Apple Authorizes Sideloading of Epic Games Store After Blocking It a Third Time

Recap: Epic Games has spent years trying to sidestep Apple’s walled garden. After a highly publicized court case that mostly favored the Cupertino giant, new legislation from the European Union provided Epic with another path to its goal. However, the company has repeatedly encountered speedbumps from Apple, which now faces a hefty fine from Europe.

Epic Games recently announced that its sideloaded iOS game store has passed Apple’s submission checks, but not without encountering some final obstacles. According to the Fortnite maker, Apple held up the Epic store because its buttons resembled those on the official App Store too closely.

Epic claimed that the Cupertino giant rejected its submission because its buttons for installing apps and accessing in-app purchases looked too similar to Apple’s labels. Epic accused Apple of an arbitrary and petty violation of the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), which forced the iPhone manufacturer to allow sideloading and alternate software distribution channels on its mobile devices.

TechCrunch reports that Apple cooperated with Epic to resolve the issue and had already approved a sideloaded iOS version of Fortnite, just not Epic’s launcher for the game. Apple highlighted a section of its terms of service noting that alternate app stores can’t look “confusingly similar” to the official one.

Fortnite and the Epic store appear poised for an imminent re-launch on iOS in Europe, but regulators and third-party developers remain dissatisfied with Apple’s compliance with the DMA. Epic and Spotify criticized the company’s fees and conditions for releasing sideloaded apps.

The conditions are the target of one of two EU investigations into Apple. One investigation is examining the developer membership rules that led to Epic’s brief ban in March. The other investigation determined that Apple violated the DMA by restricting how developers could inform customers about payment options, raising the possibility of a $38 billion fine. If regulators find Cupertino’s other policies illegal, a second fine could double the previous one.

Meanwhile, Apple’s walled garden remains intact outside of Europe. Japan, South Korea, and a few US states have scrutinized the company’s app distribution and payment processing restrictions but haven’t proposed anything approaching the DMA’s scale. Since a US judge’s 2021 ruling against Epic, Fortnite has only been available on iOS through browser-based streaming.

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