Today a U.S. District Court judge ruled in Epic Games’ favor in its lawsuit against Apple. As a result, Apple can no longer dictate that purchases made in apps on its own devices go through the App Store. Apple had previously collected 30% of the revenue for purchases made in Epic Games’ Fortnite.
Despite representing a significant victory for Epic that reduces Apple’s control over how in-app purchases are conducted, it was far from a sweeping win for the game publisher. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled against Epic on all other counts in the trial. Apple, she concluded, is not in violation of antitrust law, and does not need to allow Epic or other entities the freedom to create their own stores on Apple platforms. Additionally, Apple is not required to allow Fortnite back on the App Store.
Apple also denied Epic’s request to release the iOS version of Fortnite in South Korea, which just passed legislation that states Google and Apple cannot limit app developers to their own payment systems. In a statement to The Verge, the company says it would allow the blockbuster battle royale back onto the App Store if Epic agrees “to play by the same rules as everyone else.”
In 2020, Apple removed Fortnite from the iOS store after Epic offered its users a discount on V-Bucks if they purchased them outside of the App Store. Epic took this move in response to Apple collecting 30% of profits made from V-Buck purchases on Apple devices. The Fortnite developer launched a public campaign using the hashtag #FreeFortnite which framed Apple’s practice as unreasonable. This was quickly followed by Epic filing a lawsuit against Apple in August 2020.
Below is the relevant section of the injunction as ruled by Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers:
The Court, having considered the evidence presented at the bench trial in this matter and consistent with its findings of fact and conclusions of law, HEREBY ORDERS as follows:
1. Apple Inc. and its officers, agents, servants, employees, and any person in active concert or participation with them (“Apple”), are hereby permanently restrained and enjoined from prohibiting developers from (i) including in their apps and their metadata buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms, in addition to In-App Purchasing and (ii) communicating with customers through points of contact obtained voluntarily from customers through account registration within the app.
What does this mean? In 2022, Apple can no longer require that online purchases made in games or apps on Apple devices go through its own App Store. It must allow developers to redirect users to their own marketplaces for online purchases. The injunction will take effect on December 9 unless it is appointed to a higher court, according to Verge.
Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, tweeted out a response to the court decision, stating:
This decision has potentially large implications for other online storefronts like Google, which Epic also filed a lawsuit against in July of this year. With Epic Games now being allowed to redirect users playing on Apple devices to its own sites for online purchases thanks to this lawsuit, there could be precedent for developers to be able to do so on other storefronts as well.
Kotaku reached out to Epic and Apple for comment. Epic directed us to Tim Sweeney’s tweet, above. Apple did not respond as of press time.
Update: More information and context from the ruling has been added.