Epic vs. Apple, and also Valve for Some Reason

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Mar 10, 2021

Filed under: Column 78 comments

You might remember that last year Epic Games decided to pick a fight with Apple. Epic’s gripe was that Apple used their monopolistic power over the AppStore to make themselves an even BIGGER monopoly. The idea is that if you put an app / game on the App Store, then you MUST use their store for all financial transactions. Furthermore, by using their store you end up surrendering 30% of your income to them.

Now, a few details on this are still a bit hazy to me. I heard many claims that Apple tries to extend their control to other platforms. So if you’re based on iOS, then they want 30% of ALL transactions, even ones on Android devices. On the other hand, I’ve heard other people say this claim is nonsense, and other people claim it’s true, except Apple makes exceptions for large partners. Maybe my search skills are inadequate, but I couldn’t find a definitive answer to this. All I could find were merry-go-round flame wars between randos in the comments. If you’ve got a definitive (or at least authoritative) answer to all this, please drop a link in the comments.

It should go without saying, but I am not a lawyer. I do not give legal advice, and I’m not trying to. Also, this is not intended to be news or serious analysis. I’m not telling you the news, this is just me yelling at the television while the news is on.

Anyway, before we explain how Valve Software comes into this, let’s talk about where this all started…

Epic Fires the First Shot

I found this during a random image search and I thought it was too perfectly stupid not to share. I can't even tell if it's critical of Epic, or mocking people who are critical of Epic. I can't tell if the horrible photoshopping is the result of ineptitude, of if that's part of the joke. I love it.
I found this during a random image search and I thought it was too perfectly stupid not to share. I can't even tell if it's critical of Epic, or mocking people who are critical of Epic. I can't tell if the horrible photoshopping is the result of ineptitude, of if that's part of the joke. I love it.

In an effort to break free of Apple’s 30% lamprey, Epic deliberately violated Apple’s TOS by inserting their own storefront into Fortnite on iOS.

Predictably, Apple banned Fortnite for this. Epic then responded with a lawsuit they’d already queued up in anticipation for this move. (The same thing also happened between Epic and Google, but the Apple fight is the exciting part of the story and the fight with Google is mostly the same conflict but with less public interest. So let me acknowledge the stuff with Google and then shove it off to one side to keep this simple.)

So the stage was set for our big Epic vs. Apple matchup. However, both sides made some dumb moves that got everything off on the wrong foot.


Link (YouTube)

Epic tried to push this narrative that they were somehow defending the industry. This included the Nineteen-Eighty Fortnite campaign and the #FreeFortnite hashtag. These were a cute gesture, but to the audience it just looked like a corporation was asking us to help them in their crusade to make more money. That’s not entirely accurate, but to the vast majority of gamers, that’s what it sounded like. Imagine if Gillette began a lawsuit to force grocery stores to take smaller margins so Gillette could make more money, and they launched a #FreeTheRazer campaign. Why would the consumer care about this back-office contract bickering. “Look, I just want to give you five bucks for this chunk of metal and plastic to stop my face from being so dang hairy. I don’t care how you idiots divvy up my fiver.”

In response, I reminded everyone that Epic isn’t the hero in this story.


Link (YouTube)

Meanwhile, Apple decided to kill some peasants so everyone would realize they’re the bad guys and they mean business. They didn’t just boot Epic off their store, they blocked everyone who used Epic’s engine. This means they banned a bunch of small-time developers who never broke Apple’s TOS and had no control over Epic’s behavior. I think this was supposed to put the squeeze on Epic by making these indies pressure Epic to quit being so dang rebellious and get back in line with everyone else. It… didn’t do that. It was basically a gratuitous show of power that kinda proved Epic’s point about Apple’s abusive nature.

At this point, I stopped following the story. I knew the big showy PR moments were over and we’d have months of procedural court paper-filing and testimony-taking before anything new happened. So I decided to put the whole thing on the back burner until we got some headlines telling us who won.

But then I ran across this video from Richard Hoeg, managing partner of Hoeg Law, a Michigan-based law firm. That video brought me up to speed on this story and what’s been going on for the last six months, and how Valve got dragged into all this. But before we can talk about Valve, we need to talk about the fact that…

Apple’s Strategy is a Bit Crazy

Other platforms sell your data to companies that want to control you and get your money. At Apple, you can trust that we'll be the only company controlling you and taking your money.
Other platforms sell your data to companies that want to control you and get your money. At Apple, you can trust that we'll be the only company controlling you and taking your money.

Apparently, Apple’s plan to counteract the charges of “Monopoly” is to broaden the definition of the market they’re in. This initially makes sense. Before we can decide if something is a monopoly or not, we have to figure out how much market control it has, and to do that we have to define what the market is.

StuffMart is a department store with locations all over California and New Mexico. MegaMart is a department store with locations all over New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Are these stores competing with each other?

Alice: Obviously! They’re in the same business, therefore they compete with each other.

Bob: Obviously NOT! There are 2,500 miles between the regions these stores operate in. If a customer doesn’t like StuffMart they can’t just walk across the street and try MegaMart.

