Apple Takes Its Fortnite Beef To The Supreme Court For An Epic Legal Showdown
It might be hard to remember, but there used to be a time when iPhone users could play Fortnite. That changed back in 2020 when Epic Games antagonized Apple by skipping the App Store billing system. Apple pulled the game, and the companies have been battling it out in court ever since. Apple came out on top in the case, with Epic winning on just one argument. Apple only accepts total victory, though, and has continued the fight. Unsatisfied with the Appeals Court, Apple just requested a hearing at the US Supreme Court to decide the matter once and for all.
This case boils down to how much money everyone makes when someone buys V-bucks in Fortnite. Apple requires that all iOS apps use its App Store and purchase mechanisms, which charge a 30% fee for each sale. Epic challenged the very nature of the App Store, contending that iPhone owners should be permitted to get apps from third-party repositories without hacking their phones.
Apple, of course, told the court its approach is safer and provides a better user experience, and the court decided that was good enough. The only win for Epic was on Apple's "anti-steering practices," which might have allowed developers to use third-party payment processors to avoid the 30% cut. Apple immediately appealed that ruling, and the pair have been arguing ever since. The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling, and this week Apple filed a request to have SCOTUS take up the case.
If Epic is successful, app developers could choose to sell apps with tools that deprive Apple of its cut. This might mean lower prices for consumers, and it will definitely mean more revenue for the likes of Epic. Apple claims that the appeals court never explained why Epic's harm necessitated a nationwide injunction covering all developers. Apple would prefer to operate the App Store as it always has, but if nothing else, it does not want the anti-steering ruling applied to all developers. So, perhaps it would have to let Epic sell V-bucks online, but other developers that want the same option would have to sue Apple all over again.
Epic has not filed its own appeal with the Supreme Court, but it does have the right to do so. Given the animosity between the companies, it's entirely possible that will happen. This is the final step in the process—there's no higher court Apple or Epic could appeal to. However, the court just wrapped up a session. The court's last session ended in April, and it will not hear more cases until later in 2023.
Even if Apple gets before the court early, it could be a year before the ruling comes down. And perhaps sometime after that, you'll be able to play Fortnite on an iPhone without resorting to the cloud.