Everyone expected the PlayStation 5 vs. the Xbox Series X to be the big video game battle of 2020, but it looks like that console war is taking a backseat to a bigger conflict. Epic Games, the makers of “Fortnite,” has filed an antitrust suit against Apple and begun a series of salvos that got the popular battle royale game kicked off the App Store.
It began with Epic Games bypassing Apple’s payment service by allowing direct payments to the Cary, North Carolina,-based, company. The way the App Store works is that Apple takes a 30% cut from every sale on the platform. By skirting that with its “mega drop” discount, Epic violated Apple’s terms of service.
“Fortnite” was removed from the Apple App Store. Players who have already downloaded the game can still play and spend money, according to the Washington Post, but they will not be able to get the seasonal updates that keep “Fortnite” fresh year after year.
In response, Epic Games filed the lawsuit and created a stinging ad and a hashtag. #FreeFortnite began trending on Twitter soon after Epic launched an advertisement that echoed Apple’s legendary “1984” Mac commercial during the Super Bowl. Epic’s argument was clear. Apple with its dominance of the mobile market has become the very thing it criticized so effectively in the past.
To its credit, Apple is the company that popularized the smartphone. It created and invested in its walled garden and it has enforced rules equally across all apps with some exceptions. It’s the 30% cut that’s the issue, and something the company considers onerous. There’s also the issue with companies such as Google and Microsoft trying to put their Stadia and xCloud streaming services on iOS devices. Apple rejected both apps. Its argument is that they can’t regulate the content streamed on either service.
Meanwhile, “Fortnite” for Android has been removed from Google’s Play Store for similar reasons.
This isn’t the first time Epic Games has created waves on the financial side of the video games industry. Nearly two years ago, it created the Epic Games Store as a rival to Valve’s Steam service. Both are essentially app stores for PC gamers, which is how a majority of players buy games. Whereas Steam takes a 30% cut from a game’s revenue, Epic takes a 12% cut, giving more money to developers.
This “App Store war” as VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi puts it could have a larger impact on gaming than what goes on in consoles. If cloud gaming is the future, the challenge to open up iOS devices is going to have big ramifications. It could also rewrite how much platform holders take from developers who want to sell their games on the virtual stores.
In the bigger picture, it shows that video games are a bigger business than ever. While Hollywood and music festivals are suffering during the coronavirus pandemic, gaming has thrived and showed its resilience. While movie box office numbers have plummeted, gaming has posted record sales, according to a Yahoo Finance report.
The coronavirus is changing behavior and it could do so permanently as a generation of kids and young adults turn to video games instead of movies and live entertainment. It happens to be — pardon the pun — one of the few games in town.
With so much money on the line, Epic Game is aiming to upend how business will be done in the future as more games move over to these virtual store fronts.
©2020 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)