Settle in and grab the popcorn, everyone. It’s time for another episode of the Epic vs Apple & Google war. Today’s special guest: Microsoft. Getting kind of crowded in here, isn’t it?
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/72bLdDkvUx
— Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) August 23, 2020
To set the scene, Epic owns the Unreal Engine, the very popular game engine used by several developers in the mobile and non-mobile realms. Since it’s now suing Apple over the Fortnite ban — you can read about it all here if you’ve been living under a rock — Apple’s has threatened to revoke support for the Unreal Engine on iOS and MacOS. This is part of its attempt to cut off Epic from using Apple’s development tools, for which Epic is seeking an emergency injuction.
Apple later wrote a rather sharp response to this injunction, in which it more or less said that Epic brought this on itself by starting the whole thing. Epic responded with a new court filing today responding to the response, saying it’s not asking Apple to play nice like nothing’s wrong: “Epic does not seek an affirmative order requiring Apple to work with Epic on the Unreal Engine or anything else.” It argues that Apple’s actions are going overboard: “Instead, the breadth of Apple’s retaliation is itself an unlawful effort to maintain its monopoly and chill any action by others who might dare oppose Apple.” Here we go again with this dramatic language.
So where does Microsoft fit into all this? The company today filed a statement in support of Epic, written by Kevin Gammill, General Manager of Xbox’s third-party developers. He makes the case that the Unreal Engine is too important a piece of technology for Apple to effectively cut off, as it’s a very accessible piece of tech for fledgling developers to build their games in, and works across multiple platforms. To use his words: “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.”
It makes sense that Microsoft would throw in with Epic. After all, the same App Store rules that got Fortnite banned also exclude the Xbox Game Pass app and its xCloud streaming capabilities. It would benefit Microsoft immensely if Epic cuts Apple off at the knees, figuratively — that’s a whole new market of potential xCloud users. Epic’s fight with Apple (and Google) isn’t a philosophical exercise about the relationship between developer and storefront — it’s also a practical fight over very real money. The same could be said about Microsoft’s position, as it has several games of its own on iOS that run on Unreal Engine, as Gammill says in the company statement.
We’ll keep you updated if any more companies get in on the drama.