U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers has issued a restraining order against Apple which will temporarily prevent them from denying Epic Games access to the Apple Developer Program and the iOS version of the Unreal Engine.
“I am not inclined to grant relief with respect to the games,” said Judge Rogers at the start of the hearing (as reported by The Verge). “But I am inclined to grant relief with respect to the Unreal Engine.”
The distinction between Epic’s battle with Apple over the Unreal Engine and their disputes over Fortnite‘s transaction fees is an important one. As Judge Rogers later noted in her statements, it’s a distinction that changes the nature of who is impacted by the actions of both parties.
“Epic Games and Apple are at liberty to litigate against each other, but their dispute should not create havoc to bystanders,” says Judge Rogers. “Apple has chosen to act severely, and by doing so, has impacted non-parties, and a third-party developer ecosystem. In this regard, the equities do weigh against Apple.”
As for Fortnite, Judge Rogers did not hold back in respect to how that scenario is the result of Epic’s own decisions and that the consequences of that decision may also be theirs to deal with.
“The Court finds that with respect to Epic Games’ motion as to its games, including Fortnite, Epic Games has not yet demonstrated irreparable harm,” rules Judge Rogers on the matter of Fortnite‘s microtransaction fees. “The current predicament appears of its own making.”
So where does this leave us? Well, it basically means that things are going to stay roughly the same. Fortnite is still not available to download via the App Store (or the Google Play Store, for that matter), and Epic will still be able to update and access the Unreal Engine via iOS, which will allow mobile developers who utilize that technology (including Microsoft) to continue doing so.
While it’s very likely that future rulings will also find that Apple cannot “punish” other developers by blocking Epic’s access to the Unreal Engine, this is a strong indication that Epic’s dispute with Apple over their in-app purchase fees, and the effect they have on the mobile gaming industry, is a matter that’s going to have to be resolved between the two parties or via a lengthy court battle. We’re going to go ahead and guess the latter is a more likely possibility.