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Amid escalating conflict with Epic Games, Apple blocks the Fortnite app in the EU.

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Apple has now prevented the Fortnite app from opening its own online store on iPhones and iPads in Europe, escalating the long-running spat between tech heavyweights Apple and Epic Games. This most recent development is a new chapter in a legal dispute that started in 2020, when Apple was charged by Epic Games of breaking US antitrust laws by charging substantial fees of up to 30% on in-app purchases made on its devices.

Developers have to abide by Apple’s strict terms and conditions in order to publish software on Apple iPhones, a process that has caused friction for a number of developers, including Epic Games. When Epic tried to use an update to its Fortnite app to get around Apple’s payment policies, the dispute reached a breaking point in 2020 and resulted in Apple canceling some of Epic’s developer accounts.

Just recently, Epic Games was able to obtain a developer account in Sweden, putting them in a position to take advantage of the anticipated modifications to the Digital Markets Act (DMA) of the European Union. This law requires Apple to let third-party app stores on its devices for the first time in an effort to promote competition. With its newly acquired developer account, Epic intended to launch Fortnite and its online storefront for iOS devices in Europe.

But Apple quickly closed Epic’s developer account in Sweden, a move that Epic Games condemned as a DMA breach and a sign of Apple’s unwillingness to accept real competition for iOS devices. The European Commission, which is in charge of monitoring adherence to EU laws, has not yet provided a statement on the subject.

Apple retaliated by defending their actions and stating that, in the event of a contractual breach, it has the “sole discretion” to cancel any Epic Games developer account. The corporation justified the termination by citing prior instances of Epic’s non-compliance with its developer agreements.

The timing of Apple’s moves is especially significant because the business has until March 7 to put into effect several of the DMA’s provisions that are meant to increase consumer choice and competition in the European market. Apple has put up a number of proposals, such as enabling third-party app stores on iPhones and giving developers the choice to refuse to use Apple’s in-app purchasing mechanism. But Apple also plans to charge developers taking part in the new system a “core technology fee” of 50 euro cents per user account annually.

The implications of the ongoing confrontation between Apple and Epic Games go beyond business competition. The resolution of this conflict may have significant effects on how apps are distributed and how fiercely the digital ecosystem competes in the future. The struggle for dominance of the lucrative app business is far from finished, with both sides well established in their positions.

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