Enlarge / Artist’s conception of Epic Games celebrating their impending return to iOS in Europe.

Epic Games

Apple has agreed to reinstate Epic Game’s Swedish iOS developer account just days after Epic publicized Apple’s decision to rescind that account. The move once again paves the way for Epic’s plans to release a sideloadable version of the Epic Games Store and Fortnite on iOS devices in Europe.

“Following conversations with Epic, they have committed to follow the rules, including our DMA policies,” Apple said in a statement provided to Ars Technica. “As a result, Epic Sweden AB has been permitted to re-sign the developer agreement and accepted into the Apple Developer Program.”

Apple’s new statement is in stark contrast to its position earlier this week when it cited “Epic’s egregious breach of its contractual obligations to Apple” as a reason why it couldn’t trust Epic’s commitments to stand by any new developer agreement. In correspondence with Epic shared by the Fortnite maker Wednesday, Apple executive Phil Schiller put an even finer point on it:

Your colorful criticism of our [Digital Markets Act] compliance plan, coupled with Epic’s past practice of intentionally violating contractual provisions with which it disagrees, strongly suggest that Epic Sweden does not intend to follow the rules… Developers who are unable or unwilling to keep their promises can’t continue to participate in the Developer Program.

A new regulatory world

Apple’s quick turnaround comes just a day after the European Commission said it was opening an investigation into Apple’s conduct under the new Digital Markets Act and other potentially applicable European regulations. That investigation could have entailed hefty fines of up to “10 percent of the company’s total worldwide turnover” if Apple was found to be in violation.

“We have the DMA coming into compliance [Thursday], so the demand of compliance is… listen, you need to be able to carry another app store, for instance, and you cannot put in place a fee structure that sort of disables the benefits of the DMA for all the market participants,” European Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager told Bloomberg TV Tuesday.

In an update on its official blog, Epic linked Apple’s decision to “public backlash for retaliation” and said the whole affair “sends a strong signal to developers that the European Commission will act swiftly to enforce the Digital Markets Act and hold gatekeepers accountable. We are moving forward as planned to launch the Epic Games Store and bring Fortnite back to iOS in Europe. Onward!”

In a social media post celebrating Apple’s move, Epic CEO Tim Sweeney said that “the DMA just had its first major victory” and called the move “a big win for European rule of law, for the European Commission, and for the freedom of developers worldwide to speak up.”

Apple’s apparent retreat on the issue preempts what would have likely been a lengthy legal and public relations battle between the two corporate giants, much like the one resulting from Epic’s 2020 decision to violate Apple’s developer agreement by adding third-party payment options to Fortnite on iOS. But that battle, which played out primarily in a series of US courts, differed in many particulars from the new conflict that was developing under the new enforcement regime surrounding Europe’s DMA rules.

Epic said last month that it plans to launch the Epic Games Store on iOS sometime in 2024.

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