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Fortnite will be blacklisted by Apple until all appeals exhausted (twitter.com/timsweeneyepic)
147 points by sornars 34 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 79 comments

...and if the final appeal goes against apple it will coincidentally be blacklisted for an entirely unrelated and new reason shortly thereafter.

Not if a court decision or a new law forces Apple to finally allow sideloading apps on iOS.

pretty sure the orznge menace lit the torch of litigate it to outrun it. only laws gonna come down reauire a bipartisan congress and that is easily staved off with enough lobbiests.

having a split congress means you only need a couple of senstors in pocket.

They violated the feature flag part of the guidelines, does Apple really need another reason? https://developer.apple.com/forums/thread/72176

Apple is not a democracy nor is Epic, the one with most raw power generally wins in such scenario.

Sounds great for users...

Well stones do get ground up between milling stones.

It appears Epic asked to be back to get Fortnite on the Mac App Store but wasn’t going to release an iOS version of Fortnite. The Mac App Store has different terms but uses the same developer account. I think epic may just be trying to prove a point with this action and didn’t expect to be reinstated.

Epic's email to Apple also indicated they would not remove the code supporting in-app purchasing, but rather disable it server-side so that it remains hidden.

I don't think you read the same email I did. He said they "can't", not that they "would not". His wording indicating that they are unable to, your wording indicating they choose not to.

I would suspect being unable to update the iOS versions of Fortnite might, oddly enough, be linked to it having been removed from the app store and their account being banned. If their account were reinstated and Fortnite allowed back into the store, I don't know what technical hurdles would remain preventing them from updating it.

edit: Sweeney wrote: "Though we can't update the Fortnite version that users still have on their iOS devices, we've disabled Epic payments server-side[...]". This reads to me that he's stating how things are currently. That, they don't have a mechanism to update Fornite. Doesn't even read that they won't, if able to.

Elsewhere, Sweeney indicated they had no intention of publishing a new iOS version that complied with the current Apple rules, instead targeting a hypothetical future where alternative in-app purchasing was allowed by Apple.

Therefore, while they can't publish a new version at the moment because their account is disabled, they have zero intention of publishing a new version under the current iOS App Store rules.

The version they were talking about publishing is a new Mac App Store version. I'm curious if people have any good hypothesis on why they would do this, as Epic wants to run their own store and be the one earning commissions.

So now Tim says he won't come back to iOS until they're allowed to link directly to the external payment option from the app. My understanding of the court order was that Apple only had to allow apps to tell users that external payment was an option, not that they had to be able to link directly to it.

Here's the exact language from the ruling:

> Accordingly, a nationwide injunction shall issue enjoining Apple from prohibiting developers to include in their: Apps and their metadata buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms, in addition to IAP.

> Nor may Apple prohibit developers from: Communicating with customers through points of contact obtained voluntarily from customers through account registration within the app.

Full ruling [PDF]: https://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/21060696/epic-v-apple...

My understanding seems to have been incorrect, if the words "external links" are in the ruling itself I don't know how Apple squirms out of that one. I guess by denying their return to the app store on other grounds.

The ruling does not require Apple to permit those external methods of payment to be embedded within the app, rather than opened outside the app in the system web browser. Epic oversteps their rights by declaring to Apple that Apple must accept their 'alternative IAP' methodology. Apple is under no compulsion to define their terms to accept Epic's intentions as compliant with rules that they have 90 days to decide on and publish, and has many options available in their decisions that would both comply with the ruling while also continuing to prohibit Epic's declared intentions.

The ruling also gives Apple 90 days to decide the exact specifics of how it will comply with the ruling, and until then, the Fortnite app's code would remain out of compliance with the current rules until they are updated within the 90 day period. Since Epic does not commit in their letter to Apple to removing that code, to comply with the rules as they are today, of course Apple chose not to accept them back into the store. If Epic had unwound their willful violation of the rules as they are today, they would have met Apple's stated terms for having developer services restored and likely would not have been asked to wait.

Aside from the guidelines change, does the ruling specifically compel Apple to set aside Epic's contractual violation, or is Apple allowed if they so desire to simply let stand their standard normal permaban for "you knowingly lied to Apple and broke the rules" as the rules were defined at the time?

The court basically struck down rule 3.1.1 which is exactly the rule that prevents such links.

No Apple is definitely not abusing their market position by controlling (and taxing) the access to millions of customers.

