(CNN Business) — Apple will not allow Fortnite to return to its devices until its legal battle with video game maker Epic Games has fully concluded, potentially delaying its return to iPhones for several years.
An Apple attorney said the company “has exercised its discretion not to reset Epic’s developer program account at this time” in response to a request from the video game maker to do so, according to a letter sent to Epic’s attorney and tweeted by the CEO of the company, Tim Sweeney, Wednesday.
“Additionally, Apple will not consider any request for reinstatement until the district court’s ruling is final and unappealable,” the letter from Apple’s attorney said, as a copy was provided to CNN Business by Epic.
Months of judicial battle
The move further intensifies a months-long court battle between the two companies over Apple’s rules for its App Store and suggests that the popular game will not return to iOS devices until the end of an appeals process. Sweeney said in a tweet that the process could take up to five years.
A California judge ruled earlier this month that Apple can no longer prohibit app developers from directing users to payment options outside of the App Store. However, the judge did not declare the iPhone maker a monopoly and ruled that it had the right to remove Fortnite from its devices. Epic appealed the decision.
Apple first banned Fortnite from the App Store in August last year for breaking its rules on in-app payments on the iPhone by providing users with an alternative. The removal prompted Epic Games to file what appeared to be a largely premeditated lawsuit.
In a contentious trial that lasted most of May, Epic argued that the App Store was a monopoly because it is the only way to access hundreds of millions of iPhone users, and that Apple hurt competition by banning other app stores or payment methods on your devices.
Apple sought to undermine that argument by noting that the iPhone is one of several devices that Fortnite users can play on and purchase their V-bucks in-game coins, including Android smartphones (Epic is fighting a similar lawsuit against Google) and video game consoles such as the PlayStation and Xbox, many of which also do not allow alternative payment methods and charge similar fees.
On a series of tweets published on Wednesday, Sweeney criticized what he called “another extraordinary anti-competitive measure by Apple” and implied that the company did not keep its word.
“Apple lied,” he said, citing earlier statements in which Apple said it would welcome Epic back if it agreed to follow the same rules as everyone else on the App Store. “Epic agreed, and now Apple has backed down in yet another abuse of its monopoly power over a billion users.”
An Apple spokesperson declined to comment on Sweeney’s tweets, but directed CNN Business to parts of the court’s decision where the judge ruled in Apple’s favor.
“With more than 30 million registered iOS developers, it is not particularly surprising, nor necessarily dire, that Apple does not negotiate terms in general,” the judge wrote.
Sweeney promised on Wednesday that Epic will continue to pressure Apple.
“We will keep fighting,” he said on Twitter. “The need for regulatory and legislative action is clearer than ever.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism