Earlier this year, in August, a lawsuit entered the courts in Northern California that could have a huge impact on the video games industry.
Epic Games, the makers of the mega-hit Fortnite, took Apple to court over its aggressive App Store policies. Apple charges a 30% fee to publishers who sell their games and apps on its App Store platform for iOS users. Epic felt that this charge was extortionate and came up with a way to circumvent this charge for players who wanted to play Fortnite on their iOS devices. They offered a direct payment option within the game, cutting Apple out of the action. Apple’s response was swift; they removed Fortnite from the App Store.
Why Did Epic take Apple to Court?
Epic argues that Apple has created a ‘tech monopoly’ on its platform. The only way to sell apps and games to iOS users is through Apple’s App Store, which charges every publisher a 30% fee on the sale. Epic felt that this fee was too high, and so attempted to offer Fortnite for ‘free download’, only to ask players to make a one-off payment within the app after they had downloaded it.
When Apple discovered this and removed the game from its App Store, Epic felt they had no choice but to take Apple to court to challenge what they feel are unfair business practices and monopolization of the Apple App market.
What Does This Mean for the Games Industry?
The judge in the case, Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers, took time to become ‘better informed’ on the nature of the case and the industry and returned in October with an interesting decision.
Judge Rogers noticed that Apple’s practices were not uncommon in the games industry and that companies like Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo had similar arrangements with game developers when selling their software on their respective platforms. Epic argued that these companies had spent a lot of money developing and marketing the hardware, games consoles the games are played on, and often sold the machines at a financial loss, which they recovered through sales on their stores. Epic argues that Apple does not suffer these losses and has a platform that costs much less to operate and maintain.
What Happens Next?
There is now a jury trial set for July 2021, the decision of which could send shockwaves across the gaming industry and change the way that many game developers and tech companies sell video games.
No one is quite sure what will happen, but it could reduce the price consumers pay for the latest games or the way Apple and other tech giants operate their online app stores. People are already turning to alternatives to get their gaming fix, with online gambling Canada seeing a surge in users looking for some simple fun online without having to pay out of pocket for the privilege.
This time next year, the gaming industry could look very different. The stranglehold that the big gaming giants have over developers and consumers alike may soon be broken.