That's exactly what the judge said.

Exactly why there should be regulation like OAMA, EU DMA, etc..

"Just last week, Epic agreed with Apple that we would play by the same rules as everyone else."

This is in the linked thread.

But, if the legal challenge is ongoing, then I am skeptical that they've really agreed to anything. Writing an email to Apple saying "I agree to your terms" while continuing to fight in court over those terms is not an agreement of anything.

They can agree to follow the terms while at the same time believing that the terms are unfair. They don't have to break the ToS to get the ToS changed.

They could do that, and that appears to be what they want to do, but I tend to agree with Apple that continuing a legal attempt to overturn the terms doesn't constitute "agreeing" to the terms. There's an old joke about diplomacy being "the art of saying 'nice doggie' until you can find a rock".

Apple is in my opinion correct that Epic is still looking for that rock, and is not bound to respect what Epic says while it does so.

>They don't have to break the ToS to get the ToS changed.

Might have been a good idea for Epic to consider that prior to doing so.

Oh absolutely. I think Apple is making the correct move here.

> Writing an email to Apple saying "I agree to your terms" while continuing to fight in court over those terms is not an agreement of anything.

Especially since the court ruled Epic violated them once before.

This gives Apple something they can reluctantly renege on without compromising their revenue model. In a few months we'll see another flurry of stories about how Apple "caved" and let Epic back in to pay the 30% cut like everyone else.

This is simply savvy maneuvering by apple.

Frequently these cases are appealed and new terms introduced to the judgement. Apple doesn’t want to give away any negotiating position until this is fully resolved.

Savvy is one way to put it.

As an app developer it simply makes me not want to work with Apple at all, but of course I'm forced to for some reason.

Don't forget the long history of "Sherlocking." If you make a utility that enhances the experience enough, they'll simply imitate it and give you the middle finger.

Or a $99/year fee to give away FOSS projects...

Apple would at least get some goodwill of the FOSS community if they offered free publishing when an app is linked to an open-source code repository.

As a user I don't buy Apple due to how it preys upon developers.

Why? I'm excited that a billon dollar company is not treated differently than an indie. I would have hated to negotiate specific terms with Apple and get a bad deal like the way it happens with cloud providers, for example.

IMHO, if the commission of Apple or any other rule is to be changed, it should change for everyone(a regulation maybe?). I hated it when Epic simply steamrolled the external payment rule. I don't like others getting away with stuff simply because they can, I find it unfair.

Apple could have let it happen, then maybe a few more giants like Netflix, Google and Amazon would have done and as a result we would end up with 2 tier business environment, like the way it is for most of the stuff outside of the AppStore.

Feels like a weird cognizant dissonance to me. You should antagonize apple for abusing its position against all developers, not celebrate them for not doing it only against the little guy.

I don’t think it’s an abuse, it’s simply a business. Apple holds the minority share of smartphones WW. It’s perfectly possible not to do work on their platform if the terms are not good.

I’m annoyed when they sherlock someone but not when they stick to the agreement they made with the developers.

In the vast majority of markets where having apps is simply secondary to the core business, it's rather impossible to succeed without both an android and an apple app.

In the US its practically 50/50, and being forced to write off 50% of the US, who have no other way to install your app, is ridiculous. And a 30% cut is absolutely massive, for comparison, Walmarts profit margin in 2020 was 3%.

That it has been allowed to continue this long is simply a failure of government.

> And a 30% cut is absolutely massive, for comparison, Walmarts profit margin in 2020 was 3%.

Note that comparing markup to profit margin is apples and oranges. Comparing to a particularly low-margin provider is perhaps misleading, too.

I agree that a regulation is needed for certain things. What I don’t agree is Epic bullying it’s way because that (assumed) they can.

BTW the %30 is fine considering the service they give. They handle the international trade part of the business, which is vastly different from what Walmart does. If you were to sell directly to customers, you would have to incorporate in each and every country there is(because you need to pay taxes and comply to the laws where your clients are), which is something that Epic can do but small developers can’t. Thanks to Apple, a kid with a computer can directly compete against international corporations. Also, Apple provides many if the technology that enables these apps. There’s no comparison between what a supermarket does and Apple does.

A kid could do all of that on epic's store for 12% instead of apple's 30% if apple wasn't allowed to force it to be the only option.

A free market would figure out what the real fair percentage really is.