Even in the clear-cut world of brick-and-mortar stores, this can get a little hazy. How close do two stores have to be before they’re legitimately competing with each other? How much overlap in their goods & services is required before they’re competing? What about a warehouse-style wholesaler vs. an upscale boutique? Even if they both sell the same type of goods, are those competing against each other in a meaningful way?

Now imagine taking that same ambiguity and translating it to the world of digital goods where products are tied to digital platforms, which are often tied to physical devices, which are shaped by their intended purpose. Phones and tablets are different from laptops and PCs, which are different from gaming consoles. But there are a lot of blurry lines between tablets and laptops, and other blurry lines between consoles and PCs. This looks like a straightforward argument, but if your lawyers are clever / diligent / malicious enough, they can argue for almost anything.

Anyway, Apple is looking to define their market. Here are some options they could choose:

Narrow: Apple’s market is just iPhone users. If Apple makes it so that they’re the only ones allowed to buy & sell and all transactions must go through them, then they are the worst sort of monopoly. Not only do they control everything, but they’ve used their power to make it impossible for anyone to attempt to compete with them. (This is the position that Epic is coming from.)

Slightly Broader: Apple’s market is the general mobile market. If you find Apple too restrictive or if you think their prices are too high, then you’re always free to switch to an Android device. In this argument, Apple is effectively the smaller half of a stable duopoly. If you’re curious about the balance between iOS and Android markets, then it’s worth checking out this video from Andrew Huang. Apparently it’s far better to sell certain things on iOS because iOS users are (obviously) willing to spend more for things. Android devices comprise 71% of the market, but Android users are generally not big spenders. Meanwhile, the iOS market is full of people willing to tolerate Apple’s obnoxious price-gouging shenanigans. Those people are used to paying $50 for a $7 proprietary cable that should have been USB to begin with. If they’re willing to put up with that sort of thing, then it’s not hard to get them to cough up an extra $10 for an app or whatever.


Link (YouTube)

Hilariously Broad: Apple’s market is “people who buy digital goods”. Don’t like the AppStore? Just switch to GooglePlay, Steam, the Playstation Store, or any of the other platforms for totally different products on totally different platforms designed for a totally different set of users with totally different needs.

I think aiming for the second definition is a slam-dunk. It makes sense and it lets Apple claim they’re not a monopoly at all because they’re actually just 21% of the mobile market. If you’re looking for a nice, safe counter to Epic’s arguments then it seems like this is the way to go. But instead, Apple is arguing for the last one, claiming that their digital store on their hermetically sealed platform is somehow competing with Valve’s PC Gaming Wild-West because they’re both selling digital goods. That’s a much tougher sell.

And this is where Valve finally enters the picture…

Valve

Remember when we thought this was going to be a thing? Good times.
Remember when we thought this was going to be a thing? Good times.

Apple, wanting to show how their AppStore is just a tiny boat in a large ocean, decided to get some numbers to show how large the ocean is. So  they sent a subpoena to Valve, asking them for detailed info on Valve’s entire 30,000 title catalog. This includes all titles that have ever appeared on the platform, what countries they sold in, and at what price.

Think about what a monumental pain in the ass this is. That’s a staggering volume of information. It’s not like Valve just has a single database they can dump. They probably have one database for transactions, another for products, another for users, another for partners, another for discount eventsSteam Summer Sale et al. and so on. Valve is going to need to cross-reference a lot of different databases to get Apple the information they’re demanding.

Worse, remember back when you could own a game and NOT add it to your library? Like, you could buy a game and add it to your inventory, and then later you could either give it to a friend or add it to your own library? This is no longer possible and I imagine it led to a secondary market of speculators that bought games during sales and then resold them when the product returned to normal price. Anyway, how do you handle this when responding to this subpoena? If my account is based in Canada, I buy a game while travelling in Budapest, and three years later I gift it to my buddy in Singapore, then what country was the game “sold” in? The point of sale and delivery are disconnected. When you’re in the position of Valve, you really want to know the EXACT specifications of the requested data before you dump tons of manhours into collecting it.

What about banned accounts? What about canceled transactions due to credit card fraud? What about the non-trivial number of people who bought the game using an IP address in country A, and then downloaded it from country B to circumvent some local censorship nonsense?

