Hey everyone! Hope you’re having a great Monday! I have some content that I’ve been working on for the blog but today I just wanted to run off some thoughts I have on a pretty big news story that’s been going on.
If you’ve been keeping an eye on technology and gaming news over the last two weeks or so, you know that there’s a lot going on between two large companies: Epic Games and Apple. Before I dive into my thoughts on various aspects of it, I do just want to go over a very brief recap so everything else makes sense.
A Brief History Of…
All of this started because Epic Games decided they were tired of paying the 30% cut that Apple and Google require on all in-app purchases. In response to this, Epic pushed out an update to Fortnite that allows iOS and Android users to buy V-Bucks directly from them, circumventing the respective app stores’ payment processing, and thus putting all the money in Epic’s pocket.
Apple responded first by taking the game off of the App Store due to the fact that it now violated the terms of service that Epic agreed to when they joined the App Store with a developer account. Knowing this would be the case, Epic already had a video ready, parodying the classic 1984 Macintosh ad as well as filing a lawsuit against Apple. Google would also go on to remove the game and Epic filed a lawsuit against them as well.
Since then, Apple has done two things. The first is that they filed a lawsuit against Epic Games (I’ll talk about this a bit more below). The second is that they told Epic that if they don’t comply with the terms by August 28th, their developer account will be removed and they will lose access to all benefits of that. This will severely screw over anyone who uses Unreal Engine in their games, as Epic will no longer be able to update that on any Apple platforms.
With that in mind, here’s some of my takes.
Epic is Being Greedy
There’s no way to look at this and not see that money is Epic’s number one concern, regardless of what they say. In the lawsuit that Apple filed, they present emails from Epic CEO Tim Sweeney making a push for there to not only be third party app stores on iOS, but for Apple to host the clients for these stores in their own App Store.
I’m very much against the idea of third party app stores on iOS. I used Android devices for three years and the fact of the matter is that the landscape for apps on Android is vastly different. Part of this is because of those third party app stores. Yes, there are a lot of great developers making apps for Android devices, but the fact that piracy is so easy on Android means that a lot of developers don’t make as much money as they should. The quality of the apps suffers because of that. I’m not saying the Play Store is much better, but it beats the hell out of the shadier places to get apps.
In their court filing, Epic makes it clear that “Absent Apple’s anti-competitive conduct, Epic would also create an app store for iOS.” That part of the lawsuit drives me crazy for a few reasons.
The first is market — Epic is determined to convince the courts that Apple has a monopoly on iPhones and Google on Android, but that’s both true and false. I’m 27 years old; in all the time I’ve used technology I’ve never seen an argument like this. The ramifications if they can convince the courts of this is staggering. My big problem is that it’s the smartphone market. You can’t say that each brand is its own market — you just can’t. Ford and Chevy aren’t two separate markets!
I’m not saying everything Apple does is right, but I am saying that a platform maker should be the sole way to get software for your device. If Apple is truly found to have a monopoly on iOS devices and is forced to allow third party app stores, I sure as hell had better get alternative ways to buy games for my Xbox, PlayStation, Switch!
The second reason this bothers me is Epic itself. The company is painting this in a light that makes it look like it’s great for competition, but Epic has their own store on PC and it’s terrible. Yes, the free games they give out are great, but the fact that they buy exclusivity rights to keep games off of Steam? Are we really dumb enough to believe that Epic wouldn’t try to buy mobile exclusive rights to keep games off of both the iOS and Android app stores?
Apple Isn’t Perfect
Like I said, Apple isn’t perfect. There’s definitely areas where they could stand to make a few changes. The problem is, there’s no simple answer to this. Maybe the 30% cut is too high, but how do you fix that. Do you cut it to 15% across the board? Do you get the fee waived if you have a service that competes with Apple? That one I can answer: yes.
Music, video streaming, and book sales should absolutely have the fee waived or allow their own payment processing because of the fact that they compete with Apple. Unless Apple is paying this fee, Netflix, Spotify, Kindle and Comixology, etc should not have to pay that fee. That’s an easy answer.
The rest is above my pay grade — but I know that third party stores are not the answer.
Epic Doesn’t Care About Their Users
At the same time, it’s very important to remember that Epic doesn’t care about you, at all. I know this because I’ve watched these events play out and Epic’s strategy is terrible. At the end of the day, this isn’t about being better for the consumer or helping the little guy, this is about Epic not wanting to pay 30% to anyone on the smartphone and tablet versions of Fortnite.
What’s my evidence of this? Epic is approaching the situation in a way that locks out their entire iOS player base until the courts order Apple to let the game back in, they (Epic) decide to abide by Apple’s terms, or it becomes feasible to side load the app on iPhones.
In the meantime, while these two giant companies battle it out, what’s Epic doing for its iOS users and developers? Jack sh*t! They’re so concerned with the financial aspect of this that they’re willing to literally let their customers be the pawns, all while they paint Apple as the bad guy.
While this plays out, just remember this: Apple didn’t stop you from playing Fortnite on your iPhone. Epic did. Epic willingly violated a contract they signed, knowing what the outcome would be. Now, instead of getting any engagement or revenue from these platforms, they’re having a court battle they could have had all while keeping the status quo.
In Conclusion (For Now)
There are a lot of intricacies to this case and there’s way more than I could ever write in a single blog post. I encourage you all to do some reading on this before picking a side, but just realize that there isn’t really a good guy and a bad guy here. Rather there’s two corporations battling over their own bottom lines and doing it in the worse way possible.
One last point is that Microsoft has come out in support of Epic Games, unsurprising, since they have their own ongoing battle with Apple over xCloud game streaming (I have a piece I’m working on about that).
I really do want to keep the conversation going about this in the comments below. All I ask is that we keep things civil — I’ve seen how heated some people can get over this. What’s your take on the situation? Let me know below!