microsoft filing a statement of support in favor of Epic Games.

As we previously reported, Epic Games announced that the price of V-Bucks, Fornite‘s in-game currency that can be bought with real money, would permanently be 20% cheaper on all platforms. However, on Android and iOS, a new payment method was introduced.

Rather than buying the V-Bucks through Google Play and the App Store respectively, Epic Games launched the “Epic direct payment.” “When you choose to use Epic direct payments,” the announcement explains, “you save up to 20% as Epic passes along payment processing savings to you.”

This is due to Apple and Google collecting a 30% fee through all V-Bucks bought on their respective platforms. As such, the 20% drop has not been applied to purchases made through them. Epic Games state that “If Apple or Google lower their fees on payments in the future, Epic will pass along the savings to you.”

 

Shortly after this announcement, Apple and Google both removed Fortnite from the App Store and Google Play Stores respectively due to Epic Games violating their terms of service.

Epic Games issued legal action against both, citing that they had a monopoly over their stores on iOS and Android. Apple had allegedly threatened to terminate all of Epic Games’ App Store developer accounts and cut off tools for development on iOS and Mac.

Epic Games may have been expecting action from Apple however, having made a parody of Apple’s own 1984 commercial; appealing to their fans to support them. Further, the #FreeFortnite Cup was recently announced; acting as “the final days of the entire Fortnite community’s ability to play together.”

 

Now, esports journalist Rod Breslau and Tech Crunch report that Apple have claimed Epic Games founder CEO Tim Sweeney asked for special treatment.

Sweeney had previously denied doing as such, stating “We’re fighting for open platforms and policy changes equally benefiting all developers.” He had also taken a similar attitude towards the Epic Game Store’s exclusivity deals, citing Valve not offering a better share of profit with developers.

In a new legal filing, Apple claims that Epic Games had requested special treatment outside of Apple’s terms. This would allow an Epic Games Store app on the App Store, installing games though that rather than the App Store, and offer payment processing options.

“On June 30, 2020, Epic emailed Apple requesting to offer a competing Epic Games Store app through the App Store that would allow iOS device users to install apps from Epic directly, rather than through the App Store and to offer payment processing options within Epic’s apps other than IAP. […] On July 10, Apple responded that ‘Apple has never allowed this . . . we strongly believe these rules are vital to the health of the Apple platform and carry enormous benefits for both consumers and developers.'”

 

On August 13th, around 2 a.m. Sweeney allegedly “wrote to Apple stating its intent to breach Epic’s agreements: ‘Epic will no longer adhere to Apple’s payment processing restrictions.’ […] Hours later, Epic activated a secretly planted payment mechanism in Fortnite to slide a non-approved change into the app that blatantly evaded App Review.”

“In the wake of its own voluntary actions, Epic now seeks emergency relief. But the ’emergency’ is entirely of Epic’s own making. Epic’s agreements with Apple expressly spell out that if an app developer violates the rules of the App Store or the license for development tools—both of which apply and are enforced equally to all developers large and small—Apple will stop working with that developer. Developers who work to deceive Apple, as Epic has done here, are
terminated. So when Epic willfully and knowingly breached its agreements by secretly installing a ‘hotfix’ into its app to bypass Apple’s payment system and App Review Process, it knew full well what would happen and, in so doing, has knowingly and purposefully created the harm to game players and developers it now asks the Court to step in and remedy. Relief in these circumstances is not available under the law. And the injunction Epic seeks would threaten for everyone the benefits that Epic, developers and App Store customers have long enjoyed.”

 

Sweeney tweeted that Apple’s statement was misleading, and presented screenshots of the alleged emails with the subject “Consumer Choice & Competition” [1, 2, 3]. Editor’s Note: we have redacted an additional email address.

Therein, Sweeney requests an alternate payment procession option for Epic Games’ software, and a “competing” Epic Games Store app be available on iOS in the first email.

The email screencap does show Sweeney requesting that Apple “provide a side letter or alter its contracts and standards document to remove such restrictions to allow Epic to provide a competing app store and competing payment processing option to iOS customers.”

 

The second email states “It’s a sad state of affairs that Apple’s senior executives would hand Epic’s sincere request off to Apple’s legal team to respond with such a self-righteous and self-serving screed.” Sweeney’s tone continues in a similar manner for the rest of the email,

Sweeney stated that he hoped that Apple will one day “return to its roots building open platforms in which consumers have freedom to install software from sources of their choosing, and developers can reach consumers and do business directly without intermediation.” 

He also stated that “Epic is in a state of substantial disagreement with Apple’s policy and practices, and we will continue to pursue this, as we have done in the past to address other injustices in our industry.”

The final email; sent August 13th, has Sweeney stating “I’m writing to tell you that Epic will no longer adhere to Apple’s payment processing restrictions.” Sweeney then informed Apple that Epic Games would be launching the alternate payment processor. “We choose to follow this path in the firm belief that history and law are on our side.”

“If Apple chooses instead to take punitive action by blocking consumer access to Fortnite or forthcoming updates, then Epic will, regrettably, be in conflict with Apple on a multitude of fronts – creative, technical, business, and legal – for so long as it takes to bring about change, if necessary for many years.”

 

Microsoft have also filed a statement of support, favoring Epic Games. GamesIndustry.biz reports that General Manager and Gaming Developer Experiences for Microsoft Kevin Gammill explains why the Unreal Engine is “critical technology for numerous game creators
including Microsoft.”

This includes Microsoft having “an enterprise-wide, multi-year Unreal Engine license agreement and has invested significant resources and engineer time working with and customizing Unreal Engine for its own games on PC, Xbox consoles, and mobile devices (including iOS devices).”

Gammill continues, expressing concern at Apple cutting off development tools. “Denying Epic access to Apple’s SDK and other development tools will prevent Epic from supporting Unreal Engine on iOS and macOS, and will place Unreal Engine and those game creators that have built, are building, and may build games on it at a substantial disadvantage.”

 

During this time, others have criticized Apple’s supposed demand of 30% of all in-app purchases; and even allegations of forcing in-app purchases onto developers of apps with none. The Verge reports that WordPress founding developer Matt Mullenweg claims that Apple blocked updates to the WordPress App.

“To be able to ship updates and bug fixes again we had to commit to support in-app purchases for .com plans,” Mullenweg claims. The Verge reports that the WordPress App offers no purchases, allowing users to make free websites. It is through WordPress’ website directly that users can purchase domain names and advanced features.

Apple told The Verge in-app purchases are required when apps “allow users to access content, subscriptions, or features they have acquired in your app on other platforms or your web site.” Developer Andrey Butov claimed “Apple *absolutely does* hold bug-fix updates hostage. I’m sitting on a client app right now where they refused to let through a bug-fix update, on an already-approved app, until we put in IAP.”

Image: MCV Develop (via Startpage)

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Ryan Pearson

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Taking his first steps onto Route 1 and never stopping, Ryan has had a love of RPGs since a young age. Now he's learning to appreciate a wider pallet of genres and challenges.