Essentially, Apple handed Valve a very annoying and expensive homework assignment. A reasonable person can make lots of objections to this:

  1. Hey, this is proprietary company information! I’m not going to just hand over our accounting books because you want them. (Courts can give certain documents special treatment so they aren’t available to the public, but the data would HAVE to be freely available to both Apple and Epic. And Epic actually IS competing directly with Steam. Apple is attempting to force Valve to surrender critical data to a rival company.) This creates a strong incentive for Valve to fight the Subpoena.
  2. This is a lot of work. It will take weeks to gather and verifyYou really don’t want to send incorrect data to a Judge! all of this data. Nobody is offering to compensate Valve for their time, which means that this creates a strong incentive for Valve to fight the Subpoena.
  3. It’s not clear why Apple needs this. If Apple just wants some general numbers to show how big “their industry” is, then they can ask for harmless, non-secret, bottom-of-the-spreadsheet numbers that Valve already has lying around. Why ask for the whole book if all you need is the last page? Moreover, Apple is asking for a monumentally large dataset. Are their lawyers really going to sit around reading this? Are they asking for this because they need it, or because the Apple legal team doesn’t know what it needs and so they’re just asking for everything because they’re not going to bear the cost of collecting it? Since there’s no explanation for why Apple needs this volume and complexity of data, this creates a strong incentive for Valve to fight the Subpoena. 
  4. Hang on, is Valve’s business even relevant to the business between Epic and Apple? Imagine if your neighbor sued his boss, and during the suit one of them sent you a subpoena demanding a stack of paperwork that it would take you several nights of work to complete. Since the suit doesn’t involve you, you’d want an explanation for why you should spend so much of your time and effort on this. From where I sit, Valve’s platform isn’t really relevant to AppStore users. However, Apple’s argument is that this information will help them prove that it is relevant. This feels a bit like putting the cart before the horse. “Do all of this work for free, and when you’re done it will prove that it made sense for you to do all this work.” This seems like it would create a strong incentive for Valve to fight the Subpoena.

So Apple makes a large demand of Valve, and their request is made in such an obnoxiously overbearing way that it’s made Valve obstinate. Valve is now filing motions, trying to block this subpoena. At one point the court agreed with Valve and reduced the list from all 30,000 games to <500 relevant titles, but it sounds like Valve are still fighting.

My guess – which I can’t prove or even substantiate with facts but this is my blog and I can pollute it with my opinions as much as I want – is that if Apple had just made a reasonable request for a limited set of data that could have been gathered in a single workday, then Valve would have shrugged and provided the data rather than picking a fight with the world’s leading inventor and seller of overpriced proprietary adapters.  However, Apple formed their demand in such a way so that Valve had to bring in their lawyers. And once their lawyers were going, it was natural to use them to stonewall Apple. Maybe Valve is just doing this to give them the finger for being such jerks. Or maybe this is a self-defensive move. Given how thoughtless Apple is, giving them what they want now might result in bigger demands next week.

Once again, it looks like Apple is just trampling over everyone else’s business in an effort to punish Epic.

Conjecture: If Apple just gets the bottom-of-the-ledger numbers from Valve, then that’s all they have to work with. On the other hand, if they get a massive multi-gigabyte database dump, they’ll have lots of room to massage those numbers in whatever way suits them. They can pick and choose from the data to focus on facts that favor their case and excise data they feel shouldn’t count because [$EXCUSE].

Additional Conjecture: Wouldn’t the above strategy just result in a bunch of haggling over the data and arguing over how it should be interpreted? Sure. But that makes the case take longer, and anything that delays the game favors the richer company. Epic is worth $17 billion, so for the $2 trillion Apple every delay just makes them stronger. Apple can look across the table at Epic and say, “We can dump a million bucks a week into this case for the next 38,000 years. Can you?”

(To clarify: Net worth does not equal available cash. If your house is worth $100k, that doesn’t mean you have $100k laying around to spend. But hopefully you get what I’m saying about the relative size of these companies.)

The Epic Showdown!

Round 1... FIGHT!
Round 1... FIGHT!

And so Apple decides to awaken the sleeping giant and tangle with the market-dominating Valve. WHO WILL WIN THIS EPIC CLASH? WILL THE EARTH CRACK WITH THE WEIGHT OF THEIR FURY? CAN APPLE HANDLE THIS INDUSTRY TITAN!?!?

Actually, yeah. It’s not even a big deal.

Valve isn’t publicly traded, but industry experts”Professional guessers”. appraise the company to be worth $3 billion. That’s a stunning amount of money.  That much cash would be enough to buy seven hundred and fifty million Big MacsYes, I’m sloppily conflating “net worth” with “liquid assets”, which I mentioned above is an accounting foul. To actually get the $3 billion for the Big Macs, you’d have to SELL the company. I hope you’re hungry!. On the other hand, apparently it’s not quite enough to develop Half-Life 3.

For comparison, Apple is worth 2 trillion. That means that, within a rounding error, Apple is 1,000 times bigger than Valve.

Imagine 1,000 Valve Softwares. 1,000 Gabe Newels. 1,000 Monolithic PC-dominating platformsNot sure how you can have 1,000 of a thing and have them all be the biggest, but then this entire analogy is insane anyway so just go with it. called Steam. If you stacked up all of those Valve Softwares, then you’d finally have something in Apple’s weight classAnd maybe you could finally blah blah blah Half-Life 3..

If ValveThe regular one, not the ×1,000 one. went head-to-head in court, Apple could use their extreme wealth advantage to make things difficult and expensive for Valve. But this isn’t a lawsuit between these two companies. This is just Apple demanding some stuff from Valve and then generally being a dick about it.

