According to Global Esport News, fans of the popular game Fortnite were taken by surprise when Apple blocklisted the game from its store. The mobile giant and the game company, Epic, are engaged in what appears to be a heated legal battle. Since August last year, the two companies have been at loggerheads when Epic tried to side-step Apple’s 30% fee on in-app purchases by introducing its own in-app payment system. Unfortunately, this battle appears to drag on with no end in sight as it is predicted to take years to resolve.
What is the Bone of Contention?
Epic Games, Fortnite’s owner, pointed accusing fingers at Apple, saying the company has monopolized its store by expressing direct authority over eligible apps and how they are managed. On the other hand, Apple countered the allegation by stating Epic’s attempt to avoid its 30% commission fee through underhanded means.
As the warring companies traded accusations, a US court in September ruled that Apple had no right to prohibit app developers from directing users to third-party payment systems. One would think that Epic had acquired victory until the judge also ruled that Epic had failed to prove that Apple was running an illegal monopoly related to its store. However, the ruling stated that Apple demonstrated “anticompetitive conduct”, as shown by California Laws.
The judge’s declarations led both companies to appeal the judgements.
The chief executive of Epic Games, Tim Sweeney, tweeted;
“Apple spent a year telling the world, the court and the press they’d welcome Epic’s return to the App store if they agree to play by the same rules as everyone else. Epic agreed, and now Apple has reneged in another abuse of its monopoly power over a billion users”.
According to the letter shared by Sweeny, Apple stated that Epic had ” committed an intentional breach of contract, and breach of trust by, concealing code from Apple”, and it will not welcome the app back on the app “until the district court’s judgment becomes final and non-appealable.”
Apple confirmed that the correspondence was authentic.
Developers Have Had Enough
In other news, Epic isn’t the only company to complain about the operations of the App Store. Spotify is one such company that has been particularly outspoken. Recall that the popular streaming platform lodged an antitrust complaint to the European Commission in March 2019, stating that Apple technically forced the company to up its subscription rates to meet up with the store’s exorbitant in-app commission fee.
While the relationship between developers and the App store was initially mutually beneficial, many developers criticized Apple for exercising complete authority over the rules and prices governing the apps, leaving no say for developers. Furthermore, since the store is the only medium for IOS users to access these apps, developers are forced to agree with the rules or lose a gazillion existing and prospective customers. Developers have long expressed displeasure over this structure but met deaf ears. Also, if you don’t play by the rules, you get banned!
The Fees Have an Advantage
Apple claims that the 30% in-app commission isn’t baseless. According to the company, the fees are used to pay for the costs incurred from hosting apps. Apple states that their intentions are far from profiting from the charges; instead, they run the store. To their credit, they assert that the majority of apps on the store are free. It stands to reason that free apps profit from ads and sales to third parties, which Apple doesn’t benefit from.
Customers Are on The Receiving End
As this legal battle rages on, the Apple store customers bear the brunt of it. New customers can’t download Fortnite, while users who already have the game can’t download the latest updates, including the new season 4. How unfortunate!
Will this dispute come to a good end? That remains to be seen!