Apple’s head of the App Store has told the court in the Epic vs Apple trial that he was “blindsided” by the hotfix that kicked off ‘Project Liberty’ and got Fortnite removed from the App Store.
Called as a witness for Epic Games on day four of the trial, Apple’s VP of the App Store Matt Fischer spoke about a multitude of App Store issues including payments, security, App Review, and more.
Fischer spoke about Apple’s good relationship with Epic Games, starting with the introduction of ‘Infinity Blade’ onto the iOS App Store. Fischer noted that Epic approached Apple about changing its developer guidelines with regard to Fortnite in-app gifting, stating that Apple agreed and decided to make the change to its guidelines for all developers. “When we make a change, we want to make a change that would apply equally to all developers”.
Fischer also praised Fortnite’s Travis Scott concert, saying he thought it was a “really cool concept” and that Apple dropped “everything we were doing and scrambled” to promote the event on its Today and Games tabs, which Epic thanks Apple for in subsequent emails.
Fischer then stated that the last time he interacted with anyone at Epic was June 2020, where discussions were had about bringing their teams together at WWDC. Asked about his reaction to Epic’s hotfix, where it introduced a new direct payment method to Fortnite he said “I was blindsided”.
The hotfix move triggered Apple’s (and Google’s) response in removing Fortnite from the App Store, which led to the filing of Epic’s lawsuit and the current ongoing trial.
Fischer was also asked about “whitelisted” apps, stating that App Store review guidelines apply to all developers and that no one gets a special deal. He did however note that from time to time Apple tests features with small groups of developers before rolling them out to all developers.
Despite this, it has emerged during the trial that Apple gave Hulu access to a cancel/refund API not available to all developers. From an email seen as evidence:
“Hulu is part of the set of whitelisted developers with access to subscription cancel/refund API. Back in 2015 they were using this to support instant upgrade using a 2 family setup, before we had subscription upgrade/downgrade capabilities built in.”
Earlier in the trial Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney confirmed the company would have accepted a special deal with Apple not available to other developers had it been offered.