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  • Epic Games goes to war with Apple and Google

It’s funny – while there’s not much going on today in the gaming world, Epic Games (and, indirectly, Fortnite) is digging in and setting up for a huge fight.

Epic Games goes to war with Apple and Google

Earlier today, Epic Games pushed an update to Fortnite on both the iOS and Android platforms. However, the update contained a new option to pay Epic directly for in-app purchases, rather than going through their respective platforms – where Google and Apple both get a 30% cut of any payments.

Unsurprisingly, Fortnite was first removed Apple’s App store for violating its own policies regarding in-app purchases.

Epic Games then replied by filing a lawsuit against Apple “seeking injunctive relief to allow fair competition in [the iOS App Distribution Market and iOS In-App Payment Processing Market] that directly affect hundreds of millions of consumers and tens of thousands, if not more, of third-party app developers.

Of note is that sentence right before this, which mentions that Epic is not seeking damages or preferential treatment. 

Hours later, shortly after being removed from Google Play, Epic filed another suit, this time against Google. This complaint alleged that Google offered preferential deals to Epic and Activision Blizzard that involved “Youtube sponsorships and cloud services”.

Essentially, both complaints look to frame both the Google Play store and the Apple App Store as monopolistic and anti-competitive.

As an app/game developer myself who has paid and continues to pay the 30% platform tax, this is big news.

Epic’s actions here are, as far as I can remember, the first major pushback that Apple and Google have gotten as the platform owners. Sure, developers have complained about the 30% cut for years (to which Apple/Google simply reply that they provide the platform that also includes a number of value-added services that justify the take, and also point to Steam’s own 30% cut as an industry standard), but nothing has ever come out of it.

While I applaud Epic’s move against the industry juggernauts, there’s another way to look at the situation – Epic, of course, has their own game store (who take a 12% cut of sales, fun fact), and one of the highest grossing mobile games in existence in Fortnite. The company stands to gain handsomely if their complaint leads to a reduction in developer fees (the 30% cut). In the worst case, they’ll simply go back to way things were before this with no real consequences – they have nothing to lose.

There’s a line in the Apple complaint doc (discovered by chocolatefingerz on Reddit) that has a clue to Epic’s endgame here:

The Epic Games Store provides access to more than 250 games from more than 200 developers, and those numbers are growing rapidly. The Epic Games Store offers personalized features such as friends list management and game matchmaking services. Absent Apple’s anti-competitive conduct, Epic would also create an app store for iOS.

Chocolatefingerz has drawn their own conclusions and is framing this as part of the China vs. USA trade war. Or more specifically, that Tencent, who owns a large part of Epic, is trying to gain full control of Apple’s App Store in China so it can basically do whatever it wants (like collect data on users or copy other developer’s games).

Essentially, this user is accusing Epic Games, an American company, of working with a Chinese company to overthrow Apple in China.

I’m not buying it.

This sounds way too much like some teenager’s edgy conspiracy theory, when to me this is just about the bottom line. The ability to sell iOS apps = more revenue for Epic’s game store, simple as that. 

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8 months ago

[…] to a new motion filed on behalf of Epic Games, Apple has retaliated against Epic’s lawsuit by threatening to terminate Epic’s membership in its developer program and also pull access […]