No one is forced to work with apple. I've been developing software for 15 years and never once touched xcode or iOS. Working with apple is a choice you make.

Yes well good for you. I'm not sure what kind of software you're developing but it obviously isn't consumer facing mobile apps. So perhaps your anecdata is irrelevant in this case, yes?

Apple is a gatekeeper that no one who is buying their phones cares about. People buy iPhones because their friends have iPhones, that's it. But Apple treats developing for Apple as a special privilege and locks down their massive ecosystem. It should be illegal at the scale Apple has, but it isn't.

So yes, we are forced to work with Apple in order to be competitive in industries that Apple has no business controlling. You don't have that problem with whatever you develop because (presumably) Microsoft doesn't exploit Windows' market advantage in the way Apple does.

> Apple is a gatekeeper that no one who is buying their phones cares about.

I don't buy Apple devices primarily due to the way they administrate the app store and how they treat developers.

I would consider buying an iPhone otherwise.

So yes, there are people who care.

I write consumer facing software among many other things. I do not and will not write iPhone software. Apple users can access a (single, Apple-provided) web browser.

If you want to sell mobile apps that you cannot run from a browser, then choosing not to enter Apple's ecosystem will keep you from a very large user base.

It is a choice you make, but with significant business consequences.

Is it really that savvy? The golden goose is the iPhone itself, and the network effects of things like iMessage that keep people there. Services have a high margin, and make up a substantial chunk of Apple's profits, but they are dependent on a big iOS ecosystem.

Fortnite has 116 million iOS users, and a lot of them are pretty into the game. I don't think keeping Fortnite off iOS is going to have an immediate impact on people's buying decisions, but each time a dispute like this happens, more and more people are going to take notice of the fact that they can't play Fortnite on an iPhone, they can't buy a Kindle book on an iPhone, etc. I doubt any of these individually amount to a purchasing decision, but over time Android might be seen as more broadly useful.

I bet you're right--Apple would prefer to have Fortnite and and corresponding revenue and userbase back on their platform.

But this case isn't over. There's almost certain to be an appealed. Apple wants to maximize their position in the event the next judgement is less favorable. And the short-term cost of users and revenue is worthwhile hedge against the unknown.

I think the court handed down a half-baked judgement in this case.

Anyone know where Apple stated they'd "welcome Epic’s return to the App Store if they agree to play by the same rules as everyone else" as Tim states?

I see where Apple said everybody should play by the same rules but given that Epic not only violated the policy (which has now been changed) but also purposely cheated on the review process it seems justified that they are still banned.

The only place I can find the quote is in an article from The Verge from a couple of weeks ago: https://www.theverge.com/2021/9/10/22667069/fortnite-ios-ret...

Thanks, that article links to an earlier one https://www.theverge.com/2021/9/10/22666146/apple-epic-korea... which says:

Apple, however, maintains it’s under no obligation to let Epic in the App Store at all. “As we’ve said all along, we would welcome Epic’s return to the App Store if they agree to play by the same rules as everyone else,” an Apple spokesperson says in a statement to The Verge. “Epic has admitted to breach of contract and as of now, there’s no legitimate basis for the reinstatement of their developer account.”

So it sounds like it was in a statement to The Verge that was split into parts for the article and Tim is cherry picking the part that suits Epic. Seems impossible for Epic to play by the same rules as everyone else and be allowed back in since they broke more rules than the one that has now been changed. They really should have tried a legal approach first before sneaking their app store in.

I still don't understand what the Mac version has to do with this. Just ship a self-signed binary and make users let it through Gatekeeper. Yes, this is annoying for users, but not moreso than sideloading Android apps, and Epic is still updating the Android version even though it's not in the Play Store.

Epic, Steam, and Framework should team up to build a user centric phone which runs Arch not Android and runs all their games.

Valve are definitely not user-centred. They are profit centred. Valve provide no subsidised hardware (PC gamers still need to supply their own), and charge indie developers 30% commissions, a regressive 'tax' compared to the 20% they charge AAA.

Per-employee, Valve is the most profitable company in America, and Gabe Newell the 97th richest American. They got there with forced exclusives (Half Life 2 could only be activated on Steam) and simply being first to market. They are no longer even bothering to curate their storefront.

Of course Valve is not a charity, but of all companies in their space or close to them, they are miles ahead than any competition because users like using their product. Simple as that.

