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This month Epic challenged Apple’s 30 percent cut of in-app purchases by adding a direct payment option to the Fortnite App, in breach of App Store rules. The move resulted in the removal of Fortnite from iOS and Epic immediately filed a lawsuit.
In a response published on Friday to Epic’s more recent request for a restraining order, Apple accused the Unreal Engine firm of attempting to “cheat” its App Store agreement in pursuit of its own special deal.
Significantly, Apple claims in legal documents that Epic CEO Tim Sweeney asked for a “side letter” that would create a special deal only for Epic, in addition to its desire to launch an Epic Store on iOS. Sweeney has since called these claims “misleading”.
Sweeney had claimed earlier this month that Epic was not seeking a “special deal” with Apple.
Specifically, on Epic’s request for a restraining order, which would prevent Fortnite’s App Store removal and the cancellation of its developer accounts, Apple argued that it should not be eligible since it “knowingly and purposefully” created the harm.
“In the wake of its own voluntary actions, Epic now seeks emergency relief. But the ‘emergency’ is entirely of Epic’s own making,” Apple said in its legal docs.
“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,” it added.
“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.”
Recounting the events that led to the legal dispute, Apple said it received an email from Epic on June 30, in which the developer requested to add a direct payment option in Fortnite and offer a competing Epic Games Store app through the App Store, that would allow iOS device users to install apps from Epic directly.
After declining the request, Apple claimed that Epic then “made a deliberate choice to cheat Apple.”
“Around 2am on August 13, Mr. Sweeney of Epic 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 order to deliberately conceal the change from Apple, Epic changed the option on its own servers to enable the approved version of Fortnite to offer a non-compliant in-app purchase option.”
Apple called Epic’s breach “flagrant” and in direct contravention to its Guidelines.
“Epic knew full well that, in circumventing Apple’s processes and breaching its contracts, it was putting its entire relationship with Apple—including its Unreal Engine and other projects—at serious risk,” it said.
“Epic made the calculated decision to breach anyway, and then run to this Court to argue that its customers were being damaged. All of this was avoidable if Epic had brought its antitrust case without breaching its agreements. It is hard to think of a case less worthy of the extraordinary relief that Epic seeks.”
Apple claimed in its response that it still wants Epic on iOS and to see the company continue to enjoy success on the platform.
“Apple wants Epic on iOS,” it said. “Apple wants customers to have access to the games they love from Epic and every other developer. What’s more, the success of Epic and so many other developers is exactly what Apple hoped for more than ten years ago when it opened the doors of the App Store.
“But Epic’s success does not entitle it to have this Court step in and remedy the harm it knowingly created, nor is there any legal basis for that. If Epic is looking for immediate relief for its customers, it can remove its ‘hotfix,’ continue to comply with the contracts it signed and that apply to everyone else, and go on to pursue its legal challenge in this Court.”