Epic wins order against Apple protecting Unreal Engine in Fortnite fight


Fortnite probably won’t be back in the App Store anytime soon.


Apple won’t be required to restore Fortnite to its App Store, but a judge’s temporary restraining order against the company late Monday prevents it from revoking access to Epic’s Unreal Engine developer tools.

The legal battle between the two companies stems from a dispute over collecting revenue from in-app purchases, resulting in Apple — and Google — removing the game from their app stores. Epic sued Apple, charging that it was threatening to revoke developer access to its tools. It also asked the court for a preliminary injunction in its pending legal battle with Apple, essentially allowing Fortnite back on the app store until the legal proceedings conclude.

“The Court finds that with respect to Epic Games’ motion as to its games, including Fortnite, Epic Games has not yet demonstrated irreparable harm,” Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said in her ruling. “The current predicament appears of its own making.

“By contrast, Epic Games has made a preliminary showing of irreparable harm as to Apple’s actions related to the revocation of the developer tools (SDKs),” Rogers wrote. “The relevant agreement, the Apple Xcode and Apple SDKs Agreement, is a fully integrated document that explicitly walls off the developer program license agreement.”

While Epic’s suit with Google is still in its preliminary stages, the hearing Monday was held to decide Epic’s request that the court force Apple to allow Fortnite back in its store. Apple’s also threatened to remove Epic’s access to its developer tools, effectively cutting off its Unreal Engine game development tools, which are used by game-makers across the industry. Epic argued that Apple’s moves threatened outside developers, while also leaving iPhone and iPad players unable to play with other gamers when new game updates arrive likely in the fall.

Rogers, a federal judge for the northern district of California, spent much of the hearing challenging Epic and Apple’s lawyers over aspects of both their respective arguments. But, she warned, she’s unlikely to force Apple to allow Epic’s popular Fortnite online battle game back into the App Store without removing offending code that breaks Apple’s App Store rules.

When either company would raise concerns about whatever financial hit they may take as a result of her ruling either way, Rogers scoffed.

“We’re talking about a company worth billions versus a company worth trillions,” she said.

At the heart of the dispute is whether Epic has the right to include a direct-payments service in its Fortnite app, circumventing Apple’s and Google’s payments systems and the up to 30% charge Apple and Google levy on each transaction.

The iPhone maker responded, booting Fortnite and its more than 250 million players from its App Store, which prompted Epic to sue. Since then, iPhone and iPad users who have Fortnite installed on their phones can still play, but everyone else is no longer able to download the app.

Apple and Epic didn’t didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

CNET’s Ian Sherr contributed to this report.

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