Under pressure from European regulators, Apple took a step back in its feud with Epic Games on Friday, clearing the way for Epic to put its own iPhone and iPad game store in Europe.

Earlier this week, Apple took steps to block Epic from opening a store and bringing back the popular game Fortnite, which Apple removed from its App Store in 2020 after Epic violated the iPhone maker’s in-app payment rules in protest .

Apple’s decision to open its door to Epic follows a European Union deadline on Thursday for major tech companies to comply with the Digital Markets Act (DMA), a set of rules that prohibit Apple and Google from controlling which apps are distributed on devices with iOS and Android operating systems.

Thierry Breton, EU industry chief, said regulators warned Apple of the iPhone maker’s move earlier this week to block Epic’s potential return.

“I am pleased to note that following our contacts, Apple has decided to reverse its decision to exclude Epic. From Day 2 #DMA is already showing very concrete results!” Breton said on the X social media platform.

Epic and Apple have been in a legal battle since 2020, when the gaming firm claimed that Apple’s practice of charging up to 30 percent commissions for in-app payments on its iOS devices violated US antitrust rules. Epic lost its legal battle against Apple, and the game maker’s gambit of intentionally violating Apple’s rules as a protest got it banned from Apple devices.

Epic’s win on Friday leaves it well short of everything it wants from Apple.

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney criticized Apple’s plans to comply with the DMA, under which Apple says it still has the right to exclude third-party app marketplaces from its devices under certain circumstances. And Fortnite remains unavailable on the App Store in the United States.

Apple, for its part, is grappling with the erosion of its App Store business model while telling investors that iPhone sales this quarter will be billions of dollars below Wall Street expectations.

The most recent tangle between Apple and Epic involved Apple developer accounts, which are usually a minor but necessary administrative step for developers before selling apps on Apple devices.

Apple on Friday reinstated the account of Epic Games developers, two days after blocking the company from launching its own online iPhone and iPad marketplace in Europe.

The game developer said it will continue with plans to bring the Epic Games Store and Fortnite back to iOS on the mainland.

“This sends a strong signal to developers that the European Commission will act quickly to enforce the Digital Markets Act and hold watchdogs accountable,” Epic Games added.

Apple earlier this week said it terminated Epic’s account because the company’s actions made it question whether it intends to follow the new rules Apple has set for DMA compliance.

“After speaking with Epic, they have committed to following the rules, including our DMA policies. As a result, Epic Sweden AB was allowed to re-sign the developer agreement and was accepted into the Apple developer program,” Apple said in a statement.

© Thomson Reuters 2024

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