back to article Epic move: Judge says Apple can't revoke Unreal Engine dev tools, asks 'Where does the 30 per cent come from?'

A federal US judge questioned why Apple takes a 30 per cent slice of developer revenues as she ruled that while Apple cannot cut off Epic's access to iOS Unreal Engine development tools, she would not order the company to allow Fortnite to return to the App Store. In the eight-page order [PDF], Northern California district …

  1. The Indomitable Gall

    " consumers could choose when deciding to buy an Android device or an iPhone "

    Ah, that hoary old chestnut. The thing is, Apple went out of their way to push app developers to adopt a free-updates-for-life model, which doesn't benefit devs in any way whatsoever... Who benefits...? Well, Apple would say the consumer, but in the end it's Apple, because all of us with iOS devices are then actively discouraged from ever switching to Apple.

    I was given an iPad as a gift, bought some video and audio apps, and Pythonista, and then when I went to (finally) buy a smartphone, I bought the one I already owned the apps I wanted on... i.e. an iPhone.

    Switching to Android would be an expensive proposition, as suddenly I've got to reinvest in all of that.

    1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

      To be fair though, the "free updates for life" model is one that was pioneered by shareware authors and was quite common when the app store came out, it's not necessarily even a deliberate decision by Apple at the time, even if it turned out to be useful for them in the long run.

      1. The Indomitable Gall

        Apple actively discourage versions, and they deliberately built in no mechanism for license upgrades. It was a deliberate decision on their part.

        Just because shareware authors were doing it doesn't make it standard practice -- none of the major commercial houses were doing it.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          "Apple actively discourage versions, and they deliberately built in no mechanism for license upgrades. It was a deliberate decision on their part."

          I'm not sure about that. I've had several apps go that way. You're correct that Apple doesn't have a way to say "This update costs 4.99, pay or no more updates for you". However, you can easily (and people have) either release a free update which allows users to buy a newly-available thing via in-app purchase or stop updating the old app and release a new one. I have an app on my device which has not been updated for about two years. When you launch it, it cheerfully tells you to check out the company's new app for the same purpose and offers you a 20% discount on the purchase. I haven't bothered because I don't use the old one very much and it's still working with modern IOS but that company doesn't seem to have been prevented from doing this by Apple. If these apps can do this, maybe Apple isn't responsible for others choosing not to. It doesn't justify other things they do, including the 30% commission on things they have nothing to do with, but I don't see cause to blame them on the issue you're talking about.

          1. The Indomitable Gall

            When they first started, they expressly didn't want people doing the version number thing, and they deliberately did not build the infrastructure to facilitate purchasing of upgrades. In fact, I'm pretty sure they mandated no version numbers in app titles to begin with. What a lot of publishers ended up doing instead was using the "bundles" feature and creating a bundle of the new piece of software and the obsolete version so that you'd get a discount based on it subtracting the money you'd already spent on the old one from the cost of the new one. At the start, they did this by branding the new version as a new product rather than a version-number upgrade, and no, there was nothing Apple could do to stop them, so slowly they started letting people do the version number thing instead.

            Upgrade by in-app purchase is antisocial, as you're using your customers' storage space on things they can't use. I bought the Pinnacle Lite+Pro bundle (the same price as Pinnacle Pro on its own -- one of those upgrade workarounds) precisely because I was short of space on my iPad and couldn't afford the space for the full app with its filtering etc included, so only installed it when I specifically wanted to do the fancier stuff and just kept the Lite version on for occasional casual use. (Of course, it turned out the workflow was utterly awful, so I stopped using it entirely.)

        2. Equals42

          I disagree. There's nothing stopping a dev from releasing "MyApp 2019" and then updating to "MyApp 2020". While there's no built-in way to connect these two in the App Store, you can easily have an update to 2019 version to link folks to the new version to buy. I fail to see how it was any easier to upgrade a MacOS app back when you had to run down to the store to grab a box with a new CD or floppy containing the version.

          I'd personally rather have this constant version updating feature most of the time but if I like an app enough, I'll buy the next version if that's what they need to keep getting paid.

      2. DS999 Silver badge

        There are apps that charge for new versions

        Just as an example: Geekbench 4 and Geekbench 5 were separate versions, and you had to pay again to get Geekbench 5 even if you already had Geekbench 4.

