The debate on the rules of the Apple App Store continues to rage, which has sharpened in the last few days after the Epic Games Fortnite ban. In recent days, several noteworthy things have happened: after the threat to block Epic access to the entire Apple SDK, Epic has counter-argued that this would put all developers of games based on the Unreal Engine in serious difficulty, and filed a motion to force Apple to leave the termination pending until the ongoing legal dispute between the two companies is resolved.
Microsoft also intervened to give a hand to Epic, which filed a statement with the court handling the case, supporting the position of the software house. The Redmond house needs Epic to remain able to develop its Unreal Engine, as it employs it in Forza Street. Gaming Division President Kevin Gammill has called Unreal Engine "critical technology" for the entire industry – the worst problem could be for late-stage titles. Developers would be forced to start from scratch, abandon support for Apple platforms or completely cancel the project. For the published titles, however, there would be no more possibility to fix bugs and security problems; on Apple platforms it may be necessary to change the graphics engine, which would compromise online cross-play.
Today we filed a statement in support of Epic's request to keep access to the Apple SDK for its Unreal Engine. Ensuring that Epic has access to the latest Apple technology is the right thing for gamer developers & gamers https://t.co/72bLdDkvUx
– Phil Spencer (@ XboxP3) August 23, 2020
Meanwhile he was about to mount a more or less similar case with WordPress, the famous CMS platform for blogs and more. Last Friday, Apple warned developers to implement in-app sales of premium plans and custom domains in the WordPress app – which is completely free. These elements form the platform's main livelihood system, but can only be bought on the website.
Not even two days later, Apple said it re-examined the case and changed its mind about the WordPress app. In fact, Apple says it was WordPress that removed links and ads pointing to the website to buy premium plans and subscriptions, which were there before and triggered the whole case; the problem is that these ads had actually already been removed weeks ago, if not months.
In a nutshell, Apple tells the story as if it were WordPress that "yielded" to Apple's demands by putting itself in good standing, while the facts suggest that Apple actually tried to force WordPress to implement in-app purchases – and since from these Apple retains 30% is an easy thesis to support (the colleagues of The Verge they made it even easier with their thorough investigations; link in SOURCE). In this climate of increasingly heated controversy regarding withholdings on the App Store, it is easy to imagine why Apple has decided to turn around quickly.
I am very grateful that folks at Apple re-reviewed @WordPressiOS and have let us know we do not need to implement in-app purchases to be able to continue to update the app. Bad news travels faster than good, usually, so please consider sharing that they reversed course.
– Matt Mullenweg (@photomatt) August 23, 2020