The point is that Valve is little more than a speed bump to Apple. If Apple had just been a little less ham-fisted about this, they could have obtained what they needed and moved on. But because Apple has been so careless about stepping on the little guy, they’ve given Valve a reason to stonewall the process. As a result, now Valve is attacking the core of Apple’s strategyOr at least, as much of the strategy we’ve seen so far.. Valve is now saying “Prove that we are in the same market, because otherwise our numbers are irrelevant to your case with Epic.”

Apple has sort of been arguing like this:

A is in competition with B.

B is in competition with C.

Therefore, A is in competition with C.

It’s true that Epic competes against both Apple and Valve, but that doesn’t mean that Apple and Valve are automatically in competition with each other.

My point is that Apple once again threw their weight around, needlessly harmed non-parties to this case, and this time they’re getting a tiny dose of karma where Valve’s defensive moves are harming Apple’s overall cause.

Apple Has To Take This Seriously


Link (YouTube)

On the other hand, I understand why Apple is being so aggressive about this. Their 30% skim on all transactions is pretty nice if you’re the one doing the skimming.  Also, there’s a lot of value in having a single storefront for an entire device. It makes it much harder for malicious apps to trick users into fraudulent transactions. It makes the whole platform as a whole less attractive to hacking, because an anonymous fly-by-night hacker can’t obtain status as an Apple partner, and would therefore have no way to get paid through the system.

So if Epic wins, then Apple will lose out on a ton of free money, their platform would be a bigger target for hackers, they would have to deal with more confused users being baffled by multiple storefronts, and also we should mention the lost money bit again because that’s super-important.

I maintain that Epic isn’t the hero, but boy am I cheering for Apple to lose. I don’t know who is in the right in the legal sense, but for me Apple is basically the Luca Goers of digital platforms.

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] Steam Summer Sale et al.

[2] You really don’t want to send incorrect data to a Judge!

[3] ”Professional guessers”.

[4] Yes, I’m sloppily conflating “net worth” with “liquid assets”, which I mentioned above is an accounting foul. To actually get the $3 billion for the Big Macs, you’d have to SELL the company. I hope you’re hungry!

[5] Not sure how you can have 1,000 of a thing and have them all be the biggest, but then this entire analogy is insane anyway so just go with it.

[6] And maybe you could finally blah blah blah Half-Life 3.

[7] The regular one, not the ×1,000 one.

[8] Or at least, as much of the strategy we’ve seen so far.



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78 thoughts on “Epic vs. Apple, and also Valve for Some Reason

  1. Matt says:

    I think the one broad assumption in all of this is that Apple’s lawyers have goals that are aligned with Apple the business.
    There is no real incentive for overpaid lawyers to spend money in a responsible manner. If they win that is all that will ultimately matter to Apple. Even if the lawyers squander 10 million or 100 million along the way that is inconsequential to Apple in the bigger scheme of things.

    All of this means that Apple’s lawyers have an incentive to make the case as big as possible, to delay as long as possible and maybe win at the end. Even if Apple’s lawyers do lose, at the end of this they will have made themselves so much money in the process that it won’t matter to them.

    1. Decius says:

      Apple’s Lawyers should be Apple employees, paid a fixed salary whether or not they’re working on a lawsuit.

      They probably aren’t, but they should be.

  2. Drips says:

    I have to preface what I’m about to say by noting I’ve only been following this case on Ars Technica, so if they’re wrong, then I’m wrong.

    Epic defined the market, and claimed Apple policy kept prices artificially high.
    Apple claimed that even woth a scond marketplace, prices wouldn’t reduce.
    To prove this, they subpoenaed Valve for sales data (limited upon request to apple to just titles from the year before epic store’s launch to present) to show that Valve’s sales data wasn’t significantly affected by egs.

    This was all a result of epic defining the market, not apple.

    (I’m in a rush, so I can’t go looking for the ars link, but I’ll try to find it later.)

    1. Drips says:

      https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2021/02/judge-orders-valve-to-provide-some-steam-sales-data-to-apple/

      Sorry, it was that more digital stores on ios would lead to apple voluntarily dropping its commission percentage, not necessarily the price apps cost.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        Wait, so Apple’s argument isn’t “we’re not a monopoly, look at the companies we compete with” it’s “yeah we’re a monopoly but we’re not specifically using our monopoly powers to price gouge because we’ve deigned to take the same cut as everyone else?”

        How would that ever be an advisable strategy? That’s like admitting to deliberately burning down your house, but arguing that your didn’t make a fraudulent insurance claim so you shouldn’t be charged with anything.

        1. Rho says:

          I-A-N-A-Laywer. In general, one can raise overlapping or even contradictory defenses. Apple can probably say, “We’re not a monopoly, and if we were we don’t charge monopoly prices, and if we did Epic still has no say”. They would probably phrase this to be mutually supporting: emphasize that they are carefully building a higher-value service and customer base and that’s exactly why Epic is trying to break in ; that Apple knows the market and is clearly keeping its prices down hence they can’t be a monopoly, & etc.

