Ever since Fortnite was kicked off Apple’s store for purposefully bypassing Apple’s payment systems in place for them to gain commission through sales on their store, Epic Games has been less than happy.
Instead of utilizing the in-app purchasing system that is required to sell purchases, in this case, V-bucks, on the App Store, they decided to implement their own work-around and bypass all revenue cuts to Apple, even going as far as to offer a discount if the in-app currency was purchased directly from Epic.
In doing so, they violate the terms of the agreement as a developer on the platform, but they knew exactly what they were doing. Their pitch, and a way for them to try to shove their blatant disregard for terms of service through like some veritable trojan horse, was to take to the internet, and gamers, to back them up in their effort.
Long since forgotten about now, but Epic Games, after their defiant move on the App Store got them banned, launched an ad campaign both through Youtube and in the game itself, parodying Apple’s own 1984 commercial with a #freefortnite hashtag to go along with their own “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite” spin.
This commercial was clearly created before their banning as there is no way they could pull together a campaign and video, completely ready to go, out of thin air. Their rallying cry wasn’t much of a roar, as most people saw it as two megacorporations fighting against each other, and those who play Fortnite competitively do so on a desktop PC anyways.
While the ban was a big deal to Epic as a lot of younger users play the game on mobile devices, it was a double-strike of misfortune as Google had pulled the app from the store on the same day. With a large number of players no longer having an option to play on their devices, Epic felt they had no choice but to in turn sue Apple for what they say are antitrust violations.
Apple of course came back at them to suggest that all developers are given equal guidelines to follow and that Epic had not expressed any concern for said guidelines until they tried to fly under the radar with their shady updates and practices.
It’s been a long-standing debate for developers releasing games on the platform, suggesting that a fifteen to thirty-percent cut of profits is too much to pay for having their games being sold there. It also stands to reason, however, that Apple provides services worth the fees, including payment processing, customer service, and hosting the framework that handles reviews, game center, and much much more.
It’s a tough situation all around, but one that ultimately pits developers against the corporation they distribute on, and other game developers and corporations have since rallied behind Epic in their cause.
Now, with the trial underway, the major questions that are being asked is whether or not Apple is a monopoly and if so, whether or not it is abusing its power. Since the only way to distribute software on iOS is through the App Store, unlike the Google Play Store, which allows for third-party solutions, Epic argues this makes it impossible to conduct business as they intend to by limiting their ability to process payments themselves.
As the court was about to start trial at 11:15 am Eastern, technical difficulties delayed it from beginning, difficulties stemming from the public call-in line where numerous individuals were talking over each other, insulting each other, and playing music. After 15 minutes, they eventually muted the line and proceeded accordingly.
Most of the opening argument from Epic Games suggested that Apple was using a bait-and-switch to bring developers to the platform. Early in Apple’s history of the App Store, it was suggested that the App Store wasn’t going to be a major source of profit, instead using the store to encourage hardware sales. While this was fine at first, eventually, once developers started charging for in-app purchases, Apple worked quickly to fix the gap. Epic Games suggested that leaving the platform would become a challenge to accomplish without “suffering a loss of profit.”
Apple came back at Epic hard suggesting that Epic basically wanted to use their platform completely free, and the lawsuit was simply “… an attack on Apple’s 30 percent commission that Epic does not want to pay.”
Apple also brandished charts that showcased a standard of thirty percent across all purchasing platforms with some platforms taking even more of a cut, and a chart showing that the revenue from their store was only seven percent out of all platforms compared to Playstation, which took in nearly fifty percent of all revenue for Fortnite. Apple argued that the market that Epic was describing was too narrow, as there are plenty of competing platforms, and V-bucks purchased on one platform’s account can be used on those other platforms, negating a monopoly control over Epic’s market.
While Epic also suggested that Apple is not adding any security to their iOS platform by their App Store review, Apple argued that their App Store’s policies and guidelines are there to protect users and ensure that downloading apps from their store would be free of malware and illegal content.
Also, Apple suggested that if Epic were to prevail in this case, any developer would be able to benefit from Apple’s tools, such as SDKs and APIs, without paying Apple a cent. It went on to compare their marketplace to game consoles, such as Playstation products and Nintendo systems, which also have a closed system.
So that is all from day one of a court battle between the two corporations, one a tech giant, and the other a game developer who feels that they are fighting for “all developers” with their case. Only time will tell what the final outcome of the huge antitrust trial will be, but both sides seem to have a fair argument to tell their side of the story.