        A lot of pay apps have gone to a yearly subscription model - the app I use for biking does, for instance. That avoids the need for "big" updates that have a lot of new features to justify charging again like in the PC model, which also avoids the breakage that often accompany such big updates.

        Just because the mobile app world doesn't follow the same rules as the PC application world doesn't mean it is bad. I think it is probably better all things considered. And developers seem to agree, given how much development they do in the mobile world and all the billions they are collecting (even with Apple and Google taking a 30% cut)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Switching to Android

      might be considered by some as 'out of the frying pan and into the fire'.

      I've considered switching to Android but Google's insatiable desire to snoop on our lives is what gets in the way of me taking the plunge.

      Yes, there are Android loads that are pretty well google slurp free but that requires searching them out and then sideloading it onto my phone and chucking the warranty into the bin.

      Apple has a walled garden but for many users who just want a phone that has some pretence of user security and works OOTB for them.

      Try explaining rooting and sideloading to the non techie user. All they want is a phone with the apps that they use and with the minimum of effort on their part.

      Apple Walled Garden and their 30%

      OR

      Google Slurp Fest and their 30%

      Oh what a hard decision?

      1. SteveCarr
        Trollface

        Re: Switching to Android

        And you assume (incorrectly, I might add) that Apple doesn't snoop on you?

        1. Tim99 Silver badge
          Big Brother

          Re: Switching to Android

          As far as we know, snooping is not their main business - People pay a very large amount of cash to Apple for their iPhondlers - Who pays Google? Advertisers and snoopers...

        2. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: Switching to Android

          Where is your evidence that Apple is "snooping on you"? I'm sure you'll point to something in the user agreement that gives them the right to collect information, but they have to collect SOME information, and lawyers will always insist on writing the broadest possible language for ass-covering reasons. What is important is that they have no financial incentive to collect every single scrap of information about who you are, where you are and what you are doing at every moment, who your friends are and on and on like Google and Facebook do, because they can't monetize that information since they aren't a huge ad broker like those two.

          I know, I know, Apple haters will say they collect that information anyway, ignoring that doing so has a real cost (beyond the problems of trying to market pro-privacy features while doing that) in the incredible volumes of storage required to maintain it, and CPU to process it and do something useful with it. So why spend money collecting data you can't monetize through advertising? I guess you think they do it just to be bastards?

          1. Martin-73

            Re: Switching to Android

            With Apple, doing it just to be bastards would be completely within their ethos.

        3. Stuart Castle Silver badge

          Re: Switching to Android

          You have proof that Apple is snooping? The reason I ask is that Apple have been very vocal about their privacy options that they'd likely destroy any reputation they have if they were caught snooping, and I'd wager there are enough hackers who hate Apple that any attempt at data slurping would be leaked all over the internet.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Switching to Android

            Unless they submit to the Huawei treatment and provide the source code for iOS, they won't be able to prove that they don't collect information that they shouldn't.

            And add the source code for their cloud infrastructure also...

            1. DS999 Silver badge

              Re: Switching to Android

              Huawei giving out source code doesn't prove they aren't spying, it only proves they provided source code that doesn't include spying. Is anyone compiling it and verifying it bit-identical to what is installed on the towers/phones/whatever? Are they giving out source code for every single update, and someone is verifying that also?

              People who demand proof of a negative are going to wait forever, because there is no way to prove such a thing.

              1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

                Re: Switching to Android

                Unfortunately, due to the complexity of compilers - and in particular, optimisation techniques - compiling the same source code on different computers doesn't necessarily create the same byte code out the other end. That's especially true if the compile time options aren't sett 100% identically.

                I recall reading a discussion about this some time ago, and at the time there was work going on to write tools that would deal with this problem.

                It is a big problem, and not new. I would signpost you to Ken Thompson's Turing Award acceptance speech in which he shows how to invisibly insert a backdoor into the Unix Login program - by hacking the C compiler to not only add the relevant backdoor code to the Login program, but also to add the relevant bits when it is used to compile the C compiler. And as he points out - the deeper things go, the harder to verify that such backdoors don't exist.

          2. Potemkine! Silver badge
        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Switching to Android

          The fact that they market and brand as privacy focussed and that Safari takes privacy measures early like Mozilla tell me that they aren't snooping.

          That and their terrible Maps and hopeless Siri.

          Show your evidence or declare your tin foil theories as such,

          1. PaymentGuy

            Re: Switching to Android

            "The fact that they market and brand as privacy focussed"

            They say they don't let *third parties* have access to your data. This is not the same thing at all.