          1. Syal says:

            Yeah, Supreme Court cases often have two or three separate defenses, with primary argument A and backup arguments B and C, with “even if you don’t agree with us on A, we still win because B”. So this would be “even if you think we’re a monopoly, we’re not altering the market.”

        2. Thomas says:

          This is very much I’m not a lawyer but my understanding of the US antitrust system is that being a monopoly is not a problem and not being a monopoly doesn’t save you from being in breach of antitrust.

          The antitrust laws instead punish companies using a ‘dominant’ market position to reduce competition.

          And then in recent times, according to arstechnica, the US has specifically only enforced antitrust if it affects prices. So if you keep your prices low or competition wouldn’t cause you to lower your prices you’re fine.

          There are strong signals that that position is about to change in the US though, and the new administration will look at abuse of market dominance other than prices.

          In the EU you definitely don’t need to be a monopoly. If a search engine company uses their search engine to stifle competition for selling holidays (which they also sell) that’s a breach of antitrust laws regardless of monopoly status

          1. Mark says:

            I am a lawyer and you are exactly right (well, as close to “exact” as anything gets in the law) about a monopoly not being problem and not being a monopoly doesn’t save you. I will say that I don’t practice antitrust law on the day to day except by accident, but back in law school my professor tried to simplify the law down to “market power + something bad.”

            Everything in antitrust law basically stems from that simple equation. As you note, market power is not necessarily a monopoly, and even if it is it’s not necessarily illegal without the “something bad” portion. There is tons of room for lawyers to argue about what constitutes “market power” and what should fall in the “something bad” category and that is filled with over a century of case law etc.

            You’re pretty close regarding the US requirement for affecting “prices.” It’s not exactly true, but it’s effectively true. Basically, it’s almost impossible to prove the “something bad” portion if you can’t show an effect on prices.

        3. Skyy+High says:

          Monopolies are not actually illegal in the US. There are many natural monopolies, actually. It’s just illegal to use your status as a monopoly to force out competition or price gouge. If Apple can show that they don’t do that and they provide a fair space where developers can compete, and the presence of the Epic store on PC didn’t significantly impact the PC market, that’s actually a really creative way to basically say “even if we are a monopoly we’re not breaking any laws, and putting Epic on our devices won’t positively impact consumers”.

          Lawyers never only have one argument. They will probably simultaneously be arguing “we’re not a monopoly because the market includes all mobile devices.” But if the judge rules against that, they would want to have a fallback position and that’s what this sounds like.

          1. Antitrust in the U.S. is ad hoc legislation–it’s not defined what actually counts as acting in “restraint of trade” and literally every possible business practice could be considered illegal if a prosecutor gets a bug up their butt. If you try to stand up for yourself, they’ll just charge you with “obstruction”.

            IIRC there’s been an ongoing legal battle to at least get “obstruction” thrown out as a crime on its own if no evidence of other crimes are found, because they can literally charge you with “obstruction” even if there is *no evidence whatsoever that anything illegal ever took place* and there’s *no possible way you could be acting to cover up the nonexistent illegal activities*.

            If this sort of thing interests you and you have a strong stomach, I highly recommend the excellent Three Felonies a Day by Harvey Silvergate.

    2. So Epic is more arguing that Apple is guilty of price-fixing than being a monopoly per se?

      Also, this seems on the surface like a really dumb tack for Apple to take, because if you hear someone say “it won’t matter if we allow secondary storefronts or not” won’t you generally expect a third party to say “so let Epic do its thing and stop being a bitch, since it won’t matter”.

      There’s kind of a parallel to this from back in the days when brick-and-mortar retail was the only thing running. The stores had a tremendous amount of influence over things like how you package and display your product, because about the only way to mass-market your product was to get a slot on store shelves in a major retailer, so you had to conform to their packaging and other requirements. But did that mean that the retail store had monopoly power over you?

      1. Thomas says:

        What if there were only two store chains in the US though, or if customers of one store chain were effectively unable to buy goods from the other store chain. I suspect that would breach antitrust laws.

        Apple essentially doesn’t allow customers for phone apps to use any store but it’s own, whereas Google does.

        Apples’ defence is that even though they have this restriction they’re arguing it doesn’t hurt the consumer.

        1. Rho says:

          Well there is actually a similar case: Costco or Sam’s. You can shop anywhere, but you must pay membership fee to go there. Their terms on items might be quite different and in your favor, or not.

          The issue in any case isn’t so much the source of the program as the fees.

        2. Don’t even get me started on antitrust. There is literally no way to predict what will and won’t be considered in “restraint of trade” under antitrust, not even if you review the entire body of case history, because there are contradicting precedents on EVERYTHING. It has literally been ruled illegal to:

          1. charge the same price as your competitor (that’s collusion)
          2. charge a lower price than your competitor (that’s “unfair competition”)
          3. charge a higher price than your competitor (that’s “price gouging”).

          Businesses have been found guilty of collusion because they adopted the same business practice as other businesses in the same industry that they have *never heard of or met with in any way*, with the existence of the practice being taken as evidence of collusion.

