Epic v Apple (and Google) -- The Snyder Cut of Legal Slap Fights

Recap of today’s events:

  1. Epic used a server-side update in Fortnite to bypass the iOS App Store and Google Play Store to display a new payment option run by Epic. This option for in-game digital goods bypasses the 30% Apple/Google fee entirely and passes on the “savings” to the consumer.
  2. Apple kicked Fortnite off the App Store.
  3. Epic filed a “complaint for injunctive relief” against Apple.

Epic’s Tencent connection and anti-Linux history have been troubling for a while, but on the other hand 30% has been seen by some as overly-steep for years now. I don’t really agree with the “monopoly” argument against Apple – Apple customers know what they’re buying into, and that’s a closed ecosystem tightly controlled by Apple. Not being able to sideload or use alternative app stores is a feature, not a bug, for Apple customers. And clearly they don’t have a monopoly on smartphone OSes (22% share), but the argument they have a monopoly on iOS app stores doesn’t hold much water.

US antitrust law seems to mostly focus on whether a company’s practices hurt consumers / raise prices, and that seems to be what Epic’s going for with their stunt here – “clearly” showing the “Apple tax” raising the price of Z-Bucks or whatever the fuck (god Fortnite makes me feel so fucking old… I didn’t feel like this when Minecraft blew up, I understood that…)

The fight is mostly Epic vs. Apple, though (at time of post) it remains to be seen if Google will kick the app too. Epic tried to launch their own Android app store but “caved” and started using Google Play because “Google makes it really hard to sideload.” (Ignoring that 1. sideloading is a possibility you don’t get on non-rooted iOS, and 2. it’s hard by design as sideloading is a potent malware vector, and Google’s content partners probably see it as an open door to piracy.)

It’s possible Google doesn’t take it down, because their Play Store terms give slightly more leeway to this kind of thing last I checked… but it has been a while.

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I’m reading Epic’s complaint now.

  1. Epic brings this suit to end Apple’s unfair and anti-competitive actions that Apple undertakes to unlawfully maintain its monopoly in two distinct, multibillion dollar markets: (i) the iOS App Distribution Market, and (ii) the iOS In-App Payment Processing Market (each as defined below). Epic is not seeking monetary compensation from this Court for the injuries it has suffered. Nor is Epic seeking favorable treatment for itself, a single company. Instead, Epic is seeking injunctive relief to allow fair competition in these two key markets that directly affect hundreds of millions of consumers and tens of thousands, if not more, of third-party app developers.

How egalitarian of them.

  1. Apple’s anti-competitive conduct with respect to iOS app distribution
    results in sweeping harms to… app developers, who are denied choice on how to distribute their apps, are forced to fork over more of their revenue on paid apps than they would if Apple faced competition, and on occasion have to abandon their apps altogether if they cannot earn a profit given Apple’s 30% tax;

You’re gonna probably have to look REALLY hard to find a company that went under solely because of Apple’s 30% fee. :lol: It’s a possibility but I had to laugh at Epic including it alongside other, far more concrete examples.

  1. Apple thus requires third-party app developers to agree they will not even offer iOS users the choice of additional payment processing options alongside Apple’s. And Apple goes as far as to gag app developers, preventing them from even mentioning to users the option of buying the same content outside of the app—for example, by purchasing content directly from the app developer, or using a web browser. Because Apple has a monopoly over the distribution of iOS apps, app developers have no choice but to assent to this anti-competitive tie; it is Apple’s way or the highway.

The “gag order” they speak of never sat well to me either. Literally duping customers to pay more than they otherwise could know better about.

I think this is one of those areas that Google Play is slightly more lenient; I don’t think Google Play restricts apps from mentioning or pointing to outside payment methods… I’ll do more research on this shortly since I’m not 100% sure or totally up to date.

  1. Further, competition in the sale of mobile devices does not limit
    Apple’s market power. The threat of users switching to non-iOS devices does not
    constrain Apple’s anti-competitive conduct because Apple’s mobile device customers
    face significant switching costs and lock-in to the Apple iOS ecosystem, which serves to
    perpetuate Apple’s substantial market power. This power manifests itself in the data, as
    Apple is able to gobble up over two thirds of the total global smartphone operating
    profits. Furthermore, when making mobile device purchases, consumers are either unaware of, or cannot adequately account for, Apple’s anti-competitive conduct in the downstream app distribution and payment processing markets.

The bolded directly addresses one of my comments in the OP, and it is true I suppose. I retract this statement:

Apple customers know what they’re buying into

  1. There are a variety of mechanisms available to ensure the security of
    third-party applications that are less restrictive than prohibiting anyone other than Apple from distributing apps. If Apple believes it has a unique capability to screen apps for privacy and security issues, it could market those capabilities to competing app distributors, for a price. But if given the opportunity, competitors may be able to provide even better privacy and security safeguards. It is for users and the market to decide which store offers the best safeguards and at what price, not for Apple.

