Epic Games has now announced that players of Fortnite and its other titles are about to lose their ability to sign in with their Apple IDs, as Apple makes its next move in the ongoing legal battle between the two companies.
While Apple hasn’t offered any comment on the matter, Epic tweeted out a statement noting that support for using Sign in with Apple within its games will end as of this Friday, which will necessitate those players who have used Apple’s single sign-on service making sure they update their accounts with an alternative login method, such as a standard username and password.
It’s a move that isn’t really all that surprising, considering that Apple terminated Epic Games’ developer account entirely back on August 28th, and access to the Sign in with Apple service is almost certainly tied to that business relationship.
This isn’t a case of Apple taking another shot at Epic, but is likely simply a logical consequence of the Epic’s developer account going away.
What’s more important, however, is that it’s not something that most users will have thought about, and it also demonstrates the trap of relying on third-party sign-in systems.
To be fair, Apple isn’t alone in this regard. Developers relying on Facebook or Google for single-sign-on could just as easily have those privileges yanked if they violated their agreements with either of those tech giants, although we’ve heard of far fewer cases of that happening; it’s far more common for developers to remove features like Facebook Login themselves when they find themselves frustrated with things like the company’s creepy privacy practices.
However, the key point to remember about ALL of these single-sign-on services is that they exist at the pleasure of the big tech companies behind them, and much like what Apple is doing here with Epic Games, it’s entirely possible for those companies to pull the rug out from under developers and their users at any time, creating a situation where many could find themselves locked out of their accounts.
What This Means
In Epic’s case, Apple has clearly realized that it’s necessary to offer a transition period, and presumably, it’s providing two weeks for Epic to inform its users following the termination of its developer account.
To that end, Epic Games has published a support document to let its users know how they can make sure that they’ll still be able to access their account after the Apple ID sign-in button goes away.
Basically, the process involves users logging into their Epic Games accounts before Friday and ensuring that they have created an email and password for their account so that they can sign in using the more traditional method.
It’s also important to realize that this is about more than Fortnite. These same accounts are also used for the Epic Games Store, Epic’s developer portal, and some of its other game titles.
The problem with Sign in with Apple and other services like it is that it doesn’t require that users set up a password when creating an account. In fact, one of the great privacy features behind Sign in with Apple is that users don’t even need to provide their actual email address — an anonymous email address can be automatically used instead, in which case it’s this address that gets associated with the account on the developer’s website.
The result of all of this is that if Sign in with Apple goes away, then users may not even know what email address is actually associated with their account, so even an online password reset option wouldn’t do them much good.
However, until Friday, users can still sign into their account settings using Sign in with Apple, and once there they can follow Epic’s instructions to make sure that they have their actual email address on file as well as creating a password for their account.
What Happens After September 11th?
Presumably, Epic Games will take away the Sign in with Apple button completely after this Friday, but even if the button remains on their website, it will simply stop working as Apple will have turned off the service on its end.
If you’ve followed Epic’s instructions to set up an email and password before that happens, you’ll simply be able to log in normally using those credentials.
However, if you missed your opportunity to do so, Epic is still offering alternatives; if you know the email address associated with your account, you can use the “Forgot Password” self-serve option, but if you used a private email address, then you’ll need to contact Epic Games’ support, supplying the verification code that Epic Games has sent out to users who it believes will be affected by this.
Even if you have no relationship with Epic Games, however, this particular issue should serve as a cautionary tale. While Sign in with Apple is a great feature, especially for casual services where you really don’t want to supply your real email address, we’d definitely recommend making sure you have an alternative direct sign-on setup for any services or sites that you actually rely on, and keep in mind that it doesn’t take an all-out war like the one going on between Apple and Epic right now to break third-party single-sign-on services either, since as we saw with Facebook Login earlier this year, they can fall victim to a whole range of technical problems as well that could leave you locked out of your important online accounts.