          Anyone invoking “antitrust” as their sole complaint has basically exited the realm of logic and justice and has become a plain tyrant.

        3. So what are they supposed to do, hand some yabbo a ton of cash so they can start a second store just to have “competition”? Even that wouldn’t work, because they’d have to raise prices to afford to subsidize their competitor, so Freeride Corp. would easily put them out of business and voila, there’s just one chain again.

          In most cases, there are far more alternatives than people realize, though.

          1. tmtvl says:

            I think F-Droid has proven you don’t need a ton of cash to start an app store. And if Apple did allow 3rd parties to distribute iOS apps then Amazon would be on that like wolves on steak.
            I wonder if Apple allowing 3rd-party stores on iOS would allow people to deliver iOS apps without having to pay $100/month for the privilege of providing value for iOS.

            Yeah, I have opinions (TM), so I’ll quit while I’m ahead.

            1. Shirdal says:

              The question is whether this benefits or harms the consumer.

              Is there value in Apple’s walled garden approach? I certainly thought so, for a while, which is one of the reasons for why I owned multiple generations of iPhones over the years. Eventually, I stopped seeing that value and got myself an Android device. It would be very presumptuous of me to assume other people don’t still see that value. How would consumers benefit from that value being taken from them? If they want a device that allows third-party stores, they can get an Android device just like I did, can’t they?

              Regardless of my personal feelings towards Apple (which are not flattering, I assure you), I do believe they should be able to sell the kind product they wish to sell, and let the market decide whether or not that product has value.

              1. ContribuTor says:

                Whether Apple’s approach benefits or harms consumers isn’t necessarily the operative question.

                There’s an important precedent here that directly involves Apple. And it turns on the question of “can you be accused of being a monopolist for maintaining sole control of your own product?”

                The case in question was Apple vs. Psystar, and it was about 15 years old or so (I forget exactly when it happened)

                Basically, what Psystar did was build PC’s capable of running Apple’s OSX operating system. I don’t recall if they sold it with OSX pre-installed, or simply invited customers to purchase OSX retail and run it on their hardware. They’d made some hardware/code hacks to make OSX think it was running on Apple hardware when it wasn’t. This was in violation of Apple’s EULA for OSX.

                Psystar basically accused Apple of being a monopolist – OSX was a good operating system, it COULD provably run on other hardware, consumers demonstrably (since they were buying from Psystar) wanted it on hardware that was cheaper than the hardware Apple sold, and so Psystar’s actions were to the benefit of consumers who wanted Apple’s software but not their high-priced software.

                Psystar claimed Apple’s refusal to open their platform up to competitors was monopolistic. They also argued Apple was using it’s monopoly on OSX illegally to force customers to buy Apple’s hardware.

                The judgement wasn’t just for Apple – it was devastatingly in favor of Apple. Not only did they win damages, they got attorney’s fees and a permanent injunction against Psystar trying to resell Apple’s software, or even selling hardware that COULD be used to run OSX (Psystar had some hardware report itself as Apple hardware to circumvent checks in the software to only run on Apple hardware). Neither the state nor federal judges bought Psystar’s “It’s in the public interest to force Apple to open their platform to competitors, therefore you should let us do it” argument.

                My suspicion is that Apple views this case exceedingly similar to the one they won in a landslide – that they’re effectively being accused of being a “monopolist” for controlling distribution of their own products (iPhones and iOS) and not licensing their technology to third parties, or allowing third parties to work around them.

                The cases aren’t identical – an app store isn’t identical to selling operating system software. But they’re similar enough for Apple to not be remotely scared if the best argument against them appears to be “You’re a monopolist by refusing others access to your products!”

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psystar_Corporation#Legal_issues

                1. Shamus says:

                  “Basically, what Psystar did was build PC’s capable of running Apple’s OSX operating system. I don’t recall if they sold it with OSX pre-installed, or simply invited customers to purchase OSX retail and run it on their hardware. They’d made some hardware/code hacks to make OSX think it was running on Apple hardware when it wasn’t. This was in violation of Apple’s EULA for OSX.”

                  Given Wozniak’s passion for the hacker ethic, right to repair, and open systems / standards when he was young, I wonder how he feels about the monster he helped create. Is he disappointed? Is he delighted his creation is thriving? Or does he not really care? (It’s not like he personally ever advocated building an ultra-proprietary system.)

                  I take the position of, “I don’t care if this is legal or not. It’s still depressing and goes against my desire for open, repairable, long-lasting, adaptable technology, available to as many people as possible.”

                2. Richard says:

                  The cases are very different.

                  Apple vs Psystar was a copyright case.
                  Apple own the copyright to OSX, thus they get to say what can – and cannot – be done with copies of it.

                  It was more or less the same as ripping CDs and selling the MP3s.

                  Epic Games vs Apple (or it the other way around?) is about abuse of market dominance – Apple sell iPhones, and then use their power to ensure that nobody else is allowed to install any software on these iPhones.

