Epic tries new gambit to restore Fortnite in Apple App Store

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EPIC Games Inc. made another pitch to a judge to block Apple Inc. from removing Fortnite from its App Store in what the game maker calls “retaliation” for offering in-app purchases through its own marketplace.

Friday’s request for a court action comes after Epic was denied an order last month that would have temporarily stopped Apple from delisting Fortnite.

The case is shaping into a major antitrust showdown over tolls of as much as 30 percent that Apple charges developers when users make in-app purchases. Epic has filed a separate suit with similar claims against Google.

Apple’s App Store business also faces antitrust scrutiny by lawmakers and regulators in US and Europe looking to rein in power of big technology companies. Some app developers complain that Apple’s standard App Store fees and others policies are unfair and designed to benefit the iPhone maker’s own services.

“To be clear, Epic does not seek to force Apple to provide distribution and processing services for free, nor does Epic seek to enjoy Apple’s services without paying for them,” Epic said in a filing in federal court in Oakland, California.

“What Epic wants is the freedom not to use Apple’s App Store or in-app purchase, and instead to use and offer competing services.”

Apple released a statement maintaining it isn’t backing down, adding that there’s no chance of the companies working together as things stand.

Epic “repeatedly submit Fortnite updates designed to violate the guidelines of the App Store,” Apple said. “This is not fair to all other developers on the App Store and is putting customers in the middle of their fight.” Their simmering dispute intensified August 13 when Epic told customers it would begin offering a discounted direct purchase plan for items in Fortnite. Apple then removed the app from its App Store, cutting off access for iPhone and iPad users to a game played by more more than 350 million people.

Fortnite players have spent almost $1.2 billion through Apple’s App Store and nearly $9.7 million though Google Play on in-game purchases, according to mobile-app market data firm Sensor Tower. That generated revenue of about $354 million for Apple and $3 million for Google.

Epic said in its filing that its competing payment portal gives Fortnite gamers “the option of lower prices” on in-app purchases.

Launching its own marketplace “was a necessary first step on the long road to freeing consumers and developers from Apple’s decade-long monopolistic grip over app distribution and in-app payment processing on iOS,” the company said.

In August, US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers issued a mixed ruling following Epic’s initial face-off with Apple in her court. While she declined to order Apple to restore the Fortnite app, she agreed to temporarily block the iPhone maker from limiting Epic’s ability to provide Unreal Engine, key graphics technology for developers, for other apps.

That provisional order remains in place until September 28, when the judge has scheduled the next hearing on whether to issue a longer-lasting injunction while the litigation plays out.

The case is Epic Games Inc. v. Apple Inc., 20-cv-05640, US District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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