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Apple fires back at Epic Games, claims CEO wanted Fortnite "special deal"

by Theo Salaun

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The legal saga between Epic Games and Apple is far from over, as the California-based company has fired back at Epic’s litigation and Fortnite PR campaign with claims that CEO Tim Sweeney wanted a “special deal” for his company specifically.  

On August 13, Epic Games offered a direct payment option in Fortnite on iOS, circumventing Apple’s payment commissions and subsequently leading to the game’s deletion from the App Store on the basis of a breached contract. Epic responded by launching a lawsuit and massive PR campaign against Apple, grounded in a “1984” parody suggesting monopolistic, repressive behavior on the tech giant’s behalf.

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In response to critics who believed that Epic’s move was simply self-serving and a billionaire company’s effort to circumvent Apple’s commission rates, Sweeney released a series of Tweets in which he argued that this fight was taken up for altruistic means.

In one of his statements, he cemented that logic and confirmed the symbolism of Fortnite’s in-game Orwellian video by explaining that “the fight isn’t over Epic wanting a special deal, it’s about the basic freedoms of all consumers and developers.” 

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But on August 21, Apple’s legal team has both taken aim at Epic Games’ lawsuit and, in doing so, revealed that correspondences suggest Sweeney sought a privileged arrangement for his company. 

In the document, the company's attorneys reveal that “Epic also does not seek a return to the status quo. As its own correspondence with Apple makes clear, it seeks an exception to Apple’s policies.” This is then furthered by a dispensation from Apple executive, Phil Schiller, who recounts that Sweeney emails requested “a special deal for only Epic.”

According to Apple’s attorneys, this “special deal” referred to a separate “competing Epic Games Store app through the App Store” that would enable consumers to install and purchase apps from Epic instead of through Apple. 

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In response to these accusations of desiring preferential treatment, Sweeney has released the full email’s transcript. In it, he expands that “we hope that Apple will also make these options equally available to all iOS developers.” This rebuttal is in direct contradiction of Apple’s allegations.

As the tech giant's legal team explains in its document, “if Epic’s scheme succeeds, 1.7 million other developers will be eligible to make the same argument.”

It appears that was Sweeney and Epic’s intention, as transcripts indicate the desire to extend this treatment to other developers. Those intentions may not matter in court, but they will be relevant to public sentiment. The saga continues.

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