                  Epic claim that anyone should be able to sell or give away user-mode software that runs on iPhones, or paid-for data for software already installed.
                  Apple insist that nobody else can possibly be permitted to install any software or data onto iPhones. It must all go via Apple.

                  I suspect that Apple think they will probably lose the case if it actually gets to a judgement, but they also know that they make so much money per day that it’s worth spending a huge amount on delay tactics in the hope that Epic give up.

  3. John says:

    Conjecture: If Apple just gets the bottom-of-the-ledger numbers from Valve, then that’s all they have to work with. On the other hand, if they get a massive multi-gigabyte database dump, they’ll have lots of room to massage those numbers in whatever way suits them. They can pick and choose from the data to focus on facts that favor their case and excise data they feel shouldn’t count because [$EXCUSE].

    I am not a lawyer either, but I did work in litigation consulting once upon a time. It’s true that if Apple obtains a lot of data they can hire experts to present that data in whatever way best appears to make their case. However, Apple would also be obligated to share that data with Epic, who would then hire experts to present that data in whatever way best appears to make Epic’s case. Moreover, before the case went to trial Apple’s experts would obligated to share their report with Epic’s experts and vice versa. When it comes time for trial and testimony, the dueling experts will be ready to thoroughly debunk each other’s claims.

    The important thing here is that it is not at all clear that more data is actually better for Apple than less data. It all depends on what’s in the data. Apple is gambling that Valve’s data will help them more than it hurts them but it could end up working the other way around.

    1. Supah+Ewok says:

      Or Apple is just making a play of opportunity to acquire a valuable dataset for analysis through minimal cost to themselves for their wider business. Haven’t seen anybody bring that up here (apologies if I missed it).

  4. Parkhorse says:

    However, Apple formed their demand in such a way so that Valve had to bring in their lawyers.

    If your company gets subpoenaed, you bring in the lawyers. Maybe you start by just forwarding the request to your in-house counsel, and maybe their recommendation is to just comply, but there’s never a case where you don’t want to get legal review of a subpoena, first. Obviously I’m not talking about tiny, mom-and-pop shops – this whole affair is about billion and trillion dollar companies. And given that Valve isn’t publicly traded, and Apple is seeking data beyond Valve’s public filings (otherwise there would be no need for a subpoena), and one of Valve’s competitors is a party to the suit, well, it’s very difficult for me to conceive of a case where making at least a token fight against the subpoena isn’t the right call. Granted, I work in a much more tightly regulated industry with many more competitors than video games, but… well, we have lawyers on staff as well as external firms on retainer for a reason.

    1. Bubble181 says:

      Yup. I work for LolBigCompany (in the $100 billion range), and I can’t count the ways I’ve been told to always, always, always go to legal if there’s eve nthe slightest chance of anything I do or say having any sort of impact. We’re far, far, far more afraid of being sued and/or misrepresented in PR, than we are of having others wait a few days while our lawyers read things over.

  5. Thomas says:

    Apple need to be careful not to win the battle and lose the war. There’s a lot of antitrust drives coming the way of the big tech companies, and if they use too much power to get Epic to back down that might just end up as more evidence in someone’s folder. I think Spotify’s lawsuit against Apple is on-going too?

    One nitpick – I think Apple’s share of the mobile market is bigger in the US, which would be applicable to the lawsuit. The link you shared suggests Apple has 60% of the US’ mobile operating system share (although I’m not sure I believe that)

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      I’d believe it. My parents have i-phones, and they don’t even like Apple.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        I’m in the same boat. I was surprised to see the market share that low, given that I usually feel like the odd person out when it comes to my mobile platform choice.

    2. Chad+Miller says:

      One nitpick – I think Apple’s share of the mobile market is bigger in the US, which would be applicable to the lawsuit. The link you shared suggests Apple has 60% of the US’ mobile operating system share (although I’m not sure I believe that)

      Yes, I wouldn’t so much frame the iOS/Android divide as “iOS users like to frivolously blow money” so much as “Android attracts the people who want a smart phone but otherwise are extremely frugal and have standards to match.” Which I suppose is a matter of perspective to a degree, but we aren’t all exactly happy with all of Apple’s nonsense. I use an iPhone but wouldn’t even dream of recommending an Apple computer where the alternatives are better.

    3. Richard says:

      Yes, iOS is very dominant in the US, for both count-of-devices and “app” sales revenue.

      In Europe Android dominates for count-of-devices, but iOS comes out on top for “app” revenues.

  6. Joshua says:

    Imagine 1,000 Valve Softwares. 1,000 Gabe Newels. 1,000 Monolithic PC-dominating platforms called Steam. If you stacked up all of those Valve Softwares, then you’d finally have a chance at getting Half-Life, Portal, or Left 4 Dead 3.

    Or maybe not.

  7. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Typolice : “Epic then responded with a lawsuit they’d already queued up in anticipation for this movie.”

    I imagine you meant “move”.

    1. Mr. Wolf says:

      Alternatively, “Epic then responded with a movie they’d already queued up in anticipation for this lawsuit.”

