Microsoft Files Brief in Support of Epic in its Fight Against Apple

On Sunday Windows and Xbox platform owner Microsoft filed a brief in support of Epic Games in its fight against Apple removing Fortnite and its developer program status related to Unreal Engine from the App Store for iOS devices. In a filing unearthed by esports journalist Rod Breslau, Microsoft lists several key points where it believes that Apple is incorrect in its opposition to Epic’s Aug. 17 filing for relief.

At the heart of these filings is Epic’s Unreal Engine, which is used by countless mobile games for iOS and Android, most notably PUBG MOBILE and its Chinese counterparts Game for Peace and Peacekeeper Elite (all of which are popular in Asia and India).

Microsoft tells the court Apple’s assertion that “Epic’s requested relief relating to the Unreal Engine and the revocation of developer tools is mandatory rather than prohibitory” is incorrect because Epic is only asking the court to “preserve the status quo so that Epic continues to have the same access to software, software development kits, application programming interfaces, and other developer tools that it has today” while the matter is sorted out by the courts.

Microsoft also argues against the notion that Apple’s “actions with respect to the Unreal Engine and its revocation of access to all developer tools and developer accounts are authorized by contract” because the alleged breach is related only to Fortnite.

“Apple has alleged a breach of only one such agreement, and that agreement does not govern Epic’s access to developer tools for the Unreal Engine, the distribution of apps that are used for development purposes by Unreal Engine licensees or various other Epic Developer Program accounts,” writes Microsoft. “…Instead, the breadth of Apple’s retaliation is itself an unlawful effort to maintain its monopoly and chill any action by others who might dare oppose Apple.”

Epic has also provided in its motion evidence through two declarations that the “Unreal Engine business will be significantly harmed” by Apple’s actions, Microsoft writes.

“In fact, Epic’s motion was accompanied by two declarations, including one from its CEO, that addressed this point in detail. Further, with the passage of time since the filing of Epic’s motion, more evidence on this point has become available, as more developers become aware of Apple’s actions and comprehend their significance to their businesses. Thus, Epic submits herewith a declaration regarding multiple inquiries it has received from concerned developers as well as a declaration from the General Manager of Gaming Developer Experiences at Microsoft Corp. addressing this issue.” 

Microsoft also argues that while Apple says in its opposition filing that “the balance of equities tips in its favor,” it provides no evidence to support that claim “with respect to the Unreal Engine or the revocation of developer tools.”

Finally, Microsoft tells the court that Apple’s claim that an injunction against it “would harm the public interest” is false because it “does not address the Unreal Engine or the revocation of developer tools,” and that Epic’s request for relief related to those issues is “very much in the public interest.”

In a court filing Friday in response to Epic Games, Apple said that the developer was seeking court protections for a problem it created with its hotfix update to Fortnite earlier in the month and could remedy the situation simply by removing it from the game. 

The hotfix deployed on Aug. 13 added an additional payment method to Fortnite that allowed consumers to purchase in-game items and enhancements for the game directly from Epic Games. While this update did not stop consumers from buying directly from Apple, it did incentivize consumers by offering a discount for purchases from Epic. Direct purchases from Epic helped the developer to avoid paying Apple the 30% royalty it charges per purchase.

Editor’s note: The date of the filing is Aug. 23, 2020. We listed it as “Friday, Aug. 21. The article has been corrected to reflect this. 

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