It was sure nice to have a few days off from the Epic Games vs Apple conflict, wasn’t it? But grab your popcorn and maybe a fresh pretzel, because the show is not over. Now Apple is seeking damages from Epic’s breach of contract, and responded to Epic’s recent requests that it be forced to reinstate Fortnite. This is a juicy one, I’m not going to lie.
If you want to see where this whole mess got started, I recommend reading this, this, or this. Long story short: Epic tried to get around the App Store payment system within Fortnite, Apple banned Fortnite, and Epic’s claiming Apple is an unjust monopoly. When last we checked in with these two, Epic had lost its bid to get Fortnite back on the App Store via emergency restraining order, and a judge told Epic that it was essentially its own fault and no way were they going to give Fortnite a free ride. The same judge also told Apple it couldn’t remove Epic’s developer tools as a way of going scorched earth on Epic because of the case. Both sides got a legal fingerwag, as neither could claim to have clean hands. So now what?
Well, now Apple is throwing some legal punches itself. The filing it entered earlier this week seeks damages for Epic breaching its agreement by instating its own payment system, and asks that Epic be kept from further unfair practices. It sums up Epic’s efforts thus: “Epic’s intention is thus straightforward: It seeks free access to the Apple-provided tools that it uses and—worse yet—it wishes to then charge others for access to Apple’s intellectual property and technologies.”
Apple also responded to Epic’s last legal filing, in which it asked for an injunction that would force Apple to reinstate Fortnite. I’ll spare you the details… just kidding, no I won’t. Epic’s injunction asks that Apple be legally constrained from removing or modifying Fortnite on the App Store, and contends that “Fortnite is more than just a game.” It contends that Apple has “cleaved millions of users from their friends and family” by cutting off access to Fortnite on iOS. This is its argument in a nutshell:
Daily active users on iOS have declined by over 60% since Fortnite’s removal from the App Store. And removal already has resulted in a loss of goodwill and irreparable damage to Epic’s reputation. The continued loss of Fortnite as a gathering place for users on all platforms will lead Epic’s customers to defect. Epic may never see these users again. It will also be denied the opportunity to access even a single new user among the one-billion-plus iOS users for at least the next year.
My favorite part of Epic’s injunction is when it says “It is highly likely [Apple will] lose this case.” Yes, keep telling yourselves that. It also says, “The user outcry has been deafening” regarding the Fortnite ban, which is extra amusing because Epic’s been desperately trying to make user outcry happen, up to and including crafting its own hashtag accompanying that ridiculous “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite” video.
Apple’s response to this? According to its filing, “Epic’s lawsuit is nothing more than a basic disagreement over money. Although Epic portrays itself as a modern corporate Robin Hood, in reality it is a multi-billion dollar enterprise that simply wants to pay nothing for the tremendous value it derives from the App Store.” And wow, get me the giant bottle of lotion for that burn. It also adds, “There is nothing anticompetitive about charging a commission for others to use one’s service.” It also added that Epic CEO Tim Sweeney asked for a “side letter” in June that would essentially allow it to run a competing app within the App Store and do “a complete end-run” around Apple’s fees. It also punctures a notion Epic proposed as an alternative to its current payment model, which is “charging a regressive ‘per download fee,’ leaving consumers and developers on the hook to pay for what otherwise would be billions of free app downloads.”
This is my favorite part, if only because of the “just so done with this” attitude Apple’s copping:
While Epic and its CEO take issue with the terms on which Apple has since 2008 provided the App Store to all developers, this does not provide cover for Epic to breach binding contracts, dupe a long-time business partner, pocket commissions that rightfully belong to Apple, and then ask this Court to take a judicial sledgehammer to one of the 21st Century’s most innovative business platforms simply because it does not maximize Epic’s revenues. By any measure, the App Store has revolutionized the marketplace and greatly benefitted consumers and app developers like Epic. Apple looks forward to defending against Epic’s baseless claims.
I’m not trying to take sides in this dispute between big companies over a pile of money, but dayum, son.
Much like Epic keeps repeating “Apple maintains an illegal monopoly” as its argument, Apple keeps repeating “Epic brought this on themselves with their nonsense” in response. I would not want to be the judge who has to read the many, many variations of those two sentences, honestly. I’m really lucky that I can be on the sidelines gobbling treats.
Meanwhile, if you were wondering where the heck Google is in all this — it’s apparently trying not to be in it at all. Google filed its own injunction essentially asking to keep the cases of Epic vs Apple and Epic vs Google separate, as its issues with Epic are different from Apple’s. It’s a legitimate reason, don’t get me wrong, but it somewhat comes across like Google is begging to be left out of the media circus this case has become (says one of the junior ringleaders).
Epic has just over a week to respond to Apple’s filing.