Epic Games CEO “Fortnite” creator Tim Sweeney leaves after a weeks-long antitrust trial in federal court in Oakland, California, U.S., May 21, 2021. REUTERS/Brittany Hosea-Small

Brittany Osia-small | Reuters

An apple rejected Epic Games’ application for a developer account it would use to launch an iPhone app store in Europe, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney said Wednesday.

Sweeney said Apple’s decision was retaliation for the gaming company’s antitrust lobbying, the lawsuit against Apple and some of Sweeney’s social media posts, citing emails from Apple App Store chief Phil Schiller and Apple’s lawyers.

“The way Apple is trying to kill Epic here as a competitor to the App Store is super amazing,” Sweeney told reporters. “This is the medieval feudal lord who mounts the skulls of his former enemies on his castle walls.”

The charge is the first public example of Apple ditching rival app stores in Europe and could raise scrutiny over Apple’s plans to comply with a new antitrust law.

The relationship between Apple and Epic Games has been tense and confrontational since Epic Games sued Apple in 2020 over whether Fortnite could avoid Apple’s App Store rules and circumvent a 30% cut in game sales. Epic Games mostly lost, but won some changes to Apple’s policies under California law.

The dispute highlights global regulatory threats to sales of Apple’s App Store, a profitable division of Apple accounted for in its services business.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Apple has begun complying with the Digital Markets Act, a new law in Europe that takes effect this week and forces major tech companies to open up their platforms to competitors. For Apple, this means it will have to allow companies to offer third-party app stores in Europe to compete with the iPhone App Store. Apple opposed the law, citing consumer security

Apple’s plan to introduce new fees, software warnings and a rudimentary approval process for third-party app stores has drawn criticism from companies such as Spotifywho say Apple is not complying with the spirit of the new EU law, including by adding a 50 cent fee to downloads.

Sweeney said Wednesday that Epic Games plans to introduce a new app store in Europe to distribute Fortnite and other games. It applied for a developer account in Sweden but was denied by Apple after Schiller emailed Sweeney citing his statements surrounding the 2020 lawsuit and Epic Games’ decision to bypass App Store billing at the time.

“We invite you to provide us with written assurances that you are also acting in good faith and that Epic Games Sweden, despite your public actions and rhetoric, is honoring all of its commitments,” Schiller wrote in the email provided by Epic Games.

Sweeney said he told Schiller he would honor all current and future agreements with Apple and that he acted in good faith. Apple terminated the account a week later via email from a lawyer, citing Sweeney’s “litany of public attacks on Apple” and social media posts. Apple also said it suspected Epic would use the account to lobby and “manipulate proceedings in other jurisdictions.”

“It’s an open invitation for Apple to tell us exactly what they want us to engage in and how they want us to engage in it so they don’t lock us out as a competitor,” Sweeney said.

“Based on my interaction with Apple, they want two things. They want some kind of essay pledging allegiance to Apple, a creative writing project, and they want us to shut up,” he continued.