The opening up of iOS starts off with a bang as Epic and Apple are at each other’s throats again

The opening up of iOS starts off with a bang as Epic and Apple are at each other’s throats again
  • Epic v Apple 2 is already kicking off as Epic Sweden's iOS dev account was axed
  • But what does their tiff have to do with wider implications about how iOS is changing?
  • And what's it meant for the average player?

So you may remember a few weeks ago when I wrote about how Apple may be forced to open up their iOS ecosystem, and how important that was for mobile gaming. The changes to anti-steering meant we might soon be able to take advantage of cheaper in-app purchases, and third-party app stores could be a major new way to discover great new games.

I also noted that this would essentially open the way for Fortnite to return to iOS. And if you’re not familiar with the Epic v Apple case and all the repercussions it’s had, well we can’t exactly cover that in detail here. All you need to know is that they might as well be mortal enemies at this point, but I digress.

You may also remember me saying that there was a huge hill to climb when it came to implementing things like the EU’s Digital Markets Act and the results of the Epic v Apple trial. Arguably, this should’ve indicated a massive sea change for Apple. But instead, it appears the company has pulled out all the stops to slow adoption to a crawl.

Whether that be more generally, with anti-steering violations relating to Spotify earning them a $2bn fine from the EU, or more specifically with their old nemesis Epic Games. Yes, you may have heard that Epic Games was going to take advantage of the new EU DMA rules in order to bring a third-party storefront to iOS, at least in Europe, via their subsidiary Epic Games Sweden. But there’s a problem.

Which is that rather abruptly - according to Epic - Apple terminated their developer account. According to Apple, this is because they were granted carte blanche to terminate games from Epic in the wake of recent court rulings (as can be seen in statements given to the Verge in their article). While Epic argued that they had acted in good faith and even communicated frankly with Apple and pledged to adhere to any future requirements.

Now, I’m no lover of big corporations, and I’m not about to shed tears of rage in Epic’s favour. However, I would say if they do it with someone like Epic, wouldn’t they with smaller developers? And for Apple - innovators as they are - what sense does it make to push back so hard against legislation they arguably tempted to happen in the first place?

For years now, Apple has positioned itself as consumer-friendly, and dedicated to providing a great experience for Apple fanatics. But it seems that comes at the cost of the rest of us. For those who aren’t really concerned about stuff like the Vision Pro, or Apple’s own professed concerns about security that third-party storefronts bring, it might seem an awful lot like they're overreacting to this new legislation.

Personally, I think there's a bat precedent being set by challenging Epic on these grounds, especially after already receiving assurances they could be legally held to. As much as people praise them for having tight controls on the apps that are in their ecosystem - which is not in itself a bad thing - anyone can tell you that hasn’t stopped some rubbish from filtering through.

However, I do think at least some of the blame lies at Epic’s doorstep. After all, it’s likely that when they brought third-party purchase options to Fortnite all those moons ago they knew it would prompt a sharp crackdown from the company. And it’s no surprise then that Apple is sceptical they’d adhere to any rules put down when bringing their own storefront to their devices.

Like always, it's a complex web of motivations, technicalities and sticky legal manouvering. Given the Spotify fine it seems Apple is no stranger to standing its ground, and with mobile gaming being so massively profitable - especially for Apple, who take a 30% cut of in-app purchases - they're going to be motivated to cling on. Meanwhile, Epic may be reaping what they sowed when they laid down the gauntlet years ago.

Ultimately, as average gamers, we don’t necessarily need to worry. Fortnite can still come to EU storefronts, that’s pretty much confirmed, it’ll just be through another storefront. But it’s a reminder that the one thing being forgotten about in this war between big corporations is the average player. And whether that’s Apple moving at a glacial pace to enact these changes or Epic running to hold them over the coals in public again, it’s us who are losing out.

Iwan Morris
Iwan Morris
Iwan is a Cardiff-based freelance writer, who joined the Pocket Gamer Biz site fresh-faced from University before moving to the Pocketgamer.com editorial team in November of 2023.