Apple's had it with Epic's app store shenanigans, terminates dev account

No end in sight for 'horror show' even with EU's DMA

Updated Epic Games has followed the tried and tested approach of sharing executive email exchanges following the termination of its developer account by Apple.

The closure of the Epic Games Sweden AB developer account is the latest twist in the saga of the Fortnite game creator and the iPhone seller. After much toing and froing, in February it looked like the Epic Games Store was headed to iOS in Europe. However, this changed with the abrupt termination of that precious developer account.

In a post published yesterday on the matter, Epic shared a number of exchanges with Apple in which it outlined plans for its developer account: develop an Epic Games Store iOS app and create a Fortnite native app for distribution through that store.

Europe's Digital Markets Act (DMA) permits third-party app stores. Epic quoted the act in its blog post:

"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."

Apple was less than pleased to find itself designated as a gatekeeper, but the designation has remained despite the company's protestations. Microsoft described Apple's compliance plan as "a step in the wrong direction." In January posts on X, Epic CEO Tim Sweeney was a bit more colorful and used phrases such as "hot garbage" and "horror show" in his response to what he called "Apple's plan to thwart Europe's new Digital Markets Act."

It now appears the CEO's blunt comments played a role in Apple's decision to terminate Epic's developer account. Included in Epic's blog is an email purported to be from Apple exec Phil Schiller, who claimed Sweeney's "colorful criticism of our DMA compliance plan", along with Epic's "past practice of intentionally violating contractual provisions with which it disagrees" gave rise to suspicions that Epic Sweden might not follow Apple's rules.

Sweeney responded to that email from Schiller by saying: "Epic and its subsidiaries are acting in good faith" and would comply with Apple's terms.

Apple appears to have been unimpressed with Sweeney's assurances.

Shortly after the email exchange came the inevitable legal letter from Apple, which arrived on March 2, confirming that the Developer Program membership of Epic Games Sweden AB had been terminated, effective immediately.

Epic said: "In terminating Epic's developer account, Apple is taking out one of the largest potential competitors to the Apple App Store. They are undermining our ability to be a viable competitor and they are showing other developers what happens when you try to compete with Apple or are critical of their unfair practices."

Apple had not responded to The Register at the time of publication, though it gave a statement to The Washington Post:

"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. In light of Epic's past and ongoing behavior, Apple chose to exercise that right."

According to reports, EU regulators are interested in Apple's actions and are considering whether they represent a breach of compliance. ®

Updated to add on March 11

Soon after Europe started looking into this mess, Apple reinstated Epic's developer account, allowing the games maker to set up its own app store for iPhones and iPads in the EU, which no doubt will include Fortnite.

"Apple has told us and committed to the European Commission that they will reinstate our developer account," Epic wrote in a statement.

"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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