Judge says Apple can block Epic’s Fortnite but not Unreal Engine

A district court denied Epic Games’ motion to provisionally restore the Fortnite game on the iOS App Store but also ordered Apple to not block the gaming giant’s ability to provide and distribute its graphic tool, Unreal Engine, on Apple’s ecosystem in a ruling delivered on Monday evening, August 24.

The decision means Fortnite players on iOS devices will not get access to the game’s latest, season 2 chapter 4, content, which will launch on August 27 and requires an update to the game that Apple will not allow onto the app store.

Epic Games’ small victory against Apple

The U.S. District Court Judge, Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers held Epic responsible for removal of the popular Fortnite game from iOS platform by knowing violating its contract with Apple. He wrote,

“The Court finds that with respect to Epic Games’ motion as to its games, including Fortnite, Epic Games has not yet demonstrated irreparable harm. The current predicament appears of its own making,” adding that Epic “strategically chose to breach its agreements with Apple.”

However, Rogers also stated it was Apple who “has chosen to act severely” by threatening the Unreal Engine.

Recently, Apple removed Fornite from its App Store because Epic Games tried to bypass the tech giant by sneaking an update in the game which allowed users to pay Epic directly for in-app purchases instead of using the company’s officially authorized payment system.

Rogers said Apple can’t counter Epic Games by blocking the gaming company’s developer accounts or restrict developers on its platforms from accessing the widely-used Unreal Engine tools because there was no violation made in that area of concern. She further added,

“The record shows potential significant damage to both the Unreal Engine platform itself, and to the gaming industry generally, including on both third-party developers and gamers. Epic Games and Apple are at liberty to litigate against each other, but their dispute should not create havoc to bystanders. Certainly, during the period of a temporary restraining order, the status quo in this regard should be maintained.”

Fortunately for iOS Fortnite players, there is still hope for the games return on their devices. In a statement issued on Tuesday, the iPhone maker restated that Fortnite’s ban could be settled by Epic by complying with the App Store guidelines. “We agree with Judge Rogers that ‘the sensible way to proceed’ is for Epic to comply with the App Store guidelines and continue to operate while the case proceeds,” Apple said. “If Epic takes the steps the judge has recommended, we will gladly welcome Fortnite back onto iOS. We look forward to making our case to the court in September.”

The legal battle between Apple and Epic Games is expected to span over many months, if not years. A full hearing is set for September 28.

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Mobile gaming editor for iThinkDifferent