Two billion-dollar companies are locked in a legal battle as the removal of Epic Games’ highly popular video game “Fortnite” from Apple’s App Store has caused a lawsuit and stirred discussions about Apple’s App Store policies.
The issues began on August 13, when Epic updated the Fortnite app with a new feature that allowed players to pay Epic directly for in-app currency at a discount, rather than paying traditionally through Apple’s App Store payment. Instead of paying 9.99$ players would pay 7.99$, offering the option enabled Epic to evade the App Store rules that demanded payments go through the App Store payment system, paying a 30% fee in the process. Epic also applied this option to the Android version, going against the Google Play Store’s similar policy and fees as well.
Apple removed the game from the App Store for violating the App Store guidelines hours after the update. Google also pulled the game from the Google Play Store, but on Android, the game is still available via third-party stores and from Epic directly.
Epic filed a lawsuit against Apple in retaliation for pulling the game, declaring Apple had become a “behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation. The suit also went as far as to alleged Apple’s size and reach “far exceeds that of any technology monopolist in history.”
How Big Is Fortnite?
Fortnite is one of the most successful video games in the world being a bloodless fantasy, last man standing battle where players can choose creative outfits, and show off dance moves on a virtual island. The game has more than 350 million registered players worldwide, and it is quickly expanding into non-game events. Hip-hop star Travis Scott held a set of concerts on Fortnite, drawing more than 27 million users. Before this music star Marshmallow held a concert within the game and periodically other artists perform virtual in-game concerts within the games “party royale mode”.
What Is Epic Really Fighting For?
CEO of Epic Games, Tim Sweeney said in an interview “It’s not just Epic being exploited by Apple, but it’s every developer who goes along with that scheme colluding with Apple and Google to further their monopoly,” Sweeney said in the interview. “These stores are making a lot more money from creative works than the creators.”
“Everybody doesn’t have a great incentive to challenge Apple and Google’s 30% because they want to be the next bastard to charge 30%,” Every Apple engineer who works on these services and ensures that iPhone is the most secure platform in the world has got to deeply resent the business guys for taking credit and claiming that their store monopoly is the reason why the platform is secure,” Sweeney said. “It’s just not true.”
Epic Games has tried to rally Fortnite fans around its fight against Apple and Google, making a parody video of Apple’s “1984” advert portraying Apple as a greedy villain and encouraging people to use the hashtag #FreeFortnite on social media. The original video was released by Apple in 1984 to introduce Apple’s Macintosh as competition against IBM.
In the lawsuit, Epic Games said, “In 1984, the fledgling Apple computer company released the Macintosh — the first mass-market, consumer-friendly home computer. The product was announced with a breathtaking advertisement evoking George Orwell’s 1984 that cast Apple as a beneficial, revolutionary force breaking IBM’s monopoly over the computing technology market. Apple’s founder Steve Jobs introduced the first showing of the 1984 advertisement by explaining, ‘It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. … Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?’”
Is Apple A Monopoly?
Epic Games case is an interesting one. They claim that Apple has become a monopoly. Saying further in the lawsuit, “Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation. Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched, and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear.”
Apple says Sweeney is positioning Epic Games as a “modern corporate Robin Hood, in reality, it is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise that simply wants to pay nothing.” Apple pointed out that Sweeney and Epic Games chose to break the app store rules that state developers cannot make users pay for in-app purchases.
Regulators are investigating the app store fees as a possible antitrust problem. Apple and Google do not assess a fee on their own apps, which compete with third-party apps in a marketplace controlled by Apple. Epic Games is not the only company to take issue with both companies on the matter. Streaming service Spotify and software company Basecamp also have accused Apple and Google of abusing their power by selectively charging the 30% fee.
Sweeney says that “It’s the same bad behavior by Apple and Google that’s driving everybody to the common conclusion that these monopolies need to be stopped.” Sweeney’s goal is driven as much by protecting Epic Games’ bottom line as it is by attempting to rein in the power and reach of the tech titans.
How Long Will IOS Users Go Without the Game?
Epic has stated that tens of millions of iOS users have been harmed by the decision by Apple to remove Fortnite from the iOS App Store. Epic argued that the decision reflects Apple’s ironclad control and unlawful monopoly maintenance. Federal judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers, however, sided with Apple and refused to order the tech company to place Fortnite back in the app store while the case goes on, saying, “The current predicament appears of its own making.” The judge did recommend that the case be taken to a jury trial in July next year to settle these issues permanently. “It is important enough to understand what real people think,” said Rogers. “Do these security issues concern people or not?”
The results of the case could be a big one for app developers if it goes in Epic’s favor. With the case not set to go to trial now until July however, tens of millions of Fortnite players on IOS will have to find a new platform to play the game.