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Epic Games asks judge to block Apple's removal of 'Fortnite' from app store

(Reuters) - Epic Games said on Monday it was seeking to block Apple Inc’s removal of “Fortnite” from its app store and has asked a judge to prevent any retaliatory action against its other games in the store.

In its filing, Epic Chief Executive Timothy Sweeney said “Fortnite” had 350 million registered users as of June 2020, but that Apple’s move will stop them from getting the updates needed to play the game’s most popular mode - a “Battle Royale” match of up 100 players where the last survivor wins.

“Apple’s actions will ‘break’ Fortnite for millions of existing players,” Sweeney wrote, saying Epic updates the game every few weeks. “Because iOS users can no longer update the game, they will be unable to play Fortnite with most other players, who will have the then-current version available on other platforms” such as PCs.

The videogame maker also said Apple will terminate all of Epic Games’ developer accounts and cut it off from its development tools starting Aug. 28.

In addition to making its own titles, Epic also makes tools for other game developers such as the Unreal Engine, which helps game developers create three-dimensional graphics. The tool is also used by medical imaging companies and car designers and is used by millions of developers, Epic said.

In its filing, Epic alleged that if Apple cuts off its access to Apple’s developers, it will be unable to keep offering the Unreal Engine for Mac and iPhone operating systems, which would in turn affect hundreds of game titles. Some of the games, such as PUBG, have hundreds of millions of players, Epic wrote in its filing.

“The effects will reverberate well beyond video games; it will affect developers who use the Unreal Engine on Apple products in many fields,” Epic said in its filing asking the court to issue an order blocking Apple’s move. “The ensuing impact on the Unreal Engine’s viability, and the trust and confidence developers have in that engine, cannot be repaired with a monetary award.”

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Apple has in the past worked closely with Epic to make Unreal Engine work better on its devices. In 2018, for example, Apple demonstrated how Unreal Engine worked with its latest augmented reality tools at its annual developer conference. After Epic’s move to offer direct payments, Apple threatened to end that collaboration, according to documents filed by Epic in the lawsuit.

“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,” Apple said in a statement late on Tuesday.

“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,” the company added.

Apple earlier removed “Fortnite” from its app store for violating in-app payment guidelines prompting Epic to file federal lawsuits challenging the rule.

Epic rolled out a social media campaign with the hashtag #FreeFortnite, urging players to seek refunds from Apple if they lose access to the game, and creating a parody of Apple’s famous “1984” television ad.

Reporting by Neha Malara in Bengaluru and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; additional reporting by Sabahatjahan Contractor in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Lisa Shumaker

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