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Apple backtracks on Epic ban, ending latest spat

 Fortnite on iPhone.
Fortnite on iPhone.

After flipping the script on Epic earlier this week, Apple has decided against banning the games maker and will instead allow the company back into its developer program.

In a statement to Bloomberg on Friday (March 8), Apple said that it held conversations with Epic about its developer program policies and how it would need to play nicely to not run afoul of any of the iPhone maker’s rules. After Epic agreed to those policies, Apple said, the company was reinstated.

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

Apple and Epic have been battling for years over what Epic believes are draconian App Store policies that limit developer freedom and ultimately give Apple too much power in its app ecosystem. As a result, Epic removed Fortnite from the App Store and filed complaints in Europe about Apple’s practices.

This week, the European Union enacted its Digital Markets Act (DMA) that requires companies, including Apple, to allow for third-party application marketplaces to operate on their platforms. Epic had announced plans to open its Epic Games store on iOS and said that it would finally bring back Fortnite to Apple’s platform. However, both the store and game availability would have been limited to Europe.

Earlier this week, however, Apple said that Epic was flouting its developer rules and criticizing its company. In turn, Apple banned Epic from its developer program, eliminating the possibility for Epic to launch its store or offer Fortnite through its own marketplace. Not surprisingly, Epic complained about the ban but had little recourse.

It’s unclear from Apple’s statement what Epic said to quell Apple’s unrest, but it clearly had to say the right things to find its way back to iOS. That said, it ultimately begs the question of just how much power Apple has in controlling iOS access to third-party app stores and whether other companies will need to be on their best behavior with Apple or run the risk of getting banned.

Whatever the case, Epic (and Fortnite) are coming back to Apple for the first time in years. But whether these two companies can play nicely for too long remains to be seen.

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