Update: Apple says Epic currently has “no legitimate basis for the reinstatement of their developer account”, in a statement to Bloomberg. Original story below.
Last August, Fortnite was famously pulled from the iOS App Store after Epic surreptitiously enabled a direct payment option for V-Bucks, circumventing Apple’s In-App Purchase system and the 30% cut. This kicked off a major protest against Apple’s ‘monopolistic’ App Store rules, which went to trial earlier this year.
Recently, a new law introduced in South Korea specifically outlaws payment system exclusivity inside apps, and legally forces Apple to allow alternatives to In-App Purchase for digital goods. Today, Epic has announced that it intends to re-release Fortnite for iOS in South Korea featuring its own payment system.
In order to do this, Apple would have to restore Epic’s developer account which Apple shuttered because of the August 2020 rule violations breaking Terms of Service. Throughout the court process, Apple has repeatedly said that it would allow Fortnite to return the App Store if the direct payments option was removed, to be in compliance with App Store rules. It has said it would not punish Epic for engaging in court dispute.
However, what Epic has proposed in this tweet is not quite the same thing. Epic wants to launch Fortnite with its third-party payment system intact, because it now has the backing of the South Korean law on its side.
For its part, Apple is yet to update App Store guidelines to accommodate the South Korean situation as the law is yet to actually come into effect.
At the time the law was passed, Apple said it believed allowing third-party payment systems would undermine user trust in all purchases made on the App Store. Critics would say that Apple is more motivated by money here, and that removing IAP exclusivity threatens the profit center that is Apple’s 15-30% commission from in-app purchases.
A judge decision on the Apple-Epic lawsuit is expected in the coming months. The trial proceedings concluded in May.
In the intervening months, Apple has already relaxed some rules under investigation as a result of settlements with others, including a notable announcement last week that Apple would allow ‘reader’ apps to link out to their websites for account sign-up, something they are currently not allowed to do.
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