Battle royale in the digital world. As of August 13, iPhone and iPad owners can no longer download the app Fortnite nor update it when the fourth season of the hit game was released on Thursday. Epic Games, the American developer studio, accuses Apple of abuse of dominant position and “Anti-competitive practices”. Return on a conflict not as new as it seems.
Why Apple and Google Removed the Game Fortnite from their app store?
The showdown begins on August 13. The American video game studio Epic Games is setting up a platform to allow players to Fortnite to bypass the payment systems of Apple and Google. A little reminder for those who are not fortunate enough to have children under 15 around them: launched in July 2017, online gaming has become a real social phenomenon, bringing together tens of millions of followers through the world. The principle ? You are parachuted onto a desert island with other players, all of whom you must eliminate in order to be the last survivor, all in a setting closer to cartoon than to an ultra-violent action movie.
Fortnite is free to download, but players are encouraged to pull out their wallets to purchase virtual currency, which is necessary to enhance their experience. Except that each time a purchase is made in an application running on their operating system, Apple and Google get a 30% commission.
The reaction of the two giants to Epic’s affront is not long in coming: Fortnite is simply deleted from the Apple App Store and the Android Play Store. Players who have already installed it can continue playing, but cannot perform a first download or an update.
What does Epic Games hold against Apple?
Epic Games, which seemed to hope for this reaction from the two giants, brandishes in the wake a complaint against Apple for abuse of a dominant position and “Anti-competitive practices”. A small subtlety differentiates the firm at the apple of Google: it prohibits developers from selling their applications on a platform other than the App Store. “The fact that Apple is removing Fortnite demonstrates its immense power and ability to impose unreasonable restrictions to illegally maintain its monopoly ”, claims the complaint, which qualifies the 30% tax as “tyrannical”.
In the 60-page document, Epic Games accuses Apple of being “Become what he once cursed against: the juggernaut who wants to control the markets, impede competition and stifle innovation”. The studio is asking for a lower commission and permission to create application stores other than the App Store on iPhone and iPad.
Read also“The search for a monopoly is the real engine of innovation”
Epic Games doesn’t just attack on the legal ground. The studio is embarking at the same time in a gigantic communication battle: video parodying Apple and urging fans to join the fight, dissemination of the hashtag # freefortnite… On Sunday, a competition was organized on the online video game and allowed participants to win a new costume for their character: an apple head with a grumpy face.
How did Apple react to the complaint?
On August 17, Apple responded to Epic Games in a statement noting that “The App Store is designed to be a safe and trusted place” as well as a “Excellent business opportunity for all developers”. The same day, Epic Games announced on Twitter that Apple is threatening to exclude it from its development program if it does not reverse its decision by Friday.
Concretely, this would mean that Epic Games could no longer use Apple tools to develop its games and that all of its applications would disappear from the App Store. Fortnite would then be far from the only game affected. Especially since Epic Games has Unreal Engine, a game engine (software essential to create a video game) used by many other publishers. Unreal Engine would in fact become incompatible with Apple systems.
Where is the legal battle?
The federal judge of California (where the headquarters of the smartphone manufacturer is located) Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers rendered, Tuesday, a first decision, in which she believes that Apple is entitled to remove Fortnite from the App Store. “Epic Games has strategically chosen to break the agreements made with Apple” and “Seems to have put himself in this difficult situation”, she wrote in her prescription. On the other hand, it considered that Apple could not prohibit Epic Games from its access to its Unreal Engine development tools. According to her, the two companies are “Free to gang up on each other, but their argument should not harm outsiders.”
Read alsoUnleashable games push-ups
Is Epic Games the first to take on Apple?
In its fight, Epic Games has been joined by several companies in the sector. “We fully support Epic Games’ efforts to show how Apple uses its dominance and unfair policies to hurt consumers, developers and entrepreneurs,” claimed the dating app Tinder.
Spotify also said “Applaud Epic Games’ decision to stand up to Apple”. In March 2019, the Swedish music streaming leader filed a complaint against Apple for abuse of a dominant position with the European Commission, also denouncing the 30% tax. Spotify executive Daniel Ek said at the time that Apple was acting “Both as a player and as a referee” and that this “Deliberately disadvantaged other application developers.” The Commission announced on June 20 the opening of an investigation.