Although the Digital Markets Act (DMA) requires the so-called “gatekeepers” to allow third-party app stores on their platforms in the EU, Apple decided to keep its longtime enemy, Epic Games, out of iOS. The company has now terminated the Fortnite maker’s developer account.

Epic Games says Apple terminated its developer account due to public criticism of its DMA compliance plan

What happened?

UPDATE 2 (March 8): According to Epic Games, Apple has finally agreed to reinstate its developer account following the European Commission’s request. This allows the Fortnite maker to resume work on launching the Epic Games Store on iOS in Europe. Apple also told The Verge that “following conversations with Epic, they have committed to follow the rules, including our [Digital Markets Act] policie.”

UPDATE (March 7): The European Commission has requested further explanations from Apple, telling Reuters that it is “also evaluating whether Apple’s actions raise doubts on their compliance with the DSA (Digital Services Act) and the P2B (Platform to Business Regulation), given the links between the developer programme membership and the App store as designated VLOP (very large online platform).”

  • Epic Games shared the news on March 6, saying that it no longer can create the Epic Games Store for iOS due to the termination of its developer account. This comes just weeks after the company announced its plans to launch the EGS in Europe later this year.
  • The mobile version of its game store, along with Fortnite, was expected to be operated by Epic Games Sweden.
  • However, these plans are now in jeopardy. Epic believes that Apple’s move is a “serious violation of the DMA and shows Apple has no intention of allowing true competition on iOS devices.”
  • The company cited Article 6(4) of the DMA, saying that the “gatekeeper shall allow and technically enable the installation and effective use of third-party software applications or software application stores using, or interoperating with, its operating system and allow those software applications or software application stores to be accessed by means other than the relevant core platform services of that gatekeeper.”
  • In its blog post, Epic noted that “if Apple maintains its power to kick a third party marketplace off iOS at its sole discretion, no reasonable developer would be willing to utilize a third-party app store, because they could be permanently separated from their audience at any time.”
  • Despite the account termination, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney suggested in a briefing with reporters that Fortnite could still return to iOS via another company’s third-party app store launched in the EU.
  • Following the news, Sweeney posted his own version of a quote by German poet Heinrich Heine, saying, “Where one bans apps, there one eventually bans people.”

How did Apple explain the termination of Epic’s developer account?

  • According to Epic’s blog post, it requested one of Apple’s DMA consultations and was denied. On March 2, the company received a letter from Apple laywers, reading that “Apple has, effective immediately, terminated the Developer Program membership of Epic Games Sweden AB.”
  • The Cupertino-based company called Epic Games “verifiably untrustworthy” due to the fact that it has broken Apple’s Developer Program License Agreement in the past, adding that Tim Sweeny had a “litany of public attacks on Apple’s polices, compliance plan, and business model.”
  • The letter specifically cites a recent X post by Sweeney, where the Epic CEO listed what he called the “actual consequences of [Apple’s] present polices” — including the app story monopoly, the blocking of competing web browser engines, and outright destruction of web apps.

A screenshot of a letter informing Epic about the termination of its developer account (via Epic Games’ official blog)

  • Apple also told The Verge that Epic egregiously breached its contractual obligations, leading courts to “determine that Apple has the right to terminate ‘any or all of Epic Games’ wholly owned subsidiaries, affiliates, and/or other entities under Epic Games’ control at any time and at Apple’s sole discretion.”
  • Epic believes that one of the reason for account termination was the fact that “we publicly criticized their proposed DMA compliance plan,” with Apple “retaliating against Epic for speaking out against Apple’s unfair and illegal practices, just as they’ve done to other developers time and time again.”
  • The company also disagrees with Apple’s claims that it poses a threat to the iOS ecosystem, saying that this is an “entirely unjustified excuse to terminate one of our accounts.”
  • Epic added that it has a long history of relationships with Apple, going back to the early years of the App Store and the release of Infinity Blade. It is also closely working with the Cupertino-based company on various Unreal Engine-related technology and tools.
  • The Fortnie maker plans to continue its fight to bring “true competition and choice to iOS devices” in Europe. It also notified the European Commission about the account termination, with Sweeney saying that “obvious non-compliance should be punished swiftly and speedily.”

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