The work of millions of games developers would be put at risk if Apple was allowed to carry out its threat to revoke its support of Epic’s developer platform, the games publisher said in a court filing.
That argument was supported by a declaration from Microsoft, which agreed that Apple’s threatened suspension of the Unreal Engine — a framework used to make games — would create “substantial costs” for itself and other developers, putting projects at risk of being shelved.
While only pertaining to a narrow aspect of the broader case, Microsoft’s backing gives Epic its highest profile ally in its increasingly bitter legal dispute with Apple over the size and terms of the commission Apple charges for inclusion in its lucrative App Store.
This month, Epic sued Apple after it removed hit title Fortnite from its App Store, following the games publisher’s attempt to circumvent Apple’s payment mechanisms and thereby avoid the 30 per cent cut it takes from transactions.
As part of its retaliation, Apple said it would revoke support for Unreal Engine, used by games-makers to create and run their titles across multiple platforms, including Apple’s iOS. Epic earns royalties when third parties use the software tool kit to provide shortcuts that make game graphics look more realistic. Apple’s move would mean the Unreal Engine could not be updated on iOS.
Epic is seeking a temporary restraining order, arguing Unreal Engine should be considered unrelated to its lawsuit challenging the commission terms of Apple’s App Store, and that companies not involved in the dispute would face harm.
On Friday, in its first filing in the case, Apple told the court Epic’s problem was a “self-inflicted wound” that could be immediately solved if the company rolled back the changes made to Fortnite. A temporary restraining order, Apple told the court, would open the floodgates for similar requests from other developers that would “threaten the entire App Store ecosystem”.
In a written declaration submitted on Sunday, Microsoft’s Kevin Gammill, who manages third-party developers working with the company’s Xbox business, supported Epic’s request for a temporary restraining order.
He said revoking Unreal Engine from iOS and macOS would create “significant costs and difficult decisions” for Microsoft and other developers.
“Apple’s discontinuation of Unreal Engine’s ability to support iOS will be a material disadvantage for the Unreal Engine in future decisions by Microsoft and other game creators as to the choice of an engine for new games,” Mr Gammill said in the declaration.
Were Apple to revoke access, it would also mean it could no longer support existing titles, such as its hit racing game, Forza Street.
“If the game engine can no longer develop updates that take advantage of new iOS or macOS features, fix software bugs, or patch security flaws, this will harm games that have already launched on iOS and macOS (and, in turn, harm gamers),” Mr Gammill argued.
Apple declined to comment on the latest filing, and instead referred the Financial Times to its Friday filing.