A US federal judge has ruled that tech giant Apple can continue to block Epic Games’ Fortnite from its store but is not allowed to ban the use of its developer tools.
The tech giant made the move to terminate Epic’s Unreal Engine developer accounts, which would effectively stop them from making or selling any of its games through the App Store.
The judge has ruled that, so far, “Epic Games has not yet demonstrated irreparable harm,” and has applied a temporary restraining order to stop Apple’s move to revoke the accounts.
Epic Games says that terminating its developer accounts was “attacking Epic’s entire business in unrelated areas”.
Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said that Epic Games had been able to show that revocation of its developer tools would cause irreparable harm.
“Epic International appears to have separate developer program license agreements with Apple and those agreements have not been breached,” the court said.
On Friday Epic asked the court to block Apple’s removal of Fortnite from its store after the company breached Apple’s payment system.
Epic attempted to circumvent the Apple store payment system to let users purchase currency at a lower price if they bought directly from the Epic game store, which denied Apple the usual 15-30% cut it takes from sales through the store.
The public spat between Apple and Epic has been going on for more than a week, and seems likely to continue for many months, if not years.
Microsoft has come forward in support of Epic Games saying that excluding the Unreal Engine from its store would leave “very few” options for other developers such as themselves.
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“Apple’s discontinuation of Epic’s ability to develop and support Unreal Engine for iOS or macOS will harm game creators and gamers,” said Microsoft’s general manager of gaming developer experiences Kevin Gammill.
Commenting on the ruling, a spokesperson from Apple told CNBC: “We thank the court for recognizing that Epic’s problem is entirely self-inflicted and is in their power to resolve.
“Our very first priority is making sure App Store users have a great experience in a safe and trusted environment, including iPhone users who play Fortnite and who are looking forward to the game’s next season.
“We agree with Judge Gonzalez Rogers that ‘the sensible way to proceed’ is for Epic to comply with the App Store guidelines and continue to operate while the case proceeds.
“If Epic takes the steps the judge has recommended, we will gladly welcome Fortnite back onto iOS. We look forward to making our case to the court in September.”
A full hearing is set for 28 September 2020.