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Apple Reinstates Epic Games Developer Account for Sweden, Paving Way for ‘Fortnite’ and Epic Games Store on iOS in Europe

UPDATE, 3/8, 1:15 p.m. ET: In an about-face, Apple restored Epic Games’ developer account for Sweden, two days after terminating it over what the tech giant said was Epic’s “egregious breach of its contractual obligations to Apple.” Epic said Apple’s reversal will allow it proceed with plans to launch battle-royale game “Fortnite” and the Epic Games Store in European countries.

Epic, in an update Friday, said, “Apple has told us and committed to the European Commission that they will reinstate our developer account. This sends a strong signal to developers that the European Commission will act swiftly to enforce the Digital Markets Act and hold gatekeepers accountable. We are moving forward as planned to launch the Epic Games Store and bring Fortnite back to iOS in Europe. Onward!

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An Apple rep said in a statement to Variety, “Following conversations with Epic, they have committed to follow the rules, including our DMA policies. As a result, Epic Sweden AB has been permitted to re-sign the developer agreement and accepted into the Apple Developer Program.”

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney wrote in a post on X that the situation was the “first major victory” for the EU’s Digital Markets Act, a new law regulating big tech “gatekeeper” companies like Apple, which took full effect March 6. “The DMA went through its first major challenge with Apple banning Epic Games Sweden from competing with the App Store, and the DMA just had its first major victory,” Sweeney wrote. “Following a swift inquiry by the European Commission, Apple notified the Commission and Epic that it would relent and restore our access to bring back Fortnite and launch Epic Games Store in Europe under the DMA law.”

EARLIER:

The battle between Apple and Epic Games continues to rage on.

Epic Games on March 6 said Apple terminated its developer account for Sweden, which the games company said it had planned to use to launch the Epic Games Store and “Fortnite” on iOS devices in Europe. That came less than three weeks after Apple had approved the Epic Games Sweden AB developer account.

Epic, in a blog post, said Apple’s termination of the developer account is a “serious violation” of the European Union’s Digital Markets Act and “shows Apple has no intention of allowing true competition on iOS devices.”

The DMA requires Apple to allow third-party app stores, like the Epic Games Store, according to Epic Games, citing a section of the law that says, “The gatekeeper shall allow and technically enable the installation and effective use of third-party software applications or software application stores using, or interoperating with, its operating system and allow those software applications or software application stores to be accessed by means other than the relevant core platform services of that gatekeeper.”

In response, Apple said it had the right to terminate Epic’s account based on the September 2021 U.S. district court ruling in the “Fortnite” maker’s antitrust lawsuit against Apple. That judgment affirmed that Apple has the contractual right to terminate its Developer Program License Agreement with any or all of Epic Games’ subsidiaries or affiliates.

“Epic’s egregious breach of its contractual obligations to Apple led courts to determine that Apple has the right to terminate ‘any or all of Epic Games’ wholly owned subsidiaries, affiliates, and/or other entities under Epic Games’ control at any time and at Apple’s sole discretion,’” an Apple spokesperson said in a statement. “In light of Epic’s past and ongoing behavior, Apple chose to exercise that right.”

According to Apple, on Feb. 16, 2024, Epic Games Sweden entered into the Apple DPLA via a “click-through” agreement, which did not involve any executive review by Apple.

Apple in August 2020 officially booted “Fortnite” and other Epic Games titles off the App Store, suspending the games company’s developer account after Epic filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple.

According to documentation provided by Epic Games, one of the reasons Apple terminated its developer account for Sweden was because Epic “publicly criticized their proposed DMA compliance plan.” In blocking the account, Apple cited a Feb. 26 post on X by Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, in which he said in part, “Apple leadership faces some massive decisions in the coming weeks as the contradictions between their stated principles and the intended and actual consequences of their present policies are reckoned with: the app store monopoly, the digital goods payments monopoly, the tax, the suppression of true information about competing purchasing options, the blocking of competing web browser engines and outright destruction of web apps.”

According to Epic Games, “Apple is retaliating against Epic for speaking out against Apple’s unfair and illegal practices, just as they’ve done to other developers time and time again. If Apple maintains its power to kick a third-party marketplace off iOS at its sole discretion, no reasonable developer would be willing to utilize a third-party app store, because they could be permanently separated from their audience at any time.”

Epic’s lawsuit against Apple argued that the tech company acts as a monopoly, taking a 30% cut Apple takes on all in-app purchases while banning outside payment methods. The judge in the case largely ruled against Epic, but barred Apple from blocking developers from promoting other forms of payment in their iOS apps. The Supreme Court in January 2024 declined to review the case.

Separately, on Monday the European Commission levied a fine against Apple of about $1.95 billion for “abusing its dominant position on the market for the distribution of music streaming apps” to iPhone and iPad users. That investigation, prompted by a complaint by Spotify, found that Apple applied restrictions on app developers preventing them from informing iOS users about alternative and cheaper music subscription services available outside of the app. Apple said it will appeal the decision.

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