A Lowdown On The Epic Games vs Apple Standoff


The frenzy of the gaming industry comes second only to the fandom surrounding it. And this can get quite daunting for the outsider. I should know, being on. But for someone like me who’s just stepping in, certain headlines seem to be gathering most leverage. The recent (and ongoing) rift between Epic Games and Apple is one such phenomenon. And for others like me who intrigued enough, here’s a lowdown on the Epic Games vs Apple Standoff.

Who’s Apple?

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Well. 

An American multinational company that’s into designing, developing and selling electronics and computer software. 

That understatement should suffice for now. 

It also has an App Store where a lot of developers put out their applications to be used on the iOS platform the world over. For example, video games. 

Who’s Epic Games?

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An American video game software developer and publisher. One of their more popular games is Fortnite. 

What have they got to do with each other?

Simple. Fortnite is available to download for iOS platforms of the Apple App store. And for Android platforms on the Google Play Store. 

For free?

Of course not. According to Apple guidelines apps offering in-app purchases – by means of unlocking features, game levels, in-game currencies, premium content,etc – need to do so through Apple in-app purchase mechanism. Apps are strictly not allowed to use their own independent payment gateways or mechanisms. Apple scores a 30% store fees overall. From app sales, in-app purchases and subscriptions. Similarly guidelines apply to apps using Google’s app store platform too.

What went wrong?

Epic Games has been on the Apple store platform since 2018. But since June this year, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney had been dropping loaded tweets against Apple. These tweets didn’t have very good things to say about the tech giant. Amongst other things,it called it an ‘absolute monarchy’ that sought only ‘Apple profit and not device security.’

The uneasy calm culminated into quite the storm, beginning August 13. Epic Games introduced an option in its Fortnite app for iPhone and IPad using which users could make direct payments. That too with a 20 percent discount, sidestepping Apple’s in-app purchase mechanism. 

Naturally, Apple retorted by taking Fortnite off its App Store. 

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In turn, Epic Games filed a lawsuit against Apple, alleging that the latter was behaving like a ‘monopoly power’, guilty of ‘unfair and anti competitive actions’.

Antitrust and Apple

This isn’t the first time in recent history that Apple has made headlines for antitrust issues. 

Close to two months ago, the European Commission launched antitrust probes against Apple App Store and Apple Pay. This primarily had to do with Apple denying ‘consumers and benefits of new payment technologies’ and taking on the role of gatekeeper for itself. Similarly the US Justice Department launched a similar probe to investigateApple’s alleged anti-competitive behaviour. 

Spotify also filed an anti-competition complaint against Apple, with the European Commission earlier last year, claiming the tech company was seeking more money than it was entitled to. Similarly, a group of companies in Korea have also raised red flags against Apple’s in-app purchase rules.

Blurred lines?

A number of issues seem to have been muddled up in the heat of things. Or perhaps that’s how it was designed. For example, Epic Games continues to argue against Apple’s guidelines, primarily to its 30% commission clause with respect to in-app purchases. 

They aren’t even talking about the fact that they violated the guidelines in the first place. 

The app ecosystem is similar to the ones at Sony (Playstation) and Microsoft (XBox) as well. But no lawsuits have come their way. If Epic Games is really being altruistic in nature, they would’ve by now. 

Apologies. Back to being the Devils’ advocate. 

Epic Games tried pooling in mass support in its legal tirade against Apple.

From trying to get #FreeFortnite trending, to hosting a #FreeFortnite Cup tournament, winning over Spotify’s and Microsoft’s support on the faceoff with Apple. 

Eventually on August 17, Apple revealed that it was planning to cut off Epic Games from all iOS and Mac development  tools on August 28. Thus terminating all its developer accounts. 

Naturally, Epic Games soon after sought a restraining order against this move. 

Why so?

Epic Games provides the game engine, Unreal Engine, to thousands of developers to use in their respective games. Termination of the developer accounts with Apple means Epic won’t be able to maintain the macOS and iOS elements of the game engine. 

Epic counter move, this one. 

Status update

While a California court has issued an order restraining Apple from cutting Epic Games off all of its development tools, the judgement hasn’t reinstalled Epic Games on Apple’s App Store as well. In the ruling, however, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers  made clear that Epic Games wasn’t suffering irreparable harm and that the current situation was its own making. 

However, Epic recently confirmed the upcoming season of ‘Fortnite’. The season update, expectedly, will not be available on iOS or macOS devices.

Meanwhile, the next court hearing on the motion against Apple is scheduled for later next month. 

In the meantime, got thoughts?


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