Plenty of drama unfolded over the summer as “Fortnite” developer Epic Games and Apple went toe-to-toe regarding the latter’s App Store policies. The end result was a lawsuit against the Big Tech firm, claiming that its fees for games and their in-store purchases are unfair.
Apple originally wanted its App Store head, Eric Neuenshwander, to represent the company in court alongside CEO Tim Cook. However, Epic Games had ideas of its own. The developer has requested that Apple’s iOS and macOS chief, Craig Federighi, testify instead of Neuenshwander, Engadget reports.
That request was just approved by U.S. District Judge Thomas Hixson, according to court documents gathered by AppleInsider.
Changing the Game
It appears that the court battle between Apple and Epic will have serious implications for the digital entertainment industry. Several other companies have stood by the latter to protest against Apple’s 30 percent App Store “tax.”
While the iPhone maker did lower its fee for smaller developers earlier this year, large companies like Epic Games are still subject to the 30 percent cut. Obviously, that’s a big hit to a developer’s profit margins. Since iPhone users account for about 45 percent of all smartphone users in the U.S., mobile game developers can’t realistically avoid listing their titles in the App Store. It’s for this reason that companies are taking legal action against Apple.
So far, it appears that the court is favoring Epic’s side of the case in its preliminary decisions. The approval to bring Federighi into the fold is just the latest development. Judge Hixson also ruled that Cook’s deposition won’t be limited to four hours as Apple previously requested. Instead, the hearing’s time limit won’t be set until Apple supplies Epic Games with various documents.
The developer has asked Apple to provide details about the inner workings of the App Store. It says that this information is crucial “because it relates to the profitability of apps and the effect Apple’s monopoly has on developers’ willingness and/or ability to create apps.”
In his ruling, Hixson wrote, “If [Epic has] guessed wrong, and Federighi’s documents are not as relevant as Neuenschwander’s are, that hurts [Epic]. Assuming the requests are relevant and proportional, it is up to Plaintiffs to decide what discovery they want to take to prove their claims, and if they make bad choices, that’s their problem.”
Epic’s decision to move up the chain of command is interesting. According to AppleInsider, the next deadline for court filings is January 6. Both companies will then need to wait for a hearing regarding those filings on January 8.
The official trial won’t occur until much later. It is slated to take place in July 2021.
Again, the implications of this hearing will be huge for the mobile gaming industry and for both companies involved. Stay tuned to The Burn-In as more details about the case are revealed.