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Epic seeks restraining order against Apple's 'devastating' response to lawsuit

(Image credit: Epic Games)

Last week wrapped up with a bang, as Epic Games filed a lawsuit against Apple over its "monopolistic practices" on the iOS App Store. The move came after Epic challenged Apple's policies regarding in-app payments by offering an option to purchase V-Bucks in the iOS version of Fortnite directly from the developer. Apple responded by removing Fortnite from the App Store, after which Epic very quickly unleashed a PR campaign and filed its lawsuit.

The risky part of picking a fight is that sometimes you'll get it, and that brings us to today: Epic has filed a motion seeking a temporary restraining against Apple after the tech company informed it that, as a result of its violation of the Apple Developer Program License Agreement, all of Epic's developer accounts and access to iOS and Mac development tools will be terminated on August 28.

Epic said in the filing that it expects to win its case against Apple (and, one would assume, Google) "on the merits of its claims," but needs a temporary injunction because it will be "irreparably harmed" before that judgment comes if Apple's actions are allowed to continue, in ways that go far beyond just Fortnite: "If the Unreal Engine can no longer support Apple platforms, the software developers that use it will be forced to use alternatives. The damage to Epic’s ongoing business and to its reputation and trust with its customers will be unquantifiable and irreparable."

The new lawsuit seeks an order preventing Apple from "removing, de-listing, refusing to list or otherwise making unavailable" Fortnite, and Fortnite updates, in the App Store (without requiring Epic to remove the option to purchase V-Bucks directly), as well as a prohibition against the removal of any other Epic Games, and the Unreal Engine—and warns of dire consequences if the order isn't granted.

"Apple’s retaliation represents an existential threat to Epic’s Unreal Engine," Epic's lawsuit says. "OS providers like Apple routinely make certain software and developer tools available to software developers, for free or a small fee, to enable the development of software that will run on the OS. Apple intends to deny Epic access to that widely available material."

That appears to be the biggest issue for Epic right now. The loss of those tools means it won't be able to continue developing the Unreal Engine for iOS and Mac devices, and that in turn means that developers on those platforms may be forced to turn to other engines—not just for videogames, but all products, "in many fields," that are currently built on the Unreal Engine.

"The ensuing impact on the Unreal Engine’s viability, and the trust and confidence developers have in that engine, cannot be repaired with a monetary award," the lawsuit says. "This is quintessential irreparable harm."

Apple, on the other hand, will not suffer "irreparable harm" if the injunction is ordered, the suit says, because if it is later found to be unwarranted, any ills suffered by Apple "could be redressed monetarily."

Epic founder Tim Sweeney repeated that point in a declaration included with the lawsuit, saying that the consequences of losing access to Apple's Developer Program will be "devastating."

"Developers invest considerable time and resources learning to use and to develop games based on Unreal Engine, often with the expectation that those games will be supported on Apple’s platforms," Sweeney said. "This is particularly true because the mobile gaming category is substantially larger than computing or console gaming, and mobile remains a high-growth area in the gaming industry.

"If Epic can no longer develop future updates for the Unreal Engine that support iOS and macOS, developers will not choose to use Unreal Engine to develop any games or other products for use on Apple devices. The loss of Unreal Engine’s ability to support these important platforms will therefore cause irreparable harm to Epic’s product offering, as many developers will select a competing engine for their new projects, or for the next versions of their games."

Despite those potentially very dire consequences, Sweeney doesn't sound like he's quite ready to throw in the towel on the Goliath vs Bigger Goliath fight just yet.

Andy covers the day-to-day happenings in the big, wide world of PC gaming—the stuff we call "news." In his off hours, he wishes he had time to play the 80-hour RPGs and immersive sims he used to love so much.