Fortnite will not be returning to the App Store anytime soon. On Friday, referee Yvonne Gonzales Rogers refused to give Epic Games a preliminary injunction against Apple that would force the game developer to reintroduce Fortnite on the App Store, while issuing an order preventing Apple from retaliating against Unreal Engine, which Epic also owns (PDF). In other words, we now have a permanent version of the temporary restraining order from last month.
This means the state where Epic is banned from publishing new games on iOS and can not distribute Fortnite on the App Store in its current form, will remain in place for the trial period ̵
Today’s decision still prevents Apple from recalling Epic’s developer tools in a way that could have hurt its broader business.
“Epic Games and Apple have the freedom to sue this action for the future of the digital frontier, but their dispute should not create chaos for spectators. Thus, the public interest outweighs the benefit of Unreal Engine and Epic Affiliates, says the judge and keeps Epic’s Unreal Engine business damaged.
“Epic Games is grateful that Apple continues to take revenge for retaliating against Unreal Engine and our game development customers as lawsuits continue,” an Epic spokesman said in a statement. “We will continue to evolve for iOS and Mac under the protection of the law, and we will pursue every opportunity to end Apple’s anti-competitive behavior.”
“Our customers rely on the App Store to be a safe and reliable place where all developers follow the same set of rules,” an Apple spokesman said in a statement. “We are grateful that the court acknowledged that Epic’s actions were not in the best interests of its own customers, and that any issues they may have experienced were of their own nature when they breached the agreement. For twelve years, the App Store has been an economic miracle and created transformative business opportunities for large and small developers. We look forward to sharing this legacy of innovation and dynamism with the court next year. “
Apple and Epic met in federal court again in September for a new round, where the benefits of Fortnite The developer’s antitrust case against Apple was argued for Rogers for the second time since Epic filed a lawsuit in August. Epic went particularly hard into it, as Rogers pointed out the company for what she characterized as dishonest behavior that could prove that the company poses a security risk to the iOS platform.
“You did something, you lied about it by omission, by not being present. That’s the security issue. That’s the security issue! Rogers told Epic, according to a report from CNN. “There are a lot of people in public who consider you heroes for what you did, but it’s still not honest.” Rogers also addressed the fact that fenced gardens and their standard 30 percent cuts are common in the gaming industry, with console manufacturers such as Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony implementing similar rules.
Rogers said the case should probably go to a jury to decide, and suggested a trial period next summer. “It’s important enough to understand what real people think,” Rogers said. “Do these security issues affect people or not?”
The other advantage of a jury trial is that it can result in a stickier, more definitive decision. The probability that this case sees many appeals is high, and it is more likely that courts of appeal will uphold a jury decision when they are appealed. It can prevent the case from bouncing between the courts in the years to come. “I know I’m just a springboard for all of you,” Rogers added.
Apple and Epic’s legal battle has become a major stumbling block in third-party developers’ deteriorating relationship with the iPhone maker, with many using the situation to complain about injustice, or in some cases even joining Epic in protest of Apple’s policies and enforcement. In September, companies such as Epic, Spotify, Tile and Match Group formed the Coalition for App Fairness, which seeks to “defend the fundamental rights of creators to build apps and do business directly with their customers,” according to Epic CEO Tim Sweeney.
Update October 9, 19:50 ET: Added statement from Apple.