Sep 10, 2021 - Technology

Judge rules in Fortnite case that Apple must make App Store changes

Illustration of the App store logo on a scale

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A federal judge's long-awaited ruling in Epic Games' antitrust lawsuit against Apple gave both sides opportunities to claim wins.

Driving the news: The ruling, delivered Friday morning, requires Apple to let Epic, and other developers, tell users about alternative payment mechanisms and to link out to their own transaction systems.

Yes, but: Federal District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled that Epic "failed in its burden to demonstrate Apple is an illegal monopolist" and is not entitled to other remedies it sought.

  • Apple won’t be forced, as Epic had hoped, to open up its app store to competing marketplaces like Epic’s.
  • The court also ruled that Epic breached its contract when it altered "Fortnite" on iOS last year and says Apple is entitled to at least $3.6 million in relief.

Apple’s one loss: As had been hinted at during the trial, Judge Rogers was troubled by Apple’s “anti-steering” provisions, ruling that they “threaten ... an incipient violation of antitrust law.”

  • Such provisions have blocked developers from telling customers that Apple takes a 30% cut of in-app purchases and bars them linking to or advertising cheaper ways to make those purchases outside of the app.
  • The judge issued an injunction against Apple’s anti-steering rules, which could lead to games and other apps advertising off-app storefronts.

Catch up: The case went to trial in May, following a feud between the two companies in which Epic tried to circumvent Apple’s payment systems through its own in-app option in "Fortnite."

  • Apple and Google both removed "Fortnite"; Epic sued.

What they're saying: "Today the Court has affirmed what we’ve known all along: the App Store is not in violation of antitrust law," Apple said in a statement. "As the Court recognized ‘success is not illegal.'"

  • Epic CEO Tim Sweeney tweeted, "Today’s ruling isn't a win for developers or for consumers," and added, "Fortnite will return to the iOS App Store when and where Epic can offer in-app payment in fair competition with Apple in-app payment, passing along the savings to consumers."

What's next: Epic plans to appeal the court’s decision.

  • Apple representatives said they will study the ruling before deciding on next steps, including a possible appeal.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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