Everybody prefers Steam to EGS not _only_ because they're stuck there, but because it's genuinely a better product. It's golden handcuffs, but a fantastic product nonetheless.

In my opinion Valve has found the perfect balance between making gamers, a notoriously difficult category of people hard to please, happy and making serious money. Laughing all the way to the bank while single-handedly improving the status of Linux gaming and desktop in general. I'm more than OK with that.

I just hope that Epic Games will still release games related to Unreal Engine to apple store.

Has the unavailability of the game on iOS sold a meaningful number of Android devices?

Probably not—Epic stated in the court hearing that mobile was a small percentage of their sales; most of their business was on consoles.

If a person gets convicted of a crime and sentenced to jail, they have to go to jail right after sentencing, even if they plan to appeal. Why is this situation different?

That’s not always true. Sentences can be, and frequently are, deferred while the appeal is evaluated.

This is a civil case, not criminal. And even in some low level criminal cases, convicts are sometimes allowed a few days to get their affairs in order before reporting to jail or prison.

The court ruling didn’t require apple to reinstate epic’s developer account. Apple can still, at their discretion, decide who can and can’t develop apps for iOS and Mac app stores.

In that case, why didn't they just say Epic is banned forever? What do appeals have to do with it?

I think they don't want to ban Epic forever over this kind of spat because it sets a bad precedent and could turn other developers away from them.

Additionally I don't think it helps their public image and hurts the case they are making where they don't need regulation because they have fair rules (smacking someone out of the app store forever because they file a lawsuit wouldn't pass the smell test)

I believe most companies would refrain from engaging in new business with a customer who has pending litigation against them. Apple may not want to ban them and is just waiting until the appeal process has settled before reengaging with Epic under whatever terms are ultimately agreed upon between both parties and the courts.

> why didn't they just say Epic is banned forever?

Why would Apple ban a potent revenue source?

The appeal might force Apple to reinstate Epic.

Epic lost their case, but is trying to continue the fight by appealing.

Apple has no reason to do them any favors.

Rich guy complaining about another Rich guy. I don't care. If this was a small app developer complaining, I would care. The more little devs complain, the more can come together and sue the crap out of Apple. 1 big Co suing another big Co = nobody cares. Tim isn't helping the small developers, he just wants to make more money for himself. Small devs will still get screwed.

What an incredibly lazy argument. Sweeney is a developer through and through, not some soulless suit like Cook. Relatively speaking, Epic Games is a "small app developer". You're talking about a billion dollar company with a single game they want to sell vs. a trillion dollar company that owns the entire ecosystem.

Did you not bother to look at the facts of the case?

I don't play games on iOS, I don't even develop on iOS, either.

I do use both iOS and Android as a consumer, and I'm totally team Tim Sweeney on this one, even though I also own AAPL — my freedoms as a consumer are more important to me than whoever is bankrolling this case and what their reasons may be. Besides, their reasons aren't that bad, either, and closely align with mine — more choice for the consumer.

Because of Epic now iOS users have more payment options (including the Platinum Apple with included Apple tax and protections), more options are good (except if you suffer of a brain illness that makes you unable to chose and have to always use a coin)

No they don't, the only difference is that developers can now tell their users that they can pay on a different website.

The Netflix app never had an Apple payment method. The first screen is the login screen with no way to sign up at all and no explanation how or where to do it.

Netflix for several years allowed you to sign up on the front page of the App, giving apple a percentage of subscription revenue.

So now you might get a link to Netflix website and some text, as a user lost nothing.

Sweeney's out here fighting for the right of the little guy to groom young gambling addicts.

Timmy from Apple could ban lootboxes if he cares, instead he is taxing them and makes ton of cache(it was revealed that Apple makes a lot more money from games then from apps)

Fortnite doesn't have lootboxes.

I had to look it up myself because I didn't believe you, but it really does appear to be the case that Fortnite doesn't have random loot boxes and they removed them from Rocket League after purchasing that game.

A lawsuit helped them get there, but sweeney's gone on the record to state that random lootboxes should not be a thing. So... net good?

Yeah honestly neither of these two have our best interests in mind. Apple wants to keep their walled garden walled, and these game companies want to make it easier to exploit quasi-gambling "loot box" and similar revenue centers without paying Apple. There are also a lot of vendors who want to bypass Apple so they can bypass Apple's privacy protections.

The entire mobile ecosystem is full of user-hostile business models and behavior.

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