Clash of the Titans: Epic Games v Apple
In a furious battle of current gaming/tech giants, Epic Games, the multibillion-dollar developers behind Fortnite (you probably already knew that) is suing Apple for its perceived monopoly over the App Store and In-App Purchases. In a Complaint for Injunctive Relief filed with the United States District Court – Northern District of California, Epic Games outlines its case.
“On the morning of August 13, 2020, for the first time, Apple mobile device users were offered a competitive choice. Epic added a direct payment option to Fortnite, giving players the option to continue making purchases using Apple’s payment processor or to use Epic’s direct payment system.” This “enabled Epic to pass along its cost saving by offering its users a 20% reduction in in-app prices…”Epic Games
Epic Games continues, “Apple imposes unreasonable and unlawful restraints to … prevent software developers from reaching the over one billion users of its mobile devices (e.g., iPhone and iPad) unless they go through a single store controlled by Apple, the App Store, where Apple exacts an oppressive 30% tax on the sale of every app.” Here Epic Games outlines what they feel are the monopolistic/predatory features of the current App Store environment. Epic raises the valid question about whether or not consumers should have the availability to use other forms of payment for In-App Purchases that would bypass Apple’s sizeable cut of the profit. “Apple also requires software developers who wish to sell digital in-app content to those consumers to use a single payment processing option offered by Apple, In-App Purchase, which likewise carries a 30% tax.” Epic Games raises a very valid argument regarding the ability for apple to have such strong control over its App Store. Epic Games continues to refute the In-App Purchase environment by discussing the ability for developers to make their products available in an “open market” where payment processing feeds average 3%.
Apple’s long-standing counterargument to a single, Apple-controlled App Store offering is to ensure quality and safety of apps for the iOS user. An unpopular opinion for Epic Games, but one that deserves mention is that they knew the terms of the App Store and Apple Developer Program before offering Fortnite on the platform. This fact is key to Apple’s initial response to the suit and is documented by an article on The Verge from 8/17/2020. “Epic has been one of the most successful developers on the App Store, growing into a multibillion dollar business that reaches millions of iOS customers around the world. We very much want to keep the company as part of the Apple Developer Program and their apps on the Store. The problem Epic has created for itself is one that can easily be remedied if they submit an update of their app that reverts it to comply with the guidelines they agreed to and which apply to all developers.” They hammer their point home by saying, “We won’t make an exception for Epic because we don’t think its right to put their business interests ahead of the guidelines that protect our customers.”
Epic sent email to users on 8/27 identifying that a new update of the game was not released to iOS users and the changes to the game that current iOS users would see.
The flames intensified as Apple revoked Epic Games’ Developer Profile two days ago.
Epic Games evokes strong imagery to villainize Apple. “Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation.” They continue in the court filing, “Apple has a monopoly in the iOS App Distribution Market. This is because the App Store is the sole means by which apps may be distributed to consumers in that market… As such, Epic respectfully request this Court to enjoin Apple from continuing to impose its anti-competitive restrictions on the iOS ecosystem and ensure 2020 is not like ‘1984’.” Epic Games makes a direct jab at the Orwellian language/metaphors Apple used to market against tech-giant IBM in the mid-1980s.
Until there is some major resolution between these two titans, I’ll be sitting here stuffing my face with fistfuls of popcorn while this continues to develop.
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