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Epic wanted special treatment from Apple, according to new evidence

Apple has responded to Epic’s lawsuit in kind, claiming that the gaming giant requested special treatment on multiple occasions due to its status, evidenced via emails from Epic CEO Tim Sweeney. Sweeney, on August 13, tweeted that Epic was not looking for a unique deal with Apple, but the iPhone maker produced three emails from Sweeney that claimed otherwise.

Today, Apple said Epic is seeking a special deal, but that's not true. We're fighting for open platforms and policy changes equally benefiting all developers. And it'll be a hell of a fight!

— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) August 14, 2020

Phil Schiller, Apple’s head of worldwide marketing, claimed Sweeney had contacted the company asking for “a ‘side letter’ from Apple that would create a special deal for only Epic that would fundamentally change the way in which Epic offers apps on Apple’s iOS platform.”

The App and Google Play Stores take a 30% cut of in-app purchase revenue for Epic and other developers alike. On Thursday, August 13, Epic implemented an in-app purchase bypass that offered players a discount if they purchased the in-game currency V-Bucks directly from Fortnite.

Schiller continued to say in Apple’s filing that Epic was looking for a way to get around the company’s in-app purchases. The morning Fornite launched its in-app purchase bypass, Sweeney sent out an email to Apple beforehand declaring the company’s intent. While Sweeney and Epic were looking for special treatment, the email stated, “we hope that Apple will also make these options equally available to all iOS developers.”

Eric asked for a restraining order that would temporarily put Fortnite back on the App Store while the legal issues are handled following its removal. A hearing regarding that restraining order is scheduled for Monday, August 24.

“In the wake of its own voluntary actions, Epic now seeks emergency relief. But the ‘emergency’ is entirely of Epic’s own making,” Apple claimed in its return filing. The company added that if Epic would simply abide by the rules of the App Store, Fortnite could return to the platform.

Fortnite on mobile is a huge moneymaker for Epic. By May 2020, $1 billion in revenue was made from in-app purchases on the App and Google Play stores since the game launched on mobile two years ago, according to analytic company Sensor Tower. Of that revenue, 30% went directly to Apple and Google. Epic, in a move to keep more of its money, offered V-Bucks at a 20% discount if players purchased the in-game currency directly from Fortnite.

Apple and Google removed Fortnite from their respective storefronts, although Android devices have access to other marketplaces, including Epic’s own. Epic has since weaponized its player base against the companies, but it has taken particular aim at Apple. Epic notably released a parody of Apple’s historic 1984 commercial for the original Macintosh.

Epic maintains it has the interests of consumers and other developers at heart, but the documentation from Apple could imply otherwise.

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Tom Caswell
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