Apple Court Filing Says Epic Asked For Special Deal Before All This Nonsense Started

A real hat people can win.
A real hat people can win.
Photo: Epic Games

When we last left the legal battle between Epic Games and Apple, the game maker had requested the court prevent Apple from removing its games and dev tool access from the App Store. Today, Apple fired back in a filing opposing the request, producing an email dated June 30 from Epic CEO Tim Sweeney asking Apple execs to let his company bypass Apple’s payment systems.

On August 13, Epic Games uploaded a version of Fortnite to the Apple App Store that bypassed Apple’s payment systems, lowering the price of the game’s in-app currency in the process. This was a violation of Apple’s policies, so Apple responded by removing Fortnite from the App Store. Then Epic filed a legal injunction, followed by a request to stop Apple from removing its stuff from the store.

Today’s filing by Apple addresses Epic’s request for what the device and computer manufacturer calls “emergency relief.” It opens with a statement arguing that the problem Epic is seeking to solve is of its own doing, caused by the company’s willful breaking of its agreements with Apple. I will say this, Apple’s lawyers draft a good document.

All of that alleged injury for which Epic improperly seeks emergency relief could disappear tomorrow if Epic cured its breach. Apple has offered Epic the opportunity to cure, to go back to the status quo before Epic installed its “hotfix” that turned into its hot mess, and to be welcomed back into the App Store.

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What’s most interesting about the filing, however, is that it states that Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney emailed Apple in June of this year requesting his company be allowed to create competing payment options within the iOS version of Fortnite and other games, or its own competing Epic Games Store app exempt from Apple’s payment policies. From the email:

Because of restrictions imposed by Apple, Epic is unable to provide consumers with certain features in our iOS apps. We would like to offer consumers the following features:

1) Competing payment processing options other than Apple payments, without Apple’s fees, in Fortnite and other Epic Games software distributed through the iOS App Store;

2) A competing Epic Games Store app available through the iOS App Store and through direct installation that has equal access to underlying operating system features for software installation and update as the iOS App Store itself has, including the ability to install and update software as seamlessly as the iOS App Store experience.

Apple’s six-page email response to Sweeney’s message, delivered on July 10, is best summarized as “Hahahahahaha no.” Sweeney expressed his disappointment with their response on July 17, setting in motion the whole Fortnite-pulling debacle.

That Epic made overtures to Apple requesting special dispensation a month and a half before launching its lawsuit and anti-Apple campaign may seem a bit shady, considering Tim Sweeney is doing his best to make this a battle of the people versus Apple’s evil monopoly. Sweeney’s original email to Apple does contain a line mentioning other iOS developers: “We hope that Apple will also make these options equally available to all iOS developers in order to make software sales and distribution on the iOS platform as open and competitive as it is on personal computers.” Tim Sweeney took to Twitter following Apple’s filing, pointing out exactly that in a response to Rod “Slasher” Breslau. 

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Where do we go from here? The weekend, when I won’t have to read any lengthy legal documents for two days, fingers crossed.

Kotaku elder, lover of video games, keyboards, toys, snacks, and other unsavory things.

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DISCUSSION

An analogy to help people understand this situation:

Disney (Apple) has a captive audience of Disneyland visitors (iOS users) in their walled garden of Disneyland (iOS).

A vendor (Epic), who already has many other stores (Fortnite apps on other platforms) all over the world, wants to open a park store (Fortnite iOS app) inside Disneyland (iOS) to sell their merchandise (V-Bucks) to Disneyland visitors (iOS users). The vendor (Epic) signs an agreement by which the vendor (Epic) is allowed to set up a park store (Fortnite iOS app) in a Disneyland store space (the App Store) where they can sell to Disney visitors (iOS users) in Disneyland (iOS). In exchange, the vendor (Epic) pays Disney (Apple) a retailer’s fee every time someone pays at the park store (buys an In-App Purchase).

The vendor (Epic) doesn’t like paying the fee, even though they agreed to it. So they set up a truck in the Disneyland parking lot (a link to Epic’s website in the Fortnite iOS app) and their employees in their park store (Fortnite iOS app) start telling Disney visitors (iOS users), “You can buy our merchandise (V-Bucks) for cheaper if you go to our truck in the Disneyland parking lot (a link to Epic’s website in the Fortnite iOS app) instead of paying at our park store (buying an In-App Purchase).”

Disney (Apple) summarily ejects the vendor (Epic) from their store space (the App Store) and removes them from Disneyland (iOS) for violating their jointly signed retail agreement.

Does it suck that Apple has so much control over iOS? Sure, you can subjectively think so. But nothing about that control is “monopolistic” in the antitrust sense.