The trial between tech giants, Epic Games Launcher and Apple has started on May 3rd, 2021. Following Fortnite’s removal from the Apple App Store and Android’s Google Play Store in 2020, it became unavailable on those platforms. Making it impossible for mobile phone players to enjoy the famous first-person shooter Fortnite game.

How Did It All Start?

In August 2020, Epic Games discounted the price of V-Bucks up to 20% as can be seen below, Fortnite’s in-game currency and began selling directly to players to enjoy the game at a much cheaper rate as compared to the price given by Apple’s App Store, and the revenue from these purchases would go directly to Epic Games.

Payment in Fornite under Google Play Store
Payment in Fornite under Apple App Store

To further stir consumers towards the direct payment method, Epic Games bypassed Apple and Google in such a way as to violate their respective story policy, which resulted in the removal of Fortnite from both the App Store and Play Store. Epic Games then released a clip spearheaded a detailed PR campaign taking aim at Apple and urging fans to #FreeFortnite. In the video, Epic Games released a statement that it has “defied the App Store Monopoly. In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices.” With the ending to urge Fortnite fans to stop 2020 from becoming “1984”, which was a reference about Apple’s reinvention of its own 1984 commercial for the Macintosh. It was a recreation of the 1984 Apple video, with the same message instilled in the Nineteen Eighty- Fornite video, using its own gameplay characters.

While the whole commotion was happening, Epic Games filed a lawsuit against Apple. And it isn’t about Fortnite being removed from the App Store, instead it’s suing over antitrust violation. These violations arose from limiting Epic Games’ ability to compete with other games as they do not appear in the home page of the App Store, and arguments that Apple and Google operate a monopoly over their respective mobile platforms. This is similar to Google search, where paid adverts appear at the top of the results page, even if they aren’t the most relevant. This is what Apple is doing to the App Store, and it has made Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney really irritated. In a 2018 email to Apple, he expressed his dissatisfaction with the face that “Fortnite is not the first search result when people search for the word ‘Fortnite’”

Epic Games spent the last 9 months clearing its name, saying they’re not seeking monetary compensation nor is it looking for special exemption for Epic Games as a whole. Instead, it wants to see changes in the way these platforms operate. Allowing for alternative payment methods and stores that could give better rates than the 30% cut they currently take. The suit both call the rate exorbitant with a charge of 30% tax on in-app purchases of the in-app content. Comparing it with an average of 3%, that other payment takes for software sales such as Mac or MacBook.

Lawsuit Against Apple

Epic Games states that the anti-competitive consequences of Apple’s Conduct are pervasive, arguing how central mobile devices which are subject to the 30% fees can bring damage as to how high it is. Consumers who rely on these mobile devices to stay connected in the digital era are directly disadvantaged when they are unfairly restricted and extortionately taxed by Apple. In short, Epic Games is arguing that Apple has put developers in an unfair position, as the only means of selling software on the iOS to use the App Store for consumers to enjoy.

Epic Games would offer its own competing store where it is allowed and can freely do so. Alongside with the lawsuit, Epic Games has more public facing statements on its website‘s FAQ. It does not shy away from taking shots at Apple, going so far to say “Apple intentionally locks down consumer iOS devices to prevent users from installing software directly from developers, as consumers are free to do on PC and Mac.”

Apple even prohibits apps such as Netflix from even telling customers how to pay for their subscription plans. Apple then explained that Epic Games violated the App Store guidelines, while further argued that Epic Games is seeking a special arrangement but Apple is unwilling to give in. 

Lawsuit Against Google

Epic Games also brought up Google’s infamous “Don’t be Evil” motto. Stating that in a plethora of areas where it has grown to monopolize, Google has downgraded its motto to almost an afterthought, and is exploiting its size to do evil to competitors, innovators, consumers, and users. And asserting that Google is lawfully maintaining monopoly across the market and denying users the freedom to choose how they want to enjoy its content to the fullest. However, Google maintains that it has consistent policies that are fair to developers and keep the store safe for users to accommodate and use.

Companies Standing Up For Epic Games

During all the commotion, Epic Games found support from Tinder- owner Match Group, and Spotify after the major tech giants removed the popular video game from their App Stores and Play Stores for breaking payment guidelines.

Facebook, which has long been in conflict with Apple over privacy issues, criticizes the commissions as well. It said that Apple had turned down a request to eliminate costs for the social network’s new online events service, characterizing the decision as an unwillingness to help small companies. Analysts estimate that Apple device customers spend the most money on gaming through purchases on the App Store, which accounts for the majority of the company’s $46.3 billion in annual services revenue.

Epic Games Collaboration

While most of the founding members have fought or are fighting Apple over its App Store restrictions and policies, the Coalition for App Fairness represents a more systematized effort by developers to formally protest Apple. The idea is to create a central group for developers to join, particularly those who may lack the clout or resources to take on Apple on their own. In a statement announcing the development, Epic Games CEO and founder Tim Sweeney said, “We are joining the Coalition for App Fairness to defend the fundamental rights of creators to make apps and do business directly with their customers.”

Apple – and other platform owners – are being asked to accept a proposed code of conduct made by the Coalition for App Fairness. Their aspirations are lofty, such as not forcing developers to utilize an exclusive app store, giving all developers equal access to the same technical information as the platform owner, and not forcing developers to pay “unfair, unreasonable” fees. You may view the Coalition for App Fairness Principles here.

Final Take

None of these giant companies are going to back down. If Epic Games remain victorious, it could pave the way for reshaping of how these ecosystems operate. Even if Epic Games loses, the company has done a superb job of publicising and being transparent of the allegations from Apple’s unethical business practices – issues and concerns that will persist even if Apple wins.

While the trial between Epic Games and Apple is over, judge Gonzales Rogers concluded the trial on Monday by thanking all the lawyers and court staff. All that’s left is the verdict, which is expected to be released on June 7th.

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