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ICYMI, all is not hunky-dory in the world of Fortnite. Epic Games' hugely successful battle royale game is currently unavailable on both Apple's App Store and the Google Play store, after Epic introduced a Mega Drop payment system, enabling players to buy V-Bucks without either Apple or Google taking a cut. You can read and/or watch all about the story so far, here.
Epic had issued a restraining order against Apple, in an attempt to prevent their fruity foes from also removing any game on the App Store that's developed using Epic's Unreal Engine - a threat that Apple made, as part of the companies' exhausting war of words so far. Now, a judge has ruled that Apple cannot remove games that use the Unreal Engine from its App Store; but that it can continue to keep Fortnite off it.
Deep breath, and on we go... the judge in question, Yvonne Gonzales Rogers, of the Northern District of California, has partially allowed Epic's restraining order to stand, which means that Apple cannot take down games that have been made in Unreal Engine. In the official court document, we see that the court "grants in part" and "denies in part" Epic's "motion for a temporary restraining order".
Regarding Apple's threat of removing Unreal Engine-made games, the court document reads: "Apple has chosen to act severely, and by doing so, has impacted non-parties, and a third-party developer ecosystem. In this regard, the equities do weigh against Apple." Ergo, Apple's proposed action would impact a host of studios other than Epic, and as such it cannot go through with the removal of said games.
It adds: "The economy is in dire need of increasing avenues for creativity and innovation, not eliminating them. Epic Games and Apple are at liberty to litigate against each other, but their dispute should not create havoc to bystanders."
Finally, the court document concludes that "Apple and all persons in active concert or participation with Apple, are temporarily restrained from taking adverse action against Epic Games with respect to restricting, suspending or terminating any affiliate of Epic Games... from Apple's Developer Program." This includes games made by third parties using the Unreal Engine.
But back to Fortnite. The court observes that Fortnite is a wildly popular title and that it is being sorely missed on the App Store, and that video games in general are "virtual escapes" that "may assist in connecting people and providing a space that is otherwise unavailable" - something vital during the current COVID-19 pandemic. But it rules that Epic's implementation of the Mega Drop was something entirely of its own making, and therefore the "irreparable harm" Epic claims it will suffer for not being on the App Store is self-inflicted.
The document reads: "The court finds that with respect to Epic Games' motion as to its games, including Fortnite, Epic Games has not yet demonstrated irreparable harm. The current predicament appears of its own making." And it later adds: " 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."
Tl;dr: Epic Games' decision to cut Apple (and Google) out of their percentage cut was a breach of an existing agreement, and of the status quo between the parties, and nothing Epic has presented to the court so far represents evidence enough for that status quo to change. Or in other words: as it stands, this is Epic's mess to clear up.
Whether or not Epic will ultimately backtrack somewhat, and alter its Mega Drop system to offer Apple and Google a cut, remains to be seen. It definitely won't see this decision as being favourable; although a host of third parties absolutely will. For now, all that's certain is that this case will drag on, and on, and on, with the next hearing set for September 28th (and another due in early 2021).
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