Fortnite could be banned from iPhones and other Apple devices for a year, the game’s developer, Epic Games, has revealed, as the court battle between the two companies continues.
The scale of the ban was revealed in a legal filing from Epic, which asks the court to force Apple to allow the game back on the iOS App Store while the wider lawsuit winds its way to a full hearing.
Epic is “likely to suffer irreparable harm” if the ban continues, the company’s filing says, because it has more than 116 million registered users on Apple devices, who are now unable to update the software or reinstall it if it is deleted.
Previously, Apple’s position had been that Epic could restore its access immediately if it conceded the main point of its lawsuit and removed the unauthorised payment system it had built into the game.
But according to Epic’s latest filing that stance has changed. The company quoted the August email from Apple that terminated its App Store access, which warns that “we will deny your reapplication to the Apple Developer Program for at least a year considering the nature of your acts”.
The year-long ban means there is little chance of Fortnite returning to the App Store before the conclusion of the full court hearing, which begins at the end of this month and could last up to a year itself, unless the company wins a preliminary injunction it filed on Friday.
On Tuesday, Apple countersued, calling Epic’s conduct “wilful, brazen, and unlawful”, and arguing that the entire lawsuit “is nothing more than a basic disagreement over money.”
Apple’s 67-page response argues: “Although Epic portrays itself as a modern corporate Robin Hood, in reality it is a multibillion-dollar enterprise that simply wants to pay nothing for the tremendous value it derives from the App Store.
“This court should hold Epic to its contractual promises, award Apple compensatory and punitive damages, and enjoin Epic from engaging in further unfair business practices.”
Epic has a history of using the power and popularity of Fortnite to attack what it sees as unfair restrictions from platform holders. In 2018, the company won a standoff with Sony, which had banned it from enabling “cross-play” between PlayStation and Xbox users. Later that year, Epic launched its own PC game store, in an effort to end the domination of Steam, the largest distributer of computer games. And alongside the Apple lawsuit, Epic launched a second aimed at Google after it was banned from the Android app store as well.