Apple and Epic Games Clash Over Third-Party App Stores on iOS

The long-standing feud between Apple and Epic Games has escalated to new heights, with the iPhone maker blocking the Fortnite creator's attempt to launch its own online marketplace for iPhone and iPad users in Europe. This move has reignited a firestorm of controversy surrounding Apple's tight control over its iOS ecosystem and the commission rates charged on in-app purchases.

The clash between the two tech titans dates back to 2020 when Epic Games accused Apple of violating U.S. antitrust laws by imposing a commission of up to 30% on in-app payments made through iOS devices. Epic's push to open up Apple's tightly controlled ecosystem to third-party app stores poses a significant threat to the Silicon Valley giant's lucrative business model and its iron grip over its proprietary ecosystem.

In a significant development, members of the European Parliament have forced Apple to allow alternative app stores on its devices through a regulation known as the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which came into effect this week, as reported by Reuters on Thursday, March 7, 2024.

Separately, Brussels' antitrust regulators fined Apple a staggering €1.84 billion (approximately Rp 31 trillion) for stifling competition from rival music streaming services through restrictions on its App Store, marking the first penalty imposed on Apple for violating EU rules.

Seizing the opportunity presented by the DMA, Epic Games attempted to leverage the new legislation by creating a new developer account in Sweden, with the aim of bringing Fortnite and its other games back to iOS devices in Europe through its own game store on Apple's platform. However, Apple swiftly blocked this effort on Wednesday, March 7, citing Epic's past contractual breaches during their long-running legal dispute.

Apple revoked the new developer account created by Epic in Sweden, effectively preventing the game developer from distributing its apps on iPhones and iPads, as a developer account is a prerequisite for software makers to distribute their applications on Apple's platforms.

Citing Epic's past behavior and current actions, Apple defended its decision, stating, "Given Epic's past and present conduct, Apple has exercised its right to terminate all of Epic's developer accounts." The tech giant further clarified that court rulings had affirmed its "discretion" to terminate any Epic Games developer accounts in connection with the game developer's "severe" breaches of its developer agreements.

Epic Games, however, has accused Apple of eliminating one of its potential major competitors to the App Store. "This is a blatant violation of the DMA and shows that Apple has no intention of letting genuine competition on iOS devices," said Epic Games.

The European Commission, the EU's executive body, has not yet responded to requests for comment on the escalating dispute between the two tech giants.

As the battle for dominance over app distribution on iOS devices rages on, the implications extend far beyond the commercial interests of Apple and Epic Games. This clash represents a pivotal moment in the ongoing struggle between tech behemoths and regulatory bodies, with the potential to reshape the landscape of digital ecosystems and the balance of power within the tech industry.

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