Fortnite Remains Off App Store as Judge Prevents Apple from Revoking Epic Games' Developer Tools

A mixed ruling in the case between Apple and Epic Games provides few clues as to the case's ultimate resolution.
A mixed ruling in the case between Apple and Epic Games provides few clues as to the case's ultimate resolution. / Courtesy of Epic Games

A U.S. district judge ordered Apple to restore Mac and iOS developer tools to Epic Games on Tuesday, allowing the company to continue developing Unreal Engine for Apple devices. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Roger's ruling also allowed Apple to keep Fortnite off the App Store.

The ruling, delivered after a day of hearings Monday in the Oakland, California courthouse, is the first in the legal battle begun Aug. 13, when Epic Games added a payment option to Fortnite that circumvented Apple's royalty fee collections. Apple responded by booting the game from its platform, triggering a lawsuit from Epic Games.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers described the case as complicated during Monday's hearings, saying it isn't a "slam dunk" for either side. She pointed out that Apple's contract for Unreal Engine is under Epic Games International, S.à.r.l, while the contract that was breached when Epic Games added its new Fortnite payment system is between Apple and Epic Games, not Epic Games International.

Apple argues the SARL company is a shell corporation, and the two Epic Games should be treated as a single company, according to journalist and lawyer Sarah Jeong. Epic Games claimed the two companies are distinct, and that Apple's actions caused serious damage to Epic Games.

"The Unreal Engine will be destroyed," Epic Games' lawyer Katherine B. Forrest reportedly said. "App developers need the ability for their app to be deployed on multiple platforms.

"If Epic cannot offer that with the Unreal Engine, the Unreal Engine will cease to exist."

While Judge Rogers stated Epic Games had only itself to blame for Fortnite's removal, she ordered the restoration of developer tools in large part because of its effect on third-party developers who use Unreal Engine.

"Epic Games and Apple are at liberty to litigate against each other, but their dispute should not create havoc to bystanders," Rogers wrote in her ruling. She went on to set a Sept. 28 hearing on Epic Games' request for a preliminary injunction.