The ongoing Epic Games and Apple dispute had its first court hearing on Monday, August 24th and the odds appear to be against Fortnite. While the preliminary hearing (via MacRumors) ended inconclusively, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers hinted that the Fortnite ban will stand unless Epic reverts the new payment system that was designed to sidestep Apple’s App Store tax.
Judge Rogers said that she’s “not inclined to grant relief with respect to the games” meaning the court likely won’t force Apple to reinstate Fortnite on the App Store in its current state. However, she added that Apple’s decision to block Epic’s developer access and thereby consequently restricting its ability to work on the Unreal Engine looks “retaliatory.”
“I am inclined to grant relief with respect to the Unreal Engine,” Judge Rogers remarked. “It does to me look retaliatory, and I don’t see any harm to Apple to restrain you from not impacting the Unreal Engine on that platform. It looks like an overreach to me.”
Apple’s attorney hit back claiming that down the road, Epic may transfer such “misconduct” to its other entities like Unreal Engine as well. Epic Games, in its defense, argued that Apple’s clampdown is already damaging Unreal Engine’s business as developers have begun fleeing the platform.
Unreal Engine is a gaming platform widely adopted by third-party developers. Last week, Microsoft, which employs Unreal Engine for its mobile racing title Forza Street, released a statement expressing support for Epic Games. The move will “harm game creators and gamers,” Microsoft’s general manager for gaming developer experiences Kevin Gammill wrote in a court filing.
The Fortnite ban, Judge Rogers said, was Epic Games’ own fault, however, and that it was a “strategically and calculated move to breach” Apple’s policies. Judge Rogers suggested that Epic Games flip the switch to the way it was on August 3rd and “return everybody back to where they were.”
We’ve reached out to Epic Games and Apple and we’ll update the story when we hear back.
“Your client created the situation. Your client doesn’t come to this court with clean hands. Epic made a strategically and calculated move to breach and decided to breach right before a new season. So in my view, you cannot have irreparable harm when you create a harm yourself,” she added.
In response, Katherine Forrest, representing Epic said that returning to the status quo is like “asking [Epic Games] to require consumers to pay more than they should in a competitive environment” and that it’s something the law does not and should not require.”
Judge Rogers said she’ll issue a temporary order soon and hold another hearing on September 28th to discuss a longer-term solution.