American video games and software developer Epic Games has sued Apple and Google for their monopolistic and anti-competitive policies and removing its highly-rated multiplayer game Fortnite from their respective app stores.
The game was first removed by Apple citing Epic Games’ violation of Apple’s App Store guidelines. Google followed suit.
As per The Verge report, Epic Games pushed an update for Fortnite that allowed users to make in-game purchases directly from Epic’s platform and not going via Apple/Google’s payment gateways.
This prompted both Apple and Google to take action and the game was removed shortly after that.
What’s The Issue?
Epic doesn't take issue with the fact that Apple wants developers to use the App Store to sell its apps but stands firmly against the policy of Apple requiring users to use only its payment methods.
Apple doesn’t allow the apps to have their own payment platforms in the app which is something that has been criticised by many other developers. This way Apple gets a cut for every in-app/in-game purchase.
It was as if Epic has it all planned. The moment Apple removed the game, the American game developer was prompt to respond to the ban with a 65-page lawsuit.
The legal complaint that has been filed by Epic is an attempt 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”, the lawsuit reads.
Fortnite has also been kicked out of the Google Play platform for the same reason. However, Google has said it is willing to continue its discussion with Epic to bring the game back.
In response to Apple’s ban, Epic Games posted a 48-second video on YouTube, titled Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite, mocking Apple for its move. The video is imagery from the 1984 Apple ad which has been given a Fortnite twist. Check it out:
If you want to watch the original ad, you can watch it here.
Some of the issues that have been raised by Epic in its lawsuit target Apple’s monopolistic policies against developers in the iPhone and iOS ecosystem and says it violates the US antitrust law. Here are some of the Epic’s primary claims:
- Apple has been accused of using a series of anti-competitive restraints and monopolistic practices in the distribution of software applications.
- The Cupertino tech giant has been accused of imposing unreasonable and unlawful restraints unless developers use the App Store, where Apple exacts an “oppressive 30 percent tax on the sale of every app.”
- Epic has said that it is not seeking any monetary compensation. Instead, it wants Apple to allow fair competition on its platform.
Epic has also filed a separate lawsuit against Google that addresses almost similar issues mentioned in the legal document sent to Apple where Epic is concerned about Google Play Store’s role as a powerful distributor and its billing policies for in-app purchases.
Since Android allows third-party app installs and is also less strict than Apple with its policies, this lawsuit might not come that hard on Google.
Others Who Have Criticised Apple
It was during the time of the US antitrust hearing involving ‘the big four’ where Microsoft also criticised Apple for barring its Xbox Game Pass service from the iPhone & iPad.
Apple said that it doesn’t let cloud-based gaming services on its platform as it needs to review all games individually.
Microsoft added that Apple “consistently treats gaming apps differently, applying more lenient rules to non-gaming apps even when they include interactive content.”
Facebook echoed Microsoft’s sentiments on the issue after Facebook was forced to launch its gaming service on iPhone without any games.
“We had to remove game-play functionality entirely in order to get Apple’s approval on the standalone Facebook Gaming app -- meaning iOS users have an inferior experience to those using Android,” said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg speaking to Bloomberg.
The gaming industry seems to have been hit with Apple’s policies as the App Store rules are more strict on games.
Apple doesn’t let gamers subscribe outside of its platform but exempts apps in other categories like music, news, video and business app from doing so.
What Happens If Epic Games Wins?
If Epic Games manages to win this lawsuit it is going to be a monumental decision which not only affects Epic Games but also an entire lot of game developers on Apple’s and Google’s platform who have been forced to pay both Apple and Google a sizeable cut of their revenue till now.
The US Antitrust Committee had already cornered Apple CEO Tim Cook at the recently concluded hearing for its anti-competitive practices on the App Store and this lawsuit from Epic could just help them speed things along.
This could also prompt a push for other developers to hunt for other monopolistic policies by Apple and Google that have been thwarting businesses till date.
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