Yesterday saw the continuation of the epic battle between tech giant Apple, and the beloved Fortnite developer. And this time it’s gone Epic’s way. Meeting in a virtual court hearing, and presumably after prolonged utterances of “can you hear me” and “you’re on mute, your honour,” presiding Californian Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers made no move to remove the temporary ban of Fortnite from the App store. This was to remain in place whilst the larger battle continues. This concerns whether Apple is violating federal antitrust law, or until Gonzalez Rogers informs the two mega-corporations otherwise.
Epic at Frontier of Antitrust Law
The Californian Judge later described the debate as the very “frontier of antitrust law”. She continued that this would be heard in July 2021, and further recommended this take place in front of a jury. Anticipating a motion to appeal following the judgement, whichever way it goes, she said,
“”I know that I’m just a stepping stone for all of you. Whoever loses is going to take it up and say everything I did was wrong — that’s what litigators do. There’s no hard feelings, that’s the job. But I think it is important enough to understand what real people think. Do these security issues concern people or not?”
Apple continue their long fought feud with Epic
To recap for those not glued to the very edges of their seats, the background goes like this. Apple takes 30% from all purchases made though their App store. This applies unilaterally from the smallest indie development, to Fortnite, arguably the most successful game of the last decade. Epic, unhappy with the hundreds of millions already garnered from unguarded credit cards, decided this wasn’t quite enough. On August 13th, they deployed code buried in the Fortnite app. This effectively circumvented Apple’s watertight payment practice. Instead it enabled the purchase of in game commodities direct from the Epic store.
This led to an epic tantrum from Apple, seemingly equally dissatisfied with their recent valuation of over $2 trillion, just over the GDP of Italy. It pulled Fortnite from the App store, and threatened to withhold use of the Epic owned Unreal Engine from use by other developers on the store. The decision to ban the game was later upheld in court, pending further review. Epic responded arguing that Apple was out to crush it, and that the decision on use of the Unreal Engine on the App Store would do “irreparable harm” to the company. Gonzalez Rogers was having none of it,
“”There’s no case law that says that my billion-dollar company is losing some millions and so therefore that’s irreparable harm,”
A Long Wait Ahead
The hearing reached no immediate decision. But Gonzalez Rogers suggested that Apple let Fortnite return to the App store. She said that Epic could hold all takings in escrow until the case reached conclusion. Unwilling to commit completely, Apple’s lawyers said they would have to confer with the company, but noted that the suggestion could address a number of their concers.
Epic in turn seemed less than impressed with the suggestion, arguing that the court should not provide assistance to “unlawful provisions by monopolists”. Considering the case is to determine whether or not Apple indeed has a monopoly in this space, Gonzalez Rogers’ reply was somewhat predictable.
“I didn’t buy that argument before I’m not particularly impressed with it now,”
Battle of the Titans
So what can we gleam from this latest exchange? How much do the 250m strong Fortnite audience really care about the momentous mud-slinging between two faceless companies? Not much, I’d wager. What’s important is whether they can play their favourite game on their allotted device. Considering that this battle is being held simultaneously with the Google Play Store, right now a fair proportion cannot.
And judging by the July 2021 court date, and the foretold appeal from the presiding judge, it could well be a very long time before the opportunity for “just one more game” becomes a reality. Epic will get their day in court. But at this rate it could well be at the cost of their player base, who like all gamers will no doubt be enticed onto the next best thing to emerge in this wonderfully iterating, and emerging industry of accessible gaming.
If only Respawn would make TitanFall 2 for mobile. Now there’s a thought.
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