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Epic Games drags Apple through AU court as Fortnite spat continues

19 Nov 2020

Game publisher and platform Epic Games is dragging Apple through Australian courts, claiming that Apple is misusing its market power.

Epic Games, which is the platform behind games such as Fortnite, says all it wants to do is make digital platforms fairer for both developers and gamers.

The claim, which was filed in the Australian Federal Court, alleges that Apple is misusing its market power and lessening competition in both app distribution and payment processes.

Epic says Apple did this by creating an ‘absolute’ distribution monopoly, as well as in-app purchase restrictions.

Much of this drama stems from a feud that started back in August, which is all to do with in-app purchases for Fortnite.

Epic rolled out a payment system that bypassed Apple’s App Store payment mechanisms, thus removing Apple from the transaction entirely. In other words, Apple couldn’t get its share of the profit pie.

Apple then banned Fortnite from the App Store in retaliation, claiming that Epic’s actions violate App Store guidelines, and Apple did not review or approve the payment feature changes.

“Our customers depend on the App Store being a safe and trusted place where all developers follow the same set of rules,” an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch. 

“We’re grateful the court recognised that Epic’s actions were not in the best interests of its own customers and that any problems they may have encountered were of their own making when they breached their agreement. For twelve years, the App Store has been an economic miracle, creating transformative business opportunities for developers large and small.”

Fortnite developers wanted to get their point across in true shareable internet fashion so it created a Fortnite ad, styled in the fashion of George Orwell’s 1984. That ad mocked Apple’s original 1984 ad for the Macintosh.

So all of this fighting seems to come down to one major point: Epic claims that Apple is preventing ‘entire categories’ of apps from being developed in its ecosystem, which in turn leads to excessive control - and a bad look for Apple in terms of competition, choice, and innovation.

Epic calls Apple’s conduct ‘unconscionable’ and also alleges that Apple’s actions breach Australian Consumer Law, as well as some parts of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.

Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney says this battle is much bigger than just Epic versus Apple - it also asks whether consumers and creators can do business together directly on mobile platforms, or whether they must be forced to use monopoly channels against wishes and interests

“Apple were pioneers of the personal computer, and their original products were open platforms. Anyone could write code, anyone could release software and users could install software from sources of their choosing. Today’s digital platforms must be similarly open to fair competition,” says Sweeney.

While the company is not seeking damages, it does want to achieve fair access and market competition.

If successful, Epic could set a precedent for breaking the chains put in place by Apple. In the meantime, Fortnite players won’t be using Apple’s products anytime soon.