|Updated: Epic Games V Apple & Google - Smash The App Stores|
|Written by Mike James|
|Monday, 17 August 2020|
Why this hasn't happened before is a mystery, but at long last a big software company has decided to rebel against both the App Store and Google Play. Epic Games has filed a civil anti-trust lawsuit against Apple - and made fun of them with a parody of the famous 1984 Apple ad. Could this be the beginning of the end?
I am one of the minority who thought the Apple 1984 ad was ironic. Apple was even then a walled garden and "walled garden" makes it sound too cozy. You couldn't make an Apple clone, but you could buy PCs from everyone, including IBM. If anyone was the oppressive regime, it was Apple. Take a look at the original if you don't remember it:
So what happened next is the Mac was released and 1984 really wasn't like 1984. It took a while longer for Apple to lock down the software as well as the hardware. Even today, I find it unbelievable that we accept that a computer, even if it is pretending to be a phone, that cannot run any software its owner wants to run.
However, let's not get carried away. Epic Games isn't fighting for a principle; it is fighting for money. The App Store takes 30% of the revenue of any software or in-app purchases and strictly forbids programmers to include anything that would encourage. or even inform, users that there might be other ways to pay that avoid the Apple tax. So Epic decided to make a point by letting players of the hugely successful Fortnite game make in-game purchases that bypassed Apple's payment system, and hence cut out Apple's 30%. As a result, Apple removed Fornite from the App Store and Epic started its anti-trust action. Some are describing this as a trap which Apple fell into - as if they could have seen what what going to happen and handle things differently. They couldn't - Epic broke the rules and Apple had no choice other than to kick Epic out of the store or give in to Epic and remove the rule.
Apple made this clear in its statement:
"Today, Epic Games took the unfortunate step of violating the App Store guidelines that are applied equally to every developer and designed to keep the store safe for our users. As a result their Fortnite app has been removed from the store. Epic enabled a feature in its app which was not reviewed or approved by Apple, and they did so with the express intent of violating the App Store guidelines regarding in-app payments that apply to every developer who sells digital goods or services."
Apple is saying that it will try to resolve things with Epic but clearly this is not Epic's intention. It is on the offensive. As well as the lawsuit, we have a remake of the 1984 ad which they have titled Nineteen Eighty Fortnite:
Fun isn't it? The onscreen apple says:
“For years, they have given us their songs, their labor, their dreams. In exchange, we have taken our tribute, our profits, our control. This power is ours and ours alone. We shall prevail.”
The message at the end of the video reads:
“Epic Games has defied the App Store Monopoly.
Clearly Epic is hoping that fans will pile into the hash tag and give Apple what for. At the moment, from the comments, it looks as if the fans are just unhappy about the loss of their game and seems to be putting Epic in the same boat as Apple, i.e. money-grabbing, rule-enforcing, behemoths.
"Because Apple has BLOCKED your ability to update, when Fortnite Chapter 2 - Season 4 releases you will NOT be able to play the new Season on iOS. Make your voice heard with #FreeFortnite"
It might just be that the only sympathy Epic gets comes from programmers, and then only the ones not making big bucks from Apple's irrefutable monopoly.
Although it is clear that Epic has Apple in its sights, it is worth noting that Fortnite has also been removed from the Google Play Store for exactly the same reason. At this time it isn't clear if Epic is going to take legal action (see the Update below) against Google, but as there are alternatives to the Play Store proving that it is a monopoly would be more difficult. It will be interesting to see how the situation with Google plays out.
Update 14th August:
Epic is suing Google along the same lines as the Apple case but with some interesting customization:
In 1998, Google was founded as an exciting young company with a unique motto: “Don’t Be Evil”. Google’s Code of Conduct explained that this admonishment was about “how we serve our users” and “much more than that . . . it’s also about doing the right thing more generally”. Twenty-two years later, Google has relegated its motto to nearly an afterthought, and is using its size to do evil upon competitors, innovators, customers, and users in a slew of markets it has grown to monopolize. This case is about doing the right thing in one important area, the Android mobile ecosystem, where Google unlawfully maintains monopolies in multiple related markets, denying consumers the freedom to enjoy their mobile devices—freedom that Google always promised Android users would have.
Update 16th August:
It is estimated that Fortnite has generated over $350 million for Apple in the last three years, so the loss of income to Apple is not insignificant at $10 million per month, but of course the loss of income to Epic is 70% larger - estimated to be $1.2 billion on 133 million installs. The figures for the Play store are that the game earned $3 million in the last 30 days, with Google standing to lose $1 million per month.
Update 17th August:
FOSS Patents, Florian Mueller's ever-so-useful blog on the legal side of software has some interesting comments on the situation:
"While Apple and Google impose different developer and app store contract terms, the cases have some overlapping questions of fact (relating to Fortnite, but also because either defendant will likely point to the other when denying or downplaying its own monopoly power) and, especially, law. Also, there would be a risk of divergent decisions. The least plausible scenario would be one in which Judge Chen would let Apple off the hook while Judge Koh (or a colleague of hers down in San Jose) would hold Google in violation of antitrust law, given that Google is less restrictive as there are alternative ways (though far less popular than Google's Play Store) to install Android apps ("sideloading" as well as app stores such as the ones run by Samsung and Huawei). I expect both cases to go up to the Ninth Circuit, where any inconsistencies could still be cured, but it wouldn't reflect favorably on the Northern District if it handed down irreconcilable decisions."
In other words, from Epic's viewpoint:
Fear and Loathing In The App Store
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|Last Updated ( Monday, 17 August 2020 )|