Apple might win the battle with Epic Games, but it's losing the war

Apple is dragging developers into its mess, and it won't end well

By Aimee Pearcy , written on August 18, 2020

From The News Desk

Last week, Epic announced that it was suing Apple for booting it off the App Store following Epic's attempt  to get around Apple's 30% cut by adding its own payment scheme to the iOS version of Apple. 

I wrote a response about how changing Apple's App store model would suck for everyone -- except Epic Games.

But now, Apple is threatening to cut Epic out of its developer program entirely, by revoking access to all iOS and Mac developer tools. 

Yesterday evening, Apple released the following statement, reiterating that it "won't make an exception" for Epic Games:

The App Store is designed to be a safe and trusted place for users and a great business opportunity for all developers. Epic has been one of the most successful developers on the App Store, growing into a multibillion dollar business that reaches millions of iOS customers around the world. We very much want to keep the company as part of the Apple Developer Program and their apps on the Store. 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. We won’t make an exception for Epic because we don’t think it’s right to put their business interests ahead of the guidelines that protect our customers.

Epic Games has until the 28th August to make the required changes. 

While Apple will probably win this lawsuit, it seems to have forgotten that the entire world is watching it. For years, Apple has been under fire for its wildly inconsistent App Store policies, and has garnered a reputation for being hostile towards its developers.

Well, it's just kicked that reputation up a notch. 

The effects of Apple cutting Epic out of the developer program will lead to issues far beyond Epic Games and Fortnite. More than anyone, it will hurt developers who rely on Epic's Unreal Engine -- a popular free-to-start game engine that is used extensively by developers. 

iOS, together with Android, is part of a duopoly. This means that Apple has responsibilities to its developers that it wouldn't have if it didn't dominate half of the entire marketplace. 

Without access to Apple's iOS tools, games that rely on Unreal Engine can't be developed or updated for iOS and Mac devices. The tools would still be available on Windows -- but this move is a huge kick in the teeth for developers who have shelled out money to buy Apple's equipment.

As Ben Stratechery wrote yesterday, Apple has become a "foundation of modern life, which makes it all the more disappointing that Apple seems to care more about its short term bottom line than it does about the users and developers that used to share in its integration upside". 

This is one of the biggest battles we've seen between platforms in a long time. But while everyone rushes to take sides, it's becoming increasingly clear that ultimately, there will be no hero. 

(But if there's a villain, it's definitely Apple). 

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