Microsoft has filed a statement in support of Epic's request for a temporary restraining order against Apple's plan to remove its access to iOS development tools. Kevin Gammill, Microsoft's general manager of gaming developer experiences, said in the filing that the Unreal Engine is "critical technology for numerous game creators," and that blocking Epic's ability to support it on iOS and MacOS "will harm game creators and gamers."
Epic filed for the restraining order last week, after Apple's "devastating" response to its lawsuit over alleged "monopolistic practices" on the iOS App Store: As well as removing Fortnite, Apple also said that it will terminate of all Epic's developer accounts and access to development tools on August 28. Epic said that action will leave it "irreparably harmed" even if it wins the lawsuit, because its inability to support the Unreal Engine for iOS and MacOS while the case works its way through the courts will force developers to move to other technology.
Today we filed a statement in support of Epic's request to keep access to the Apple SDK for its Unreal Engine. Ensuring that Epic has access to the latest Apple technology is the right thing for gamer developers & gamers https://t.co/72bLdDkvUxAugust 23, 2020
Today's declaration from Microsoft reinforces that position by noting that many game developers, particularly small and independent studios, rely on third-party engines to make their games. The Unreal Engine is one of the most popular, and Gammill said that there aren't many others that can match its features and functionality across multiple platforms.
"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," Gammill said.
"Developing a game using different game engines for different platforms may be prohibitively expensive and difficult. In any event, it is not as cost-effective as using a game engine that supports different platforms. As a result, game creators, including Microsoft, that are preparing to develop a game targeted at multiple platforms generally choose game engines based both on the functionality they provide as well as their ability to support development for those platforms."
Projects in mid-development will face "significant costs and difficult decisions" because they'll be forced to choose between starting over with a different engine or risking the potential loss of support in the future. Existing games will also be harmed, Gammill said, because developers will lose the ability to "take advantage of new iOS or macOS features, fix software bugs, or patch security flaws."
Even just the uncertainty about the future of Unreal Engine support on iOS and MacOS is harmful, he added, because developers need to be confident that the underlying technology they choose for their projects will be around and viable for the long term.
Apple filed its response to Epic's request for a temporary restraining order on August 21, saying that it should not be granted because any damage Epic may suffer is entirely self-inflicted, and that the situation can be rectified immediately by simply removing the patch that enabled Fortnite to bypass Apple's payment processing system.