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Microsoft sides with Fortnite developer in Apple row

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Microsoft has filed a statement supporting the recent actions of Fornite developer Epic Games in its battle against the 30 per cent cut of app store income which both Apple and Google take from developers who use their platforms.

Following its decision to implement alternative payment options in Fornite as a way of circumventing the cut Apple takes, Apple yanked the game from its App Store and revoked Epic’s permissions to develop tools for iOS and Mac, including its popular Unreal Engine game creation tools.

Google subsequently took similar action against Epic and Fortnite, for the same reason, regarding its availability on the Android Play Store.

In the statement, filed to a US district court in California, Kevin Gammill, Microsoft’s general manager for gaming developer experiences, wrote: “Epic Games’ Unreal Engine is critical technology for numerous game creators including Microsoft.”

He added that many other, smaller developers cannot afford to build their own gaming engines, so are reliant on third-party software such as the Unreal Engine.

“Today we filed a statement in support of Epic’s request to keep access to the Apple SDK for its Unreal Engine”, Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, said in a tweet.

“Ensuring that Epic has access to the latest Apple technology is the right thing for gamer developers & [sic] gamers.”

Epic launched its well-prepared lawsuit against Apple earlier this month, arguing that its monopolistic practices stifle developer innovation and released a Fortnite video parodying Apple’s famous 1984 trailer.

Such a lawsuit comes at a particularly sensitive time for Apple and Google as they are being heavily scrutinised in both the US and Europe for possible antitrust violations.

Apple said last week it “would not make an exception” for Fortnite, although the firm has made exceptions for other firms in the past, such as Amazon where Apple offered the firm a 15 per cent cut on subscriptions made on iOS versus the usual 30 per cent offered to other developers.

“Epic’s Unreal Engine is one of the most popular third-party game engines available to game creators and in Microsoft’s view there are very few other options available for creators to license with as many features and as much functionality as Unreal Engine across multiple platforms, including iOS,” Gammill said.

“Denying Epic access to Apple’s SDK and other development tools will prevent Epic from supporting Unreal Engine on iOS and macOS and will place Unreal Engine and those game creators that have built, are building, and may build games on it at a substantial disadvantage.

“Because iOS is a large and growing market for games, Apple’s discontinuation of Unreal Engine’s ability to support iOS will be a material disadvantage for the Unreal Engine in future decisions by Microsoft and other game creators as to the choice of an engine for new games.”

Microsoft itself takes a 30 per cent of revenue from developers who build games for its Xbox consoles. In 2018, following the release of Fornite, the revenue generated by Xbox jumped 39 per cent due to the game’s massive popularity.

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