      1. Blue+Painted says:

        Scarily likely!

        1. Olivier FAURE says:

          What, do you mean, “likely”?

          It’s blatantly what they did.

    2. Paul Spooner says:

      Another couple typos:
      “Even if the both sell” should be “they”
      “However, Apple formed” includes flagrant doublespace.

  8. Bubble181 says:

    I’m actually a bit surprised by those numbers. Apple being one of the very biggest in the world and all I definitely expected them to be one or two orders of magnitude larger than Valve, but three? Yikes.
    Also, Valve being valued at $3 billion makes absolutely no sense if Epic is valued at $17 billion.
    Both have big other income bits and all, but one is a store front that makes money like crazy, and a successful game deveoloper and publisher with multiple hugely succesful hits. The other one is a store front that’s still losing money, and a developer with exactly one successful product.

    1. Thomas says:

      It’s hard to overstate just how big that one hit is though. 100 million _new_ accounts were created for Fortnite in 2019 alone (comparable with Steams total active users). Fortnite makes about $2 billion a year.

      Epic also own the Unreal Engine, which means Epic makes money on a large chunk of games sold on any platform in the world.

      The Epic evaluation seems justified, but the Valve one seems too low.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        Just did a quick search, and Gabe N, the 50% owner of Valve is worth a little over $4 billion, which would put Valve around $8B. Wikipedia says Valve is worth $10 billion, which roughly checks out. Either way, it’s more than 3, and either way it’s about 3 OOM less than Apple.

        1. Bubble181 says:

          Well yeah. $10B, I can see as a relatively fair valuation of Valve. I admit, I forgot about Unreal Engine – that IS another big thing Epic has going for it. 10vs17B, sure.

  9. Truett says:

    Apple’s contention is that extra marketplaces won’t impact their 30% commission. Problem is, Valve had a 30% cut for 15 years but when the Epic Game Store came on the scene Valve announced a change to their commission rates. It goes as low as 20%, depending on your revenue. That’s a big reason why EA came back to Steam. Apple will find that getting this data will only help Epic’s case and it is therefore a dumb move.

    1. Rho says:

      Not really. First off, while 30 is a bigger number than 20, it’s hardly so large a gap that it’s obviously unreasonable. Second, Apple would undoubtedly argue that they went to extraordinary lengths to build a high-quality user base, etc etc legalese legalese. And there’s the fact that they are not focused in games may help their case, or that only a handful of publishers get those rates, who knows.

      There are definitely counter-arguments to all this, of course, but here’s the thing: no one should ever, under any circumstances, assume they are smarter than Apple’s lawyers. Their strategy may not work, but I’d think about five times before believing they made an obvious mistake.

      1. Ciennas says:

        That’s how Kasperov lost to Deep Blue. He saw the strategy the machine was using, thought it too obvious, thinking it would try something else more nefarious, and that it was just performing a feint.

        It wasn’t, and he lost to the strategy he saw coming.

        Smart people and experts are still people.

      2. Mistwraithe says:

        The point isn’t the 30% vs 20%, the point is that Valve steadfastly had a flat 30% commission UNTIL Epic came out with 12%, then Valve dropped their commission to 25% or 20% (for more successful games). This evidence suggests that if Epic (or a third party) had an iOS store then Apple could feel the need to respond by dropping it’s commission. In fact, this has already happened recently, Apple reduced the commission on apps which sell less than $1 million a year. Proving that Apple did this because Epic were having a go at them is obviously difficult, but I find it plausible (I think they wanted to put a lower commission rate in place before the case went to court and this was the way of doing it which would cost them the least).

        1. Rho says:

          That doesn’t affect the market, however, which is what the courts would focus on. They won’t really care that giving Epic what it wants will be to Epic’s advantage or whether Apple benefits currently, because obviously those are the reasons the companies are arguing. If the situation was wildly imbalanced or abusive in some way, that would lend weight to Epic’s claim. If Apple can show prices aren’t changing and consumers don’t pay less, however, that might push things onto their side.

  10. Dreadjaws says:

    Two awful companies battling each other, and I’m still not sure which one I hate more. I’ve refused to use Apple products for the same reasons I don’t use the EGS, but both companies keep slithering their tentacles in every aspect of my daily life, so avoiding them entirely is practically impossible, unless I move to a deserted island (which, frankly, with every passing day looks like a more and more tantalizing goal).

    And really, as you say, the problem with Apple is that it’s responding like a spoiled child rather than using cold logic to make their case. Sure, they’re basically a monopoly inside their own platform, but… it’s their own platform. It’s theirs. They should be able to handle it however they please, even if it robs others from making a larger profit off it. Also, there’s the fact that Apple holding control over the platform allows it to be less open malicious software, which is a major reason so many people prefer their platforms despite their price. Once that incentive is gone, a lot of people are simply going to be left without an alternative, because all the competing platforms are already open.

    And look at all the crap Valve gets for letting anyone publish games in their platform, while Epic hilariously and hypocritically love to