They’re not wrong here. But for Apple I’m not sure there’s a middleground for allowing some third-party app stores but not all… Perhaps there will be some kind of ballot process, or licensing/certification program, for third-party app stores, but even then you’re still letting Apple hold all the keys. Not sure of the best solution on this.

Edit- Interesting, they bring up the recent bannings of xCloud and Facebook Gaming minigames (but not Stadia.) :eyes:

I’m reading this half to see what arguments they’d make against Google if the game gets pulled on the Play Store too. This is one they wouldn’t be able to make – xCloud is totally fine on Android.

  1. Additionally, Apple’s conduct increases developers’ costs. Apple is
    able to extract a supra-competitive 30% tax on purchases of paid apps. Developers require a reasonable return on their investment in order to dedicate the substantial time and financial resources it takes to develop an app. By imposing its 30% tax, Apple necessarily forces developers to suffer lower profits, reduce the quantity or quality of their apps, raise prices to consumers, or some combination of the three.

Yup, this is a direct appeal to US antitrust thinking. They may have a case.

Apple’s going to have to cave eventually or major gaming is going to be Android only.

Well it’s off the Play Store now as well.

Google’s statement:

The open Android ecosystem lets developers distribute apps through multiple app stores. For game developers who choose to use the Play Store, we have consistent policies that are fair to developers and keep the store safe for users. While Fortnite remains available on Android, we can no longer make it available on Play because it violates our policies. However, we welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions with Epic and bring Fortnite back to Google Play.

A Google spokesperson emphasized to The Verge that Android is an open ecosystem that allows multiple stores and that Google Play’s policies need to apply equally to all developers. It has no problem with those other stores existing nor with Epic distributing its game on them, the spokesperson said.

It feels like they benefited from Apple delisting it first, and skewed the language to emphasize Android’s ability to support third-party app stores.

Yeah i’m not saying tomorrow or anything. In the long run however having Microsoft and Epic on Android and just mobile junk on ios is going to catch up to Apple if they think people care about gaming.

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Really good read and gave me some alternative viewpoints on a couple things.

  • playing a console game
  • on mobile
    yeesh…

Damn Epic can’t even come up with their own ad, maybe Apple should get 30%.

/s

The new FFCC Remastered (out this month) is on iOS and Android too and has cross-play. :slight_smile: Also it’s free. I’m really looking forward to seeing that multiplayer community hopefully take off in a way it never could when the game released.

[ Update: Epic’s Tim Sweeney did indeed gesture a bit toward this explanation in 2018, telling GamesIndustry.biz that “there’s a rationale for [the 30-percent fee] on console where there’s enormous investment in hardware, often sold below cost, and marketing campaigns in broad partnership with publishers. But on open platforms, 30 percent is disproportionate to the cost of the services these stores perform, such as payment processing, download bandwidth, and customer service.” Thank to Christopher Dring for pointing this out.]

Maybe Epic is simply more worried about the potential for lost revenues on consoles versus mobile platforms. A mid-2019 Newzoo study of three major Battle Royale games, including Fortnite , found that 71 percent of players mainly played on consoles, compared to just 17 percent on PC and 12 percent on mobile. Being cut off from those console players during a heated public battle would be a much more significant blow to the game’s revenue stream.

Well that explains it. Probably helps that the console manufacturers also license Unreal Engine.

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I suspected this would happen, up next Fortnite is gonna be one of the rare instances where Apple remotely deletes it from your phone.

I definitely feel like Apple could relax some of their polices, it’s bullshit that developers can’t even let their customers know which website they should use purchase content they can use within their apps.

But Epic took it too far, you can’t just suddenly show up in someone’s store and start selling your own shit. It would be like me going into Best Buy and asking people if they wanted to buy a PS4 from me in the parking lot at a 10% discount.

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Damn you still using that acct huh :eyes:

I got banned from ResetEra for calling gay thirst traps on Instagram hoes. So yeah I’m with the other degenerates.

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Also, I caught up on this, Apple is nuking Epic’s ability to develop on Macs as well. Meaning no macOS versions of Unreal going forward, severely hindering Epic’s “total cross-platform tool” ambitions (at the expense of shooting themselves in the head overall when it comes to gaming on Mac, forever, IMO.)

They’re both the ends of the same horsehoe IMO. GAF has some absolute true crazies (as well), good luck lmao.

The username gave me some nostalgia for the old days though. :stuck_out_tongue:

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If Epic had just sued Apple they could have fought this out in court while still keeping Fortnite in the App Store. Epic choose to intentionally push Apple’s hand by breaking their developer agreement to get a better case but ultimately they have to suffer the punishment that goes along with this too.

If Apple didn’t enforce their developer agreement it would look like Epic got special treatment and the whole point of the App Store is trying to level the playing field for everyone.