On Thursday, “Fortnite” developer Epic Games filed suit against Apple and Google for engaging in alleged anticompetitive practices. The studio took action after the Big Tech firms removed the battle royale hit from their respective mobile application marketplaces.
The Silicon Valley giants stated they pulled “Fortnite” because Epic released an update for the title which violates their billing policies.
Why Epic is Suing Apple and Google
On August 13, Epic released a “Fortnite” update that allowed players to buy in-game currency directly from its marketplace. The developer discounted its “V-bucks” if purchased straight from its store because the workaround cut Apple and Google out of the transaction. Typically, the two companies collect 30 percent of all payments made through their app stores.
On its website, Epic explained it made the change to save its customers money and to push back against business practices it deemed unfair. The studio argued Apple should let all developers accept direct payments since it allows companies like Amazon, DoorDash, and Uber to do so. The firm also said its third-party marketplace is secure and boasted about completing over $1.6 billion in transactions.
Apple did not appreciate Epic’s different way of thinking and removed “Fortnite” from its App Store following the update. Users who have the game installed on the devices can still play it, but they will not be able to access new content when it becomes available. The iPhone maker said the studio forced its hand by circumventing its App Store billing policy.
Google also pulled “Fortnite” from Play Store for violating its guidelines, but it noted users could still download the game from other Android-based marketplaces. Post ban, Epic sued the Mountain View, California-based company for its alleged monopolistic behavior to bolster its digital services revenue. The studio claims the search engine “erected contractual and technological barriers” to make third-party app stores less appealing to consumers.
Epic’s Google lawsuit also alleges the Silicon Valley giant used its clout to kill deals it negotiated with OnePlus and LG because they bypassed Play Store.
What Happens Next
As things stand, Epic is going to engage Apple and Google in potentially industry-shaking legal battles. The “Fortnite” developer’s court filings note it is not seeking money or special treatment from either marketplace facilitator. The studio’s complaints state it wants both companies to open their platforms and change their supposedly anticompetitive billing rules.
Epic has railed against Apple and Google’s influence on the global mobile application industry for a few years now.
The developer released “Fortnite” on Android in 2018, but not through Play Store to avoid paying transaction fees. Eventually, the company put its hit game on Google’s marketplace last April, but it released a statement slamming the brand for using its ecosystem control to its advantage. The studio also publically supported the European Union’s (EU) antitrust investigation into Apple’s app store practices.
Since Apple and Google make billions of dollars in app store revenue every quarter, it seems unlikely either brand will concede to Epic’s demands. Although, the Big Tech firms might be forced to change the way they do business if they lose in court. While both companies have the financial resources to mount vigorous defenses, they are facing a lot of antitrust scrutiny at the moment.
The House of Representatives grilled Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google leader Sundar Pichai about their firms’ business practices during a recent hearing. Politico reported the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and a group of state attorneys general are looking to the iPhone maker’s app store activities. The DOJ also reportedly opened an investigation into Google’s Play Store management last year.
Because of its implications for the entire digital services industry, Epic’s lawsuits against Apple and Google are worth following.