After removing Fortnite from the App Store, Apple is now pushing to block Epic from all iOS and Mac developer tools – a move Epic is protesting on the grounds that it would "cripple the Unreal Engine."
Epic confirmed Apple's intentions on Twitter and in an updated version of its lawsuit against the company. "We are asking the court to stop this retaliation," it says. The lawsuit itself, meanwhile, says that Apple's decision will cause "irreparable harm" to Epic and the Unreal Engine.
"If Apple terminates Epic's Developer Program account, the Unreal Engine would wither," the Fortnite creator says. "Without necessary development tools, Epic cannot develop future updates for the Unreal Engine for Apple's operating systems (both iOS and MacOS) and would be forced to discontinue the Unreal Engine for those platforms … Existing customers could likewise decide to switch away from the Unreal Engine for future releases. This would affect developers across multiple areas: games, film, healthcare, and architecture."
Epic says that the damage this would cause the company and the Unreal Engine can't even be quantified, so it's asking for a preliminary injunction that would stop Apple from cutting it off from the tools it needs. Apple will reportedly end Epic's access at the end of the month on August 28, so Epic doesn't have much time to arrange the injunction.
When Fortnite was removed from the App Store, the implications were clear: iPhone Fortnite users couldn't update their game, meaning they'd be left behind pretty quickly at the rate Fortnite is patched. This Unreal Engine business is a little less obvious, but the gist is that if this goes through and Epic is permanently cut off, fewer (and possibly zero) mobile games would use Unreal Engine. Not only that, it's likely that even fewer PC games would be playable on Mac, since any new games using Unreal Engine wouldn't transfer cleanly due to the engine itself being unsupported on the platform and falling behind newer versions of MacOS. iPhone and Mac games currently using Unreal may also be upended as a result.
Unreal Engine has generally trended toward console and PC usage, whereas Unity dominates the mobile space, so this wouldn't be a major collapse for mobile games as a whole. However, it would sever a significant market for Epic, and not just in games, since Unreal powers projects in multiple industries attached to Apple software. Suffice it to say, it would be very bad for Epic. That said, it wouldn't be a big deal for next-gen console games using Unreal Engine 5, which has become a major talking point in the lead-up to the PS5 and Xbox Series X.
It's no surprise Apple has returned fire after Epic aired an anti-Apple parody within Fortnite itself.