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Apple dumps on Epic’s Fortnite lawsuit, calling it an attempt to revive ‘fluttering interest’ in the game

Fortnite logo on a phone screen

Apple and Epic have been dueling in a California court since August.

Angela Lang / CNET

Fortnite is one of the most popular games ever made and will soon be one of the most lawsuits.

Apple on Thursday sent its description of its sour relationship with Fortnite developer Epic Games to the U.S. District Court in California, where the two companies will end in a lawsuit starts next month. In its filing, the tech giant claims that after earning more than $ 700 million in the two years since Fortnite was released on the iPhone’s App Store, Epic outlined a plan to do even more – and at Apple’s expense.

In its description of the events, Apple outlined a media strategy called Project Liberty, which Epic reportedly planned with its lawyers and PR firms for several months as an attempt to draw more attention to Fortnite last year.

Last summer, Epic intentionally broke Apple’s App Store policies which insists that all digital products such as Fortnite’s victory bags, dance steps and new character appearances be purchased through Apple’s payment service. Apple then removed Fortnite from its App Store for violating the rules. Epic responded by filing a lawsuit in August and launching an ad campaign that went viral on social media.

“Epic just wants to ride freely on Apple’s innovation,” Apple said in its filing Thursday, arguing that Epic is using the lawsuit to “revive fluttering interest in Fortnite.”

A Epic spokeswoman declined to comment on filing, noting that Epic has been arguing for fewer restrictions on Apple’s App Store since at least 2017. And in a competing filing, Epic reiterated its earlier arguments that Apple’s App Store rules stifle innovation, and that its commissions lead to higher prices for consumers.

For many people, applications are the latest twist in a corporate battle between a multibillion-dollar company and a trillion-dollar company over who makes more money when a player spends money. But for Apple, this represents one existential threat to the iOS software and tools as it is built around his iPhone, one of the best-selling technological products ever.

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Apple’s success is driven in part by the App Store, a service Apple launched in 2008 that offers developers a way to build custom applications and games and then market them through Apple’s centralized service. Apple takes one commission of up to 30% on digital items purchased through these apps, a business model that the company says is designed to offset cost of operating its store. The technology giant only allows people to download iPhone apps from its App Store, and any developer who does not accept its terms is forced to create interactive websites instead.

Google has similar but less restrictive rules for its Play Store, which requires developers who publish apps in their service to pay commissions for the sale of digital goods. Google also allows users to “side load“apps from other app stores that effectively download competing platforms to their devices, something Apple does not do. Still the same day Epic broke Apple’s App Store rules, it did the same with Google and was also thrown out of the Google Play Store. Epic sues Google also over Fortnite in a separate case.

In the 13 years since Apple’s App Store launched, it helped propel the iPhone to astronomical heights, with more than 1 billion handsets actively used in January. During last year’s holiday season, which took place at the end of a year shaken by the global coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic disaster, iPhone helped Apple hack financial records. Its iPhone sales alone reached $ 65.6 billion, a 17% increase from the previous year.

The lawsuit, Apple says, is Epic’s attempt to change iPhone’s business model. The company previously released emails featuring Epic CEO Tim Sweeney asked Apple to allow alternative payment systems and download services, which would effectively let him set up his own app store on the iPhone. If a court forces such a change, industry watchdogs say it could fundamentally change Apple’s business and disrupt not only its finances but also the security and reliability the company built around its tight controls.

“Apple is among the most innovative, competitive, dynamic and creative companies in the United States, and millions of people benefit from its products and services,” Apple said in its filing. “These products and services are the result of billions of dollars in investment beyond significant time and thought and represent Apple’s intellectual property.”



Dueling views

Until August 2020, Apple and Epic seemed to have a pretty good thing going. In 2018, Epic announced that its popular game Fortnite would be made available for free to play on Apple iPhones and iPads. Over the next two years, the companies went in more than 1 billion. $ in sales of optional looks and gestures for characters. Then things were revealed when Epic tried to circumvent Apple’s payment rules, which led to Fortnite being banned from the App Store and now an upcoming antitrust lawsuit.

fortnite thumb

Fortnite has become an internet phenomenon, in part because of its addictive gameplay and crazy characters.


Apple used parts of its filing to argue against Epic’s accusation that the rules for the iPhone and the App Store constitute a monopoly. In its archiving, Apple reiterated previous statements that it represents only a fraction of phones used worldwide, and that many of the apps built for the iPhone can interact with apps on other platforms. Apple also relied on a previous Supreme Court ruling, writing that “antitrust laws” were passed to protect competition, not competitors. “”

Epic argued in its submission that Apple’s arguments for its App Store, citing improved security and reliability, are a smokescreen for what amounts to a business decision. “Apple could easily implement security features to support open distribution on iOS without restricting app distribution to the App Store,” the gaming company said in its filing.

The company also claimed that Apple’s ability to detect malicious apps was “limited”, based on a deposit from an Apple director overseeing the construction of scams.

Epic also pointed to an internal case study that Apple did of a fake “virus scan” app. Apple’s app review team initially rejected the app, which did not actually scan for viruses twice before finally allowing it in the App Store. Then unsuspecting customers charged $ 99 per. Week through Apple’s payment processing system, which quickly made it one of the most lucrative apps at the time.

“Apple’s restrictions on app distribution degrade the experience of consumers and developers,” Epic added. Apple did not immediately comment on Epic’s arguments in its filing.

Project Liberty


Epic hit Apple with a PR campaign shortly after its lawsuit, including by creating this “Tart Tycoon” Fortnite character with an apple head.

Epic games

Perhaps the biggest revelation of the two filings was Apple’s argument that Epic’s moves were closely coordinated and designed to force Apple and Google to either change their app store rules or looks like the bad guys.

Apple’s view of Project Liberty, as the plan was apparently called inside Epic, is likely to include emails from executives as evidence among other things. Apple is also planning CEO Tim Cook to testify at the trialalong with other senior Apple executives – whose audio will be livestreamed from the court on YouTube from May 3.

“Epic is asking this court to impose alternative terms on Apple so that Epic can make more money,” Apple said in its application. “But Epic’s request would harm other developers and consumers in addition to imposing unprecedented obligations on Apple to open its proprietary systems and engineering to third parties.”

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