            1. martynhare

              Re: Switching to Android

              How about the fact that Apple was one of the few companies who were willing to provide a copy of their database schema with descriptions for each field and justifications for data taken, when asked under GDPR?

              Also, source code means diddly squat if builds aren’t reproducible like how Debian (for example) does it. Also, the core of iOS is open source, it’s called Darwin and it is published as/when major iOS builds are released.

              Sure, it doesn’t include the GUI toolkits or the compositor (if it did, we wouldn’t need Wayland) but then Google Play Services and most basic Android apps shipped in proprietary releases aren’t available as open source any more either.

              We don’t have modern phones which are 100% FSF approved as only having Free Software...

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. PaymentGuy

        Re: Switching to Android

        "Google Slurp Fest and their 30%"

        Or an alternative app store; not an option iOS and potentially anti-competitive (I mean, it is, but not /yet/ legally speaking) - which is Epic's point.

      4. Wade Burchette Silver badge

        Re: Switching to Android

        You can block Google's slurp on an Android device with Blokada.

    3. Not Enough Coffee
      Pint

      I was looking to tinker with a new programming language and your mention of Pythonista made me check it out. It's exactly what I want, so thank you for mentioning it! It gives you a great programming environment and loads of examples. Cheers!

    4. SW12345

      The android equivalents of those apps you've bought are most likely free. Certainly the most popular Python IDE is.

    5. O RLY
      Pint

      Unrelated to the rest of the thread, thanks for the Pythonista recommendation. At least, I'm assuming it's a recommendation because you called the app out by name.

      Cheers

    6. Dan 55 Silver badge

      If there really were free updates for life, there would have been no 32-bit apps problem because they would have all been 64-bit by now anyway.

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Free updates for the life of the app, not for the life of the phone's owner.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          The life of the app is decided by the app developer. They could release something that works (until Apple changes stuff) and leave it at that or they could keep updating it, it's entirely up to them.

    7. Pier Reviewer

      " consumers could choose when deciding to buy an Android device or an iPhone "

      That is one dangerous argument for Apple! Can’t believe they used it to be honest. They must not have anything else that might have a chance of being accepted. I think they just walked into Epic’s trap.

      Yeah you can go to Android. And pay 30% commission there too. Two providers? Same high fees? Sounds awfully like a cartel...

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Meh

        Or that it is the market clearing price. It is not evidence either way.

      2. PaymentGuy

        "Yeah you can go to Android. And pay 30% commission there too."

        Or use a different app store. The point isn't how effective that would be, the point is that it's just not possible on Apple.

    8. Michael Habel Silver badge
      Meh

      As a googler I could argue more or less the same.

      Let us take the iPod killer Google Play Music... for example. Once upon a time in 2011 you could move your "Collection" of some 50,000 of your Songs to the Cloud + unlimited "purchases" of any additional Tracks, or Albums for free. For about the time Windwos X has been a thing so to has Youtube Music, and the inccessent nagging to peple to pay for a service that nobody had ever asked for.* For many years this was ignored, and now (I guess apperently fed up with freeloaders), they (Google), will be murdering Play Music, in favor of the total shityer verion of Youtube Music in about five weeks time.

      So you wanna speak to me of invstments? Do you know how much an empy vintage 4 bay NAS is? let alone the cost of filling it. Oh yeah there is also the endless hours of pure joy renaming, and retaging all of my *mp3's

      Its almost enough to make me switch over to Apple... But, then Apple Music, isn't ye old iTunes either. So I guess that will be about a 100$ for aPlex pass to basicly host my own system in a fashion that I've bee used to for nearly a decade now.

      *THANKS crAPPLE, Spotify ect...

  2. chivo243 Silver badge
    Happy

    Big Bowl

    Popcorn, waiting... Interesting times!

  3. Jay 2

    A pox on both their houses etc

    Whilst 30% is a fair chunk of change, it's not as if Epic didn't know what they were getting into with both Apple and Google's walled app flogging garden.

    But what it ultimately comes down to is that such companies are not happy with some of the the money, they want ALL of the money.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: A pox on both their houses etc

      You come close to blaming the victim for the crime here.

      Apple and Google are a duopoly in mobile phones. Both suspiciously charge exactly the same rate to sell software from their app stores.

      In Apple's case you can't load apps in other ways. In Google's it is possible, but the mechanism for doing it is buried in a sub-menu somewhere.

      If you wish to sell to the mobile gaming market therefore your choices are extremely limited. Either build your self a mobile device (like Nintendo) or sell into the app stores of the monopoly providers.

      1. msobkow Bronze badge

        Re: A pox on both their houses etc

        Neither is a "victim". They're both obscenely rich organizations greedily battling over the pennies 'cause they're not satisfied with the $100 bills they already collect.

        A pox upon them both for their greed.

      2. Eponymous Howard

        Re: A pox on both their houses etc

        ***Apple and Google are a duopoly in mobile phones.***

        But not in gaming, not even close. And what do the other players in the gaming sector charge to get on this consoles..? Well, blow me down with a feather, it is exactly what Apple and Google charge.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: A pox on both their houses etc

          Eponymous Howard,

          Then they might be monopolists too. I've got to be honest, I know bugger all about modern console gaming, I've never had a console and its years since any of my friends have used them either - so I'm totally out of touch.

          In the old days of console gaming you could buy a CD/DVD and then not have to pay any percentage to use the app store. Given that all modern games seem to come with bugs that need patching (not to mention downloadable content), I'm not sure if that's true any more.

          Also do they take their cut of subscriptions if done directly through the company - rather than via the app store?

          In the case of Android, it's clear. Google used the profits from their search/advertising monopoly to spend umpty billion dollars and developing Android and then giving it away free. And successfully drove all paid-for OSes out of business in the mobile market. Apple, of course, don't sell their OS either, they're an integrated hardware and software company. Should it be a surprise that Google now charge monopoly prices in their newly created monopoly?

          Technical note: I believe the legal word is monopoly. Anybody with control of a market and over 30%-odd market share can be determined to be a monopolist. In an economics class you'd call Apple and Google a duopoly.

          1. Michael Habel Silver badge

            Re: A pox on both their houses etc

            What exactly does the Android OS have to do with the PlayStore? Google G-Suit of GAPPs don't really coun't to Android as a whole. Though, they were, and are (for some), a value proposition. But, there is little in the way from anyone snaging the latest AOSP code, and forking it to something like say EMUI (As our good friends at Huwaei have done), albeit now with 100% less GAPPs. Which I gather gives them a shot at building their own 30% emporiom.

            Then there's that Crackbery re-brand, that will also use this trick... Again because building "A Secure" OS, is likely harder, then rounding off the corners of a rectangle. So if the current "App Stores" do not meet with Epics' approval... Then let them go make their own.

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: A pox on both their houses etc

              Michael Habel,

              What exactly does the Android OS have to do with the PlayStore?

              Because Android without the Play Store component doesn't contain half of what the users would consider to be core parts of the system. And what used to be in the system, and has since been moved into the Play Store module by Google. Possibly partially as a way to get updates to users for important core bits of the OS - to get round the OEMs crapness at doing this. But also probably to give Google more control - and make the open source version less attractive.

              However you can run other app stores, even on stock Android. It's a buried setting, but that's not an unreasonable design/security choice.

              However Google's Play Store are still a monopoly.

              Having a monopoly is perfectly legal. It's just an expression of a market state in which a player has excessive power in the market - as Google and Apple clearly do in mobile gaming.

              Abusing a monopoly is not allowed. Which means setting prices that are too high and using the barriers to entry to the market to stop competition from under-cutting you. 30% is an awfully high cut for what is essentially payment processing and file hosting. Although if that's standard across the industry then regulators will either have to say it's fine, or start having a go at Steam, the console makers etc.

              Obviously profits have to be provably excess in order to prove this, it's a high bar to regulators doing something. Athough I believe on sign of this is when competitors have the exact same price, and also when prices are non-negotiable - as normally bigger companies get discounts for bulk. So if everyone's paying 30% that's also a sign of a potential monopoly.

              The other thing you're not supposed to be allowed to do is to set prices too low, in order to leverage your excess monopoly profits in one market to take over another. Hence Microsoft were found guilty by the EU of killing Netscape Navigator with Windows profits subsidising free Internet Explorer. That's clearly what Google did with Android - but even if found guilty (like Microsoft) it will be too late to save competition in phone OSes. That ship has sailed.

      3. Michael Habel Silver badge

        Re: A pox on both their houses etc

        As the Cat from CrApple stated you (The Consumer), are free to pick up the device of your choise. As to their respective "Stores", perhaps crApple need a smack up the backside of their head. but, ultimitly I concure to the fact that they have the right to run thier "Stores" however they so wish to. If Epic don't like it well BOOO HOOO... Let Epic enter the Mobile Market with some AOSP clone, like everyone else, with their own "exclusive" store front where they can rake off nothing less then 100% of the cost post VAT.

        1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

          Re: A pox on both their houses etc

          The bit you've missed there is that starting up a new phone business does not help one little bit in selling your wares to Apple users.

          I know car analogies are usually rubbish - and TBH this one is no better. But I'll give it a go.

          So lets say we have two big car manufacturers, who for historical reasons have virtually all of the market between them. Lets just pick two big names, say Ford and GM. Lets assume that, like the phone market, the competitors have near enough disappeared.

          The big difference here is that there's no real roadblock to another manufacturer (say Tesla) setting up - because unlike phones, people buy cars for the car, they don't buy them for the games they can play on the in-car infotainment system (yet). It's this bit that makes the analogy so rubbish - but bear with me.

          So you can buy a Ford which will run loads of games and other applications. You can buy a GM which also runs loads of games and applications. But if you buy some little known Korean car, then you find you can't get most of the games or applications you'd like to run on it - or at least it's so complicated getting them installed that you can't deal with the hassle.

          So here we are, Ford can correctly say that if you don't like Ford's policies, you can buy GM. And GM can say you can buy a Ford. But either way, you are stuck with policies that are to all intents identical - basically you can use your car in the way Ford or GM say you can.

          You bought a Ford. Ford dictate what petrol you can use, and take a cut from the petrol company. They dictate what GPS system you can use, and take a cut from that - but what's more, they can dictate that the GPS provider can't include certain roads that Ford says you can't use. You have to have your Ford serviced at a Ford approved main dealer, using Ford approved parts, and using Ford approved consumables. If you want to add accessories such a tow bar or bike carrier (and this is probably where the analogy comes even close), then you can only use ones Ford approves and ... you've guessed it, Ford takes a 30% cut.

          You could argue that 30% is a fair cut for handling the issue of getting your bike carrier or other accessory to the main dealer and then to you. But when you have fitted your bike carrier, you find there are optional extras - say specialised clips to hold certain bikes. You can't go direct to the bike carrier manufacturer - yep, you've guessed it you have to go to Ford who take a 30% cut. And Ford have put "technical measures" in place to stop you going direct - try fitting a non-aproved device and the car stops working.

          Daft as it may seem, for those of you with a short memory, this isn't all that far from how car manufacturers used to operate. While they didn't put any technical measures in place, so you could fit a third party bike carrier without the car stopping working, they would completely void all warranties unless you serviced your car at a main dealer, using genuine parts, and approved consumables. Needless to say the reasons they gave for this were "for the consumers' own protection" - only genuine parts are safe and all that sort of thing. BMW did go the technical route in as much as they introduced their famous service light - as you drove, the computer would work out how fast you were "using up" the service interval and put a light on when a service was due - and guess what, for a while you could only reset the light by having a service at a BMW main dealer. And as electronics started getting more common, all the manufacturers had proprietary systems which were only made available to their own dealer networks.

          In the EU at least, TPTB decided that the safety arguments just didn't cut it, and ended the closed shop. So Ford cannot now insist that you only have your new Ford serviced at a Ford main dealer - and they are required to make diagnostics info available to others, as well as using a standardised diagnostics connector. And guess what, from my limited experience (I've never owned a car new enough for that to be a consideration), the main dealers had to compete with independents and are no longer as highly priced (relative to the independents) as they used to be. But the bigger change is that other garages can diagnose issues that once were restricted to main dealers only.

          So yes, while the analogy is rather rubbish - there are parallels. And the arguments that "it's for the users' benefit' is/was equally invalid for both phones and cars.

  4. lglethal Silver badge
    Trollface

    Hmmm

    The judge seemed quite reasonable there. Epic broke the Appstore rules, so they are kicked out of there. All fair. Epic did not break the Xcode rules, so they should NOT have been kicked out of there.

    A decidedly balanced and sane judgement. Who is this woman and how did she get into that courtroom??? Quick arrest her for impersonating a judge!!!! Fair and balanced judgements!?! In the USA!?!?! Not on my watch...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmmm

      Hmmmmmmmmmmm indeed

    2. First Light Silver badge

      Re: Hmmm

      At federal court level, sane and balanced judges have been the norm until the current WH occupant. Remember that the Republicans deliberately refused to work with Obama to fill federal judicial vacancies in the hope that they would get to stack the benches with right -wing judges under a Republican Prez. They got their wish, and those judges will be causing damage for a few decades .

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Hmmm

        Putting right wing judges on the bench isn't a problem. That has been happening under republican presidents for decades. The difference is that previously you needed 60 votes in the Senate to confirm them, so you couldn't appoint someone who was too far right or far left because they wouldn't be confirmed. Nor could you nominate someone the ABA considered unqualified, neither party would support such a candidate.

        Since when the republicans decided obstruction was the best way to oppose Obama they refused to consider any of his nominees so they couldn't get over the 60 vote hurdle. In response, the democrats who then controlled the Senate changed the rules so it required a simple majority. They still nominated relatively reasonable judges (i.e. not far left wing) so things proceeded pretty normally until republicans took control of the Senate and obstructed again.

        When Trump went into office they realized they could pack the courts with far right wing crazies, even ones who the ABA deemed unqualified, and pick ones who are really young so they are around for decades. That's what damage is being done.

        If Biden wins and democrats retake the senate (which is almost certain to happen if Biden wins) then the shoe is on the other foot and no doubt democrats will do the same thing appointing far left wing judges who are also young (I kind of hope he nominates AOC as a judge just to see Sean Hannity's head explode - the lack of law degree hasn't stopped republican approval of some of Trump's picks)

        If Trump wins but democrats take the senate, I expect they will not allow him to appoint any judges, and he'll whine and cry and be a petulant child about it as usual and ignore that the reason he was able to nominate so many judges was Mitch McConnell doing the same to Obama. Turnabout is fair play.

        1. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge
          Joke

          Re: Hmmm

          Remember that "left-wing" in the USA is "centrist" in Europe...

          1. Michael Habel Silver badge

            Re: Hmmm

            And, you wonder why Europe is becoming such a sh--thole? Well, at least you lot managed to save yourselves at the 11th hour.

  5. msobkow Bronze badge

    They should have let Apple block Unreal Engine and deal with the plethora of lawsuits from App developers who aren't affiliated with Epic.

    Only with that kind of repercussions or a court order will Apple ever change their ways.

  6. Poncey McPonceface
    Coat

    Is it 30% across the board?

    To my mind small dev shops should pay less tax, is is the case with progressive tax regimes – a flat tax is quite unfair, no?

    [icon is Apple relieving you of a chunk of your earnings]

    1. Glen 1 Silver badge

      Re: Is it 30% across the board?

      As with other progressive taxes - The ones at the top don't see it as those less able paying less, they see it as *them* paying *more*...

      Along with cries of "Why should *I* be penalised for being more successful?"

      See also that Question Time segment where a bloke earning £80K (top 5% of earners in the UK) thought of himself as "not even top 50%" (median income in UK is about £25k)

      Link

      Sidenote: sort of how Epic themselves only charge Unreal Engine royalties after the first $1 million of revenue.

  7. DS999 Silver badge

    There's a big flaw in Epic's argument

    They want Apple to be ruled as a monopoly because they are the gatekeeper to selling apps for iOS. If Epic was a mobile app developer who sold only iOS and Android games maybe they'd have an argument - there are really only two places to sell your mobile apps so while not a monopoly the two are a duopoly.

    But Epic also sells Fortnite on PC, Mac, Xbox, PS4 and maybe other places (Switch, etc.?) so the iOS revenue for Fortnite is a small percentage overall. I don't see how they make the argument they are trying to make when they sell the SAME game across so many platforms, which demonstrates that Apple isn't exercising control that excessively damages Epic's business.

    It would be like if a tire company was somehow prevented offering tires for Teslas without licensing some proprietary feature that let it maintain tires at optimal pressure or something like that which added 30% to the cost. It would be difficult for them to argue that Tesla was exercising monopoly control when they could sell tires for all the rest of the automotive market.

    I think the chances of success for such a suit would be much higher for a mobile only developer, or especially an iOS only developer (though they might be asked why they don't offer their products on Android) that sells products that can't work on a PC (i.e. requires GPS, MEMS or other stuff that phones have and PCs don't)

    1. Kimo

      Re: There's a big flaw in Epic's argument

      That depends on what they determine at trial to be the appropriate definition of the market. All gaming devices is too broad. All mobile and desktop devices is also probably too broad. I expect the fight will come down to mobile devices, with the option down to is iOS a market, or is iOS+Android the correct market? Apple will go for the wider definition, while Epic will cite the impossibility of moving paid content between devices as creating two separate markets.

      Just because Epic can and does sell in other markets does not mean that Apple can use a monopoly to take advantage of their market.

      1. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge

        Re: There's a big flaw in Epic's argument

        One of the thing to take into account in this case is:

        If you play Fortnite can you use the same account on all the platforms (1), or do you need to create an account per platform (2)?

        If (1): can you use any purchase performed on platform A when playing on platform B?

        If the answer is yes, there is no problem.

        If the answer is no, how does the platform operator justifies this restriction to customers rights?

        If (2): is the restriction imposed by the game developer (2.1) or the platform operator (2.2)?

        If (2.1), there is no problem.

        If (2.2), how does the platform operator justifies the restriction to customers rights?

  8. MOV r0,r0

    Free Stuff

    Judge, "Not even Epic Games gives away its products for free"

    The base Fortnite game is free to play and of the 103 commercial games in my Epic launcher, I've paid for precisely four (plus one set of DLC). Not only do Epic give (some) of their products away for free, they pay others to give theirs away for free too.

    1. DryBones

      Re: Free Stuff

      And lose money hand over fist, right?

      No? Hmm. Maybe they're not actually giving it away?

      1. AVR

        Re: Free Stuff

        There's ways for games to be free and make money; I don't know what Epic does exactly but one simple way is to market extra features which cost a packet, so the whales pay for the free users. That can easily blend into the whales enjoying easy wins over the free user peons (pay-to-win), it's not that this necessarily makes for a good game.

        1. Michael Habel Silver badge

          Re: Free Stuff

          Yes these are usually what have colloquially been termed as Microtransactions. a.k.a pay-to-win., or fruit machine mechanics. (e.g. casino gambling). Stuff that no sane person should have to ever waste their money on ever.

      2. MOV r0,r0

        Re: Free Stuff

        If I give something to you for free it doesn't matter whether I make or lose money doing so, I've still given it away for free. The judge wrongly stated that Epic don't give stuff away for free when they very definitely do and they even give other people's stuff away for free but by now I'm re-typing my original message - it would have been so much easier for all concerned if you'd have read and understood it.

  9. Watty-7

    30% is less than the 70% cut wholesalers and retailers take from physical game sales...

    Ok - there’s a strong argument that there is no competition in the Apple and Google App stores. But don’t forget the cut they take is based on their distribution network and reach. Revenue for digital distribution is higher than physical store sales and at the same time the margin that developers receive is higher in this model.

    Does that make it fair? Maybe, maybe not. But as Marx told us, seize both the means of production and distribution. The question should be ‘should Apple control distribution in their ecosystem’. Developers and consumers are already better off with Apple’s digital distribution than they were with physical stores or media. Consumers also have more choice as independent developers can thrive more easily. Do the benefits of Apple’s walled garden outweigh the costs of developers margin control?

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: 30% is less than the 70% cut wholesalers and retailers take from physical game sales...

      Yep just ask product managers how much getting Walmart to stock your product on their shelves is worth. They'd happily give Walmart a larger than 30% cut because being on Walmart's shelves will increase your revenue and visibility immeasurably.

      Companies argue that Apple should take a smaller cut than physical retailers because they don't have to physically stock shelves and "shelf space" isn't a limited resource. The benefits of increased revenue and visibility still apply though, and if it was worth 30%+ (or even as high as 70% as you suggest) on physical shelves it doesn't stop being worth that much just because technology has allowed reducing cost on the retailer's end.

  10. Kevin Fairhurst

    The “Apple take 30%” thing is a lie

    Same with Google. You can buy ITunes & Google Store cards from supermarkets, often at a 5-10% discount. So for every £1 you might only be paying 90p, and after Morrison’s take their cut Apple might only get 85p. They then have to have the data centre capacity to host not just your app but hundreds of thousands of others (& videos & music & podcasts etc), around the world with failover & redundancy in place to make sure that even on Christmas morning, little Tommy can buy your fart app for his new iToy.

    The thing is, that ain’t cheap, and given the plethora of free apps, they have to make that back through paid for apps & services.

    Just because the app developer only sees 70p in the £ does not mean that Apple is making 30p profit for every £ spent on the App Store.

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