Apple CEO Tim Cook in Austin, Texas, on November 20, 2019.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images
The upcoming legal battle between Apple and the maker of “Fortnite” was sparked by a 2 a.m. email.
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney sent a 2 a.m. email on August 13 to Apple CEO Tim Cook and other execs.
“Epic will no longer adhere to Apple's payment processing restrictions,” Sweeney said.
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Apple and “Fortnite” maker Epic Games are going to court this week after months of public mud-slinging, a fight that was sparked by Epic intentionally circumventing Apple's iPhone payment systems.
In response, Apple pulled “Fortnite” from its iPhone and iPad store, and the game has been unplayable on both ever since.
It turns out, billionaire Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney formally declared war in a very early morning email to Apple CEO Tim Cook and his team.
At 2 a.m. PT on August 13, 2020, Sweeney sent an email to Apple CEO Tim Cook and several other Apple executives which laid out Epic's plan to cut Apple out of payments in “Fortnite” on iPhone and iPad.
“I'm writing to tell you that Epic will no longer adhere to Apple's payment processing restrictions,” Sweeney wrote. “Today, Epic is launching Epic direct payments in 'Fortnite' on iOS, offering customers the choice of paying in-app through Epic direct payments or through Apple payments, and passing on the savings of Epic direct payments to customers in the form of lower prices.”
This was not Sweeney's first email to Apple executives about the App Store's treatment of “Fortnite.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook, left, and Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, right.
Court records show that on June 30 Sweeney requested Apple allow a “competing Epic Games Store app” to be available on the App Store so “consumers would have an opportunity to pay less for digital products and developers would earn more from their sales.”
Apple declined, which then led to Epic's move to circumvent Apple's App Store a month and a half later. Sweeney said he knew this would violate the App Store's agreement with Epic Games, according to the letter, but proceeded regardless because of “the firm belief that history and law are on our side.”
Following the update to “Fortnite” that included the ability to pay Epic directly, Apple removed the game from the store and nixed Epic's developer contract. Instead of buying in-game virtual money (“V-bucks”) through Apple or Google, players could buy it directly from Epic – at a discount, no less.
Apple and Google said the update was a terms-of-service violation for any developer with an app on the App Store or Google Play.
Future updates to the game aren't allowed, and there is no way to download it unless you've previously downloaded it to your Apple account. When the game was updated on August 27, “Fortnite” players on iPhone and iPad were left behind.
For its part, Apple says the issue is Epic's to fix.
“We very much want to keep the company as part of the Apple Developer Program and their apps on the Store,” a representative told Insider last year. “The problem Epic has created for itself is one that can easily be remedied if they submit an update of their app that reverts it to comply with the guidelines they agreed to and which apply to all developers.”
The trial between Apple and Epic is set to start on Monday, May 3 in Oakland, California.
Read the full 2 a.m. email Sweeney sent to Cook and his team right here:
“Dear Tim, Phil, Craig, Matt, Douglas,
I'm writing to tell you that Epic will no longer adhere to Apple's payment processing restrictions.
Today, Epic is launching Epic direct payments in Fortnite on iOS, offering customers the choice of paying in-app through Epic direct payments or through Apple payments, and passing on the savings of Epic direct payments to customers in the form of lower prices.
We choose to follow this path in the firm belief that history and law are on our side. Smartphones are essential computing devices that people use to live their lives and conduct their business. Apple's position that its manufacture of a device gives it free rein to control, restrict, and tax commerce by consumers and creative expression by developers is repugnant to the principles of a free society.
Ending these restrictions will benefit consumers in the form of lower prices, increased product selection, and business model innovation.
Henceforth, all versions of Fortnite that Epic submits to the App Store will contain these two payment options, side by side, for customers to choose among.
We hope that Apple will reflect on its platform restrictions and begin to make historic changes that bring to the world's billion iOS consumers the rights and freedoms enjoyed on the world's leading open computing platforms including Windows and macOS. In support of this path, Epic's public explanation of our payment service will be neutral and factual to provide Apple with a chance to consider taking a supportive route and communicating it in a way of Apple's choosing.
If Apple chooses instead to take punitive action by blocking consumer access to Fortnite or forthcoming updates, then Epic will, regrettably, be in conflict with Apple on a multitude of fronts – creative, technical, business, and legal – for so long as it takes to bring about change, if necessary for many years.
Tim Sweeney Epic Games”
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