At long last, the first Federal Court Hearing took place for Epic Games and Apple over the removal of the latter’s game Fortnite from the App Store. The hearing was to determine if Apple was justified when they took down the popular title from their respective platform, or if Epic was right in their stance and that Fortnite should be reinstated for those who have iOS. Since the game was removed back in August, a plethora of legal and interesting tactics took place between the two companies in order for them to keep a leg up over the other. These all culminated with the hearing, which took place via Zoom due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, where the Honorable Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers listened to arguments from both sides.
A California judge says the people should decide whether Epic’s claims about Apple’s alleged anti-competitive behavior have substance https://t.co/dZ8k1lbGhw
— CNET (@CNET) September 29, 2020
After a little more than three hours, Rogers recommended to both Apple and Epic that they should take this case to a trial by jury; “I know that I’m just a stepping stone for all of you,” Rogers said. “Whoever loses is going to take it up and say everything I did was wrong, that’s what litigators do. There’s no hard feelings, that’s the job. But I think it is important enough to understand what real people think. Do these security issues concern people or not?” Despite the strong words from Rogers, it is ultimately up to Apple and Epic to change this into a trial by jury, something that could take a very long time to put together if they continue with this endeavor.
As for the arguments themselves, Rogers seemed less than impressed with Epic’s legal team, which tried to argue over Apple’s 30% cut of all profits for using the App Store and iOS. Rogers gave Epic some strong words herself as a response; “You did something, you lied about it by omission, by not being forthcoming. That’s the security issue. That’s the security issue! There are a lot of people in the public who consider you guys heroes for what you guys did, but it’s still not honest.”
Rogers then concluded the hearing by recommending the aforementioned trial by jury, which would be set for sometime in July 2021 if accepted. Rogers has the power to make an official ruling on whether Apple must lift their ban over Fornite and allow it back into the App Store, as of this writing, no such ruling has taken place and the ban remains intact. This could change in the coming days, but it’s rather unlikely given the recent hearing.
Even though the battle between Apple and Epic has been going on for just a little more than a month, several key moments have taken place, some of which were just days apart. This all started when Epic Games decided to go over Apple and introduce the ability to buy Fortnite’s in-game currency, V-Bucks, within the game itself as opposed to the App Store. Apple took exception to this and promptly removed the game, which Epic had apparently anticipated as they immediately filed a lawsuit against them.
What followed was a cavalcade of chess piece-like movements between the two companies. On the very same day of the lawsuit, Epic released a trailer for Fortnite, depicting Apple as an angry overlord bent on domination. They then used this as a special tournament with anti-Apple themed prizes for the winners. Apple responded by cutting off Epic from their developer accounts on the App Store, which is used for other developers who utilize the Unreal Engine, Epic’s proprietary game engine.
A few days later, Apple officially made their first public response since the lawsuit was brought against them, stating that Epic asked for a special deal, something that Epic vehemently denied. Not long after this, a judge issued a restraining order against Apple in order to prevent the Unreal Engine account on the App Store from being removed, allowing other game developers to continue using their software. This did not, however, keep Apple from taking the Epic Games account off of the store, which they did just a few days later. Apple then announced that they were seeking damages from Epic for breach of contract on the App Store.
As you can see, this is something that won’t be settled in a timely matter. The ramifications for this case are through the roof, as a victory for either side will undoubtedly set the precedent for the future of how developers and corporations do business, as well as becoming an integral part of how consumers play games and apps on their devices, home or away from home.