Epic Games, locked in a legal battle with Apple and Google over developer payments, now says Apple is threatening to cut the company off from developer accounts and iOS and Mac development tools.
This decision, expected to go into effect Aug. 28, might have widespread effects on App Store development. This goes beyond “Fortnite,” the Epic Games title that was the catalyst for the legal fight. Epic Games is also the creator of Unreal Engine, which has not only become an industry standard for creating video games, but also film, commercial business and TV shows such as “The Mandalorian” on Disney+.
Operating System developers (like Apple and Microsoft) provide updated tools to developers for free or a small fee to develop programs for the systems. An Epic Games spokeswoman tells The Post that without that access, all future versions of Unreal Engine can’t be developed for iOS and Mac devices like iPhones and Macbooks. In turn, subsequent updates to iOS or Mac devices could make software running on Unreal Engine unusable.
This is a particularly precarious time for Epic Games as it plans to release the fifth iteration of the Unreal Engine, expected to power the next generation of video games. And it doesn’t just affect games by Epic. “Hello Neighbor” by Dynamic Pixels in 2017 has become a huge hit on mobile platforms. This could also cut off the “Mortal Kombat” series from the mobile market, as it also uses the Unreal Engine.
Epic has filed for a temporary restraining order to stop the move from taking effect. “Not content simply to remove Fortnite from the App Store, Apple is attacking Epic’s entire business in unrelated areas,” wrote attorneys for Epic Games. “Technology markets move swiftly. … The damage to Epic’s ongoing business and to its reputation and trust with its customers will be unquantifiable and irreparable. Preliminary injunctive relief is necessary to prevent Apple from crushing Epic before this case could ever get to judgment.”
If Epic Games is cut off from Apple’s tools, many developers would have to forgo the Unreal Engine for other systems. That’s not an easy feat, particularly for small studios who have found huge success thanks to the Apple App Store.
“The effects will reverberate well beyond video games,” an Epic Games spokeswoman wrote in an email to The Post. “It will affect developers who use the Unreal Engine on Apple products in many fields.”
Game developer Brianna Wu said she already invested thousands for a new Mac to port an Unreal 3 iOS game over to a 64-bit program.
“Now that project is dead in its tracks,” Wu told The Post. “Using Unreal to develop iOS games has always been extremely risky. All the greatest games of all time, games Apple promoted at iOS keynotes like ‘Infinity Blade’ are gone, lost to time because Apple constantly breaks Unreal Engine with updates.”
Wu said Apple seems to be pushing iOS developers to use Xcode, Apple’s own integrated software development program.
“Apple’s 3D tools are better than they were a decade ago, but it’s not anywhere near the league of Unreal Engine,” Wu said.
Epic Games has been trying to mobilize millions of “Fortnite” players to reach out to Apple to demand change, while fighting the issue in courts. Apple’s reasoning has been that Epic Games flagrantly violated App Store policies by offering alternative methods of payment.
“Fortnite” will no longer be updated on mobile devices, as the game moves on to its next season, possibly later this month.
The Post is reaching out to other developers of iOS to see how this decision could impact their work.