Microsoft warns court that Apple blocking Epic will hurt games business

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  • Microsoft has stepped into the brewing legal battle between Apple and Epic Games over the former’s policies with regard to its ubiquitous App Store.
  • In a declaration filed on Sunday, a senior engineer said that allowing Apple to block Epic Games’ developer account would deal a significant blow to game makers including Microsoft by making them unable to use Epic’s Unreal Engine.
  • The Unreal Engine, a type of gaming engine, is a widely used set of technologies that provides a framework for the creation of three dimensional graphics

Microsoft has stepped into the brewing legal battle between Apple and Epic Games over the former’s policies with regard to its ubiquitous App Store.

In a declaration filed on Sunday, a senior Microsoft engineer said that allowing Apple to block Epic Games’ developer account would deal a significant blow to game makers including Microsoft by making them unable to use Epic’s Unreal Engine

The Unreal Engine, a type of gaming engine, is a widely used set of technologies that provides a framework for the creation of three dimensional graphics. Epic licenses the engine to companies that use the technology for a fee.

“If Unreal Engine cannot support games for iOS or macOS, Microsoft would be required to choose between abandoning its customers and potential customers on the iOS and macOS platforms or choosing a different game engine when preparing to develop new games,” Kevin Gammill, Microsoft’s general manager for Gaming Developer Experiences, said in the declaration.

He added that “Apple’s discontinuation of Epic’s ability to develop and support Unreal Engine for iOS or macOS will harm game creators and gamers.”

While there are alternative gaming engines, Gammill said that “very few” are available with as many features and the same functionality.

The declaration came as part of a lawsuit brought by Epic against Apple over the iPhone maker’s rules guaranteeing itself a 30% cut of in-app purchases. The suit is filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Epic Games tested Apple’s policy by sidestepping the rule in an update to its hit game Fortnite, and then sued after Apple removed the game from the App Store. The company has brought a similar suit against Google over its Play Store.

In addition to removing Fortnite from the App Store, Apple has threatened to cut off Epic’s access to development tools necessary to create software including the Unreal Engine as soon as Friday.

Epic has asked the court to temporarily prevent Apple from doing so as it weighs the case more fully. Gammill’s declaration came in support of Epic’s motion for that temporary reprieve.

A hearing on Epic’s motion is scheduled for Monday afternoon.

Representatives for Apple and Microsoft did not immediately return requests for comment. Apple has previously said that “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.”

According to Epic, the impact of cutting off its access to the Unreal Engine would go beyond gaming.

Nicholas Penwarden, the company’s vice president of engineering, filed a declaration on Sunday saying that it has received “numerous inquiries and expressions of concern” from companies to which it has licensed the Unreal Engine, including at least one business that does automotive design.

Penwarden did not specifically name any companies, though, saying Epic could not obtain consent to do so on short notice.

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