Judge Upholds Apple Fortnite Ban, But Saves Epic’s Unreal Engine From App Store Termination

Fortnite Bad Apple
You win some, you lose some, and that is the way it just went with Apple and Epic Games over their public feud regarding Fortnite, Unreal Engine, the App Store, and in-app payments. In a lawsuit filed against Apple, developer Epic Games won a temporary restraining order effectively preventing Apple from banning it outright, so that it can maintain development tools like Unreal Engine.

"Apple, are temporarily restrained from taking adverse action against Epic Games with respect to restricting, suspending, or terminating any affiliate of Epic Games, such as Epic International, from Apple's Developer Program, including as to Unreal Engine, on the basis that Epic Games enabled in-app payment processing in Fortnite through means other than IAP or on the basis of the steps Epic took to do so," Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled.

The temporary restraining order goes into effect immediately, meaning that at least for the time being, third-party developers do not have to worry about support for Unreal Engine coming to an end on iOS.

This was a key concern raised by Microsoft in a filing of its own. Microsoft argued that by banning Epic Games entirely, games creators have built and are currently building on Unreal Engine would be a "substantial disadvantage." It also noted that it would be "prohibitively expensive and difficult" for developers to juggle multiple engines to release games on different platforms.

That is the good news for Epic Games. However, it is only a partial victory. Rogers also ruled against Epic Games in its request to force Apple to reinstate Fortnite back into the App Store, with the revised in-app payment system that effectively bypasses Apple's ability to collect royalties on purchases.

The dispute over in-app payments and Apple's 30 percent cut of sales is the real dispute. To that end, Epic Games is off to an inauspicious start.

In the ruling, the judge found that Epic Games did not demonstrate "irreparable harm," and further noted that this whole mess "appears of its own making." In other words, Epic Games created this situation by running afoul of the agreed upon terms of the App Store.

"In focusing on the status quo, the Court observes that Epic Games strategically chose to breach its agreements with Apple which changed the status quo. No equities have been identified suggesting that the Court should impose a new status quo in favor of Epic Games," Rogers wrote.

This is no the end of the road by any stretch. In the near future, a hearing on the injunction is scheduled for September 28, 2020. Beyond that, this legal battle is likely to extend into next year.