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Epic v. Apple Trial Background and Highlights from Week 1

There’s a lot to unpack here. Well, last week was certainly interesting and it was hard to keep up. So if you had trouble staying up...

There’s a lot to unpack here.

Well, last week was certainly interesting and it was hard to keep up. So if you had trouble staying up to date on everything that happened, I hope this article helps!

But what about Epic v. Google? We’re aware that Fortnite was also pulled from the Play Store since games are required to use Google’s in-app purchase methods if the app is listed on their storefront. However the situation is much different, since Android allows you to sideload other app stores or even just the APKs themselves. This article is just focused on everything with Apple, since that’s being heard in court (bench trial) right now.

Since this is our first time looking at the case, let’s start with the basics of this case and anything else that is slightly related to get caught up with what’s happening:

Who is Epic: Epic Games is best known for developing Fortnite and their own storefront, the Epic Games Store. They also develop, maintain, and license Unreal Engine which hundreds of games (if not more) use.

Who is Apple: Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) is a company who creates products such as the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV, and Apple Watch. They also maintain two notable services: a proprietary payment processor known as Apple Pay, and a large digital apps/games storefront known simply as the App Store.

Before Epic v. Apple: Apple requires apps and games to use its proprietary payment processor, Apple Pay, to allow in-app purchases on (basically) all of its platforms. Most notably, Apple takes a 30% cut of all purchases that are made using the processor, which Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has openly criticized. In August 2020, Epic Games intentionally circumvented this requirement to implement their own payment processor which boasted a roughly 20% savings for players.

Epic filed suit against Apple immediately thereafter, after releasing a video online titled “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite” (embedded below) and launching a #FreeFortnite campaign on their website.

Apple, knowing that Epic had circumvented their requirement, pulled Fortnite from the App Store and stated they’d be terminating their developer program license. This effectively meant that developers using Unreal Engine to power apps on iOS would lose their apps as well. Epic filed for an injunction on this and won, on the basis that it would affect too many developers.

Alright, it’s recap time:

Week 1 started off with opening statements and the beginning of calls for witness testimony. Here’s what each side is arguing (summaries were adapted from the article by Chance Miller over at 9to5Mac).

Epic Games’ Argument

“Epic kicked things off [last Monday] with its opening statement, [focused] on painting Apple and the App Store as a monopolistic and anti-competitive ecosystem that fails to offer the benefits to consumers that Apple touts.”

Apple’s Argument

“[…] Apple [was focused] heavily on “Project Liberty,” which is what Epic internally refers to as its strategy to publicly skirt the App Store and portray Apple ‘as the bad guy.’ Its opening statement [last Monday] also highlighted that Epic CEO Tim Sweeney reached out privately to Microsoft to give the company a heads up about “an extraordinary opportunity” for consoles and PCs.

“Apple also argued in its opening statements that Epic is arguing that Apple should turn iOS into Android, giving up its own competitive advantage, by allowing third-party app stores and payment processing solutions. Apple also pointed out that Epic asked for a special side deal from the company before launching the Project Liberty campaign.”

What you need to know from Week 1

  • Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney described the metaverse, “a real-time, computer-powered 3D entertainment and social medium in which real people would go into a 3D simulation together and have experiences of all sorts,” a term he uses to describe what Fortnite is. [source]
  • It seems that defining what a game is and isn’t is hard work. The judge and several witnesses did not understand the distinction between an app and game. This article from The Verge sums up the entire exchange well.
  • An email made public due to the trial revealed that an executive at Apple, Phil Schiller, floated the idea of toning down the 30% cut Apple takes from purchases using its processor as far back as 2011. He asked if it would last forever, attaching a WSJ article from, well, 2011 to the email. It has stayed the same for the nearly 10 years after that email was sent. [source]
  • Apple used “offensive and sexualized content” on itch.io’s platform to . The lawyer told Epic Games Store general manager Steven Allison that the content (apps/games) on itch.io was “so offensive we cannot speak about [it] here.” For context, itch.io was just added to the Epic Games Store storefront days prior to the trial starting. [source]

Whew! That was a lot of info to type out to give to you, but it concludes this background and recap story. Week 2 of the Epic v. Apple trial begins shortly, and of course if anything new comes, we’ll write about it. Thanks for reading!