A judge has prevented Apple from blocking Epic Games’ Unreal Engine from being used on iOS and Mac. Epic’s Fortnite, however, remains unavailable on Apple’s devices.
The order comes after Apple not only removed Fortnite from its App Store but also moved to terminate Epic’s developer account and revoke its popular Unreal Engine from iOS and Mac.
In response, Epic’s lawyers filed a temporary restraining, asking the court to stop Apple from removing its account and blocking Unreal and get them to reinstate Fortnite.
In a ruling released late Monday, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers denied Epic’s request to have the court force Apple to put Fortnite back on the App Store. However, Rogers did grant Epic’s request for a temporary order blocking Apple from preventing developer access to Unreal Engine.
In her decision, Rogers noted that blocking Unreal from iOS and Mac would cause “potential significant damage to both the Unreal Engine platform itself, and to the gaming industry generally, including both third-party developers and gamers.”
In addition, she also wrote that “Apple is hard-pressed to dispute that even if Epic Games succeeded on the merits, it could be too late to save all the projects by third-party developers relying on the engine that were shelved while support was unavailable … Apple has chosen to act severely, and by doing so, has impacted non-parties, and a third-party developer ecosystem.”
Unreal represents a significant chunk of Epic’s business. The engine powers a significant number of games outside of Epic’s own. Its graphical prowess is such that many developers defer to it for their big-budget triple-A games—Sony even used it to help demonstrate the power of their PlayStation 5 (on top of investing in Epic Games as well).
Clearly, based on this, Rogers decided that Apple blocking Unreal Engine from their devices would negatively affect not just Epic, but other developers, as well as players playing their games.
For Fortnite, on the other hand, similar harm could not be demonstrated.
While she recognized the games passionate community, she concluded that “the showing is not sufficient to conclude that these considerations outweigh the general public interest in requiring private parties to adhere to their contractual agreements or in resolving business disputes through normal, albeit expedited, proceedings.”
Roger’s mixed ruling comes as Apple faces backlash from some app developers who say that its standard App Store fee of 30 percent—combined with other policies—is unfair and designed to benefit Apple and its own apps and services.
One of these developers is none other than Microsoft, who is openly supporting Epic in its fight with Apple.
In her ruling, Rogers acknowledged these complaints.
“While the Court anticipates experts will opine that Apple’s 30 percent take is anti-competitive, the Court doubts that an expert would suggest a zero percent alternative,” she wrote.
Rogers wrote that the temporary restraining is effective “immediately.” The order will remain in force the court “issues an order on the motion for preliminary injunction.” The hearing for the latter is set for September 28.