Well, that escalated quickly.
This week, Epic Games filed a civil antitrust lawsuit against Apple following Apple's removal of Fortnite from iOS devices.
On August 13th, Epic Games implemented their own direct payment system on mobile devices, meaning that users making purchases on Epic apps no longer have to pay through iOS and Google Play stores on Apple and Samsung devices respectively.
Apple responded poorly to this implementation, removing the increasingly popular Fortnite from its app store, claiming that by circumventing the App Store's payment system, Epic are,
"violating the App Store guidelines that are applied equally to every developer and designed to keep the store safe for our users.”
Despite this, the tech giant expressed its intentions to, "make every effort to work with Epic" to resolve the dispute, although, is not willing to offer Epic any form of "special arrangement."
Not long after this, Epic came out swinging, filing a lawsuit against the company that states, "Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation. Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched, and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear. At a market cap of nearly $2 trillion, Apple’s size and reach far exceeds that of any technology monopolist in history."
The basis of Epic's lawsuit is that Apple is trying to monopolise the app market, claiming that the company implements a series of restraints to prevent any form of market competition, all while it has control over, "the distribution of software applications (“apps”) to users of mobile computing devices like smartphones and tablets" and in particular, "the processing of consumers’ payments for digital content used within iOS mobile apps."
Epic also outline their disapproval of Apple's app market practices, where their lawsuit states:
"Apple imposes unreasonable and unlawful restraints to completely monopolize both markets and prevent software developers from reaching the over one billion users of its mobile devices (e.g., iPhone and iPad) unless they go through a single store controlled by Apple, the App Store, where Apple exacts an oppressive 30% tax on the sale of every app."
it then adds,
"Apple also imposes unreasonable restraints and unlawfully maintains a total monopoly in the iOS In-App Payment Processing Market. Among the oppressive terms that app developers have to accept, Apple coerces all app developers who wish to use its App Store—the only means with which to distribute apps to iOS users—to use exclusively Apple’s own payment processing platform for all in-app purchases of in-app content."
In addition, Epic Games have started a hashtag campaign #FreeFortnite on both their social media and website, where their website reads, "Join the fight against @AppStore on social media with #FreeFortnite". Through their campaign, Epic have emphasised their opposition to Apple's 30% take of app profits, as they have already proven that they believe distributors should take a much smaller take. This was made evident when Epic Games released the Epic Games Store on PC, which in contrast to its competitor, Steam, only takes a 12% cut of sales on its store, leading to an upset in the PC gaming distribution market.
This was accompanied by a cinematic short film created by Epic within Fortnite, in which the company has recreated Apple's classic "1984" advertisement for the Macintosh computer. The aptly named "nineteen eighty-Fortnite" is more or less a shot for shot recreation of the original ad, where various characters are mesmerized by a giant screen, on which is a shady CEO type figure (coincidentally, with an apple for a head) is monologing about "unification". Like the original ad, a woman runs in and throws a hammer at the screen, smashing it and freeing those enthralled by its glare. While slightly over the top, it's hard to deny Epic made a pretty clever and creative statement with the short.
Everything from the lawsuit, to the hashtag, and even the tongue-in-cheek Fortnite short suggest that Epic has taken Fortnite's removal from app stores rather personally, and are capitalizing on this opportunity to call out Apple's "unreasonable" and unjust terms and guidelines relating to their mobile App Store. This is made more evident by the fact Epic claim they are not seeking any financial gain or compensation from the lawsuit, but rather,
"Epic is seeking injunctive relief to allow fair competition in these two key markets that directly affect hundreds of millions of consumers and tens of thousands, if not more, of third-party app developers."
It's hard to tell what the outcome of this dilemma will be, but it will certainly be interesting.