Kevin Gammill, Microsoft’s general manager for gaming, has drafted a statement that verified Microsoft’s support of Epic Games in the matter of Apple’s threat to remove Epic from its developer program.
“If Unreal Engine cannot support games for iOS or macOS, Microsoft would be required to choose between abandoning its customers and potential customers on the iOS and macOS platforms or choosing a different game engine when preparing to develop new games,” reads a section of the statement. “Even uncertainty about the Unreal Engine’s ability to continue supporting iOS and macOS will make it less likely for Microsoft (and, I believe, other game creators) to select Unreal Engine for their projects.”
Basically, Microsoft is supporting something that developer and publisher Epic Games has already pointed out, which is that Epic’s removal from the Apple Developer Program would be as much of a punishment to them as it would be to the various companies which utilize the Unreal Engine to developer mobile titles.
Why? Well, if Apple does revoke Epic’s access to the iOS developer’s program, it would prevent them from being able to continue to support the Unreal Engine on that platform via updates and new releases. That would essentially mean that any studios who use the Unreal Engine to develop their iOS games would no longer be able to effectively do so. As Microsoft notes in their statement, they are one of the developers who rely on Unreal Engine when developing iOS titles.
What’s especially interesting about Microsoft’s statement is the line: “Microsoft would be required to choose between abandoning its customers and potential customers on the iOS and macOS platforms or choosing a different game engine when preparing to develop new games.” While Microsoft clearly leaves the door open for the possibility that they could just use another engine, they make it clear that they could just choose to abandon iOS outright.
It makes sense that Microsoft is on Epic’s side in this particular fight. After all, Apple recently confirmed that they will not let the Project xCloud app launch on iOS in its current state as it would allow users to access (and purchase) software located outside of the Apple ecosystem. Microsoft is probably as frustrated as anyone about Apple’s closed (and, some would say, close-minded) policies.
While it’s true that the 30% fee Apple charges companies over in-app transactions (such as those in Fortnite) is very much part of this story, Epic has made it clear that their problems with Apple are as much about their fears that Apple is building a monopoly as they are about the money they lose to Apple over the fees.