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Apple vs. Epic Games: What do we know so far?

Apple vs Epic Games lawsuit

Epic Games launched a legal battle against Apple after its most successful game, Fortnite, was removed from the iOS App Store in 2020. Both the companies are meeting in the US courts on May 3, 2021, roughly nine months after Epic Games lodged a case in August 2020.

The highly anticipated case is carving its way to a high-profile case by involving top executives for the trial run. While we may have to wait until Tim vs. Tim battle, let me simplify the case to pick your side. 

Apple vs. Epic Games: What started the rift?

Since last year, the market leaders have been ensnared in a legal battle after Epic Games released a software update. The update allowed the players to avoid the 30% cut that Apple received with each purchase.

Tim Sweetney has always been vocal about Apple getting a higher cut and wanted to develop a scheme that either reduces the revenue or prevents Apple from charging any money. 

Epic intentionally updated changes on August 13, 2020, with their most popular game Fortnite. The company offered V-bucks, the in-game currency, at a 20% reduced price if the customers purchased it directly from Epic.

This discount was not available if the purchase was made via storefronts. This sly move lets the players circumvent the App Store payment system, and within hours the aftermath was visible.

Apple did not welcome this move. So it decided to take advantage of its monopoly and bully Fornite out of the App Store.

This ban prevented 116 million of its 360 million player base from accessing updates to the game. This kickstarted what came to be known as the #freefortnite campaign and a legal battle across the maestros. The fight has a global impact with Epic Games lodging cases in the US, Australia, UK, and now European courts. 

Understanding the case

In an interview with CNN Business, Sweeney mentioned that they took nearly seven months to plan the course of action under the codename “Project Liberty.” What Sweeney calls the biggest bet of his career as a digital revolution if Epic Games wins the case.

The company prepped itself with a 60-page lawsuit and a video that parodies the classic “1984” commercial. 

The case may take months of trials to conclude, but the US trials are showing some progress. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers has bluntly denied Epic Games’ request to host Fornite on iOS pending trials. However, it has allowed Epic to keep its developed accounts for maintenance purposes. 

Apple vs. Epic Games: What are the possible outcomes?

Regardless of the final verdict, one cannot help but admire the preparations and the surprise digital attack that Epic Games managed to pull through.

Fortnite has very little to lose with all the possible outcomes, whereas Apple might end up losing one of its highest-grossing applications on the App Store. 

Here are the possible outcomes that can cumulate over the months. 

  1. Apple reduces commissions for all the apps under peer pressure. 
  2. Epic Games continues selling its game under their App Store with a reduced pay cut.
  3. Epic Games wins the case and works out its way around the App Store.
  4. Apple wins the lawsuit and never lets Fortnite enter.

Changes of the fourth option solidifying are little to less because Apple will not let a billion-dollar game off the App Store for an ego clash. 

Is the battle just about Fortnite?

This clearly isn’t just about Fornite. Epic Games has showcased its genius by picking up its best-selling game for the trial to force a response from the tech giant. 

Tim Sweeney had questioned the need for digital storefronts 30% revenue cut as early as 2017. While these are the universal standard rates and widely accepted, Tim had his two cents on the topic. According to him,

“There’s an enormous investment in hardware, often sold below cost, and marketing campaigns in broad partnership with publishers, but did not extend to open platforms like mobile devices and personal computers. Part of the reasoning for creating the Epic Games Store was to demonstrate that Epic could operate at a lower revenue cut (12%).”

Why is Google silent?

Epic has raised a cold war against both the tech giants because of their large pay-cuts. Yes, this means a case was filed against Google as well. 

The results; Fortnite was down from the App Store. However, it has failed to receive the media criticism that Apple is receiving. Google has been involved in its way and managed to stay pretty diplomatic about the matter. 

It has made it easier for users to install third-party apps on Android with Android 12. Google has referred to its Android blog directly,

“This openness means that even if a developer and Google disagree on the business terms, the developer can still distribute on the Android platform. This is why Fortnite, for example, is available directly from Epic’s store or other app stores including Samsung’s Galaxy App store.”

Clever work, Google! Possibly the best example of keeping your friends close and enemies closer.

What does each party have to say?

Apple has stayed firm on its platform being fair since the inception. It has shown its disappointment over how Epic violated the law by updating the game without their permission. Apple said in a statement,

“Our senior executives look forward to sharing with the court the very positive impact the App Store has had on innovation, economies across the world, and the customer experience over the last 12 years. We feel confident the case will prove that Epic purposefully breached its agreement solely to increase its revenues, which is what resulted in their removal from the App Store, By doing that, Epic circumvented the security features of the App Store in a way that would lead to reduced competition and put consumers’ privacy and data security at tremendous risk.”

Epic Games is ready to set a battle, for it has been waiting for this moment for a long. I am sure about them having great preparations for their side. This test is going to be strong for them. 

However, there is a lot at stake, and any decision can prove to be transformational. 

When do the trials start?

The US court trials begin on May 3, 2021. The Australian, UK, and Europe-based trials are yet to have their dates announced. The proceedings were launched on November 2020, January 2021, and February 2021, respectively, against each region. 

Given the complexities of the matter and a significant system change, we can expect the trials to continue throughout 2021 and towards 2022. 

Is there an end to the battle?

Epic Games has managed to challenge the system by questioning the app store’s cut. What has been the standard format for a long, long time now cannot be changed overnight?

Expect these lawsuits to go on for a long time, but the changes will have a massive impact not just on Epic Games but also on all the apps on the iOS app store. 

For now, iPhone users will have to wait a little longer for the rain to come. And I shall keep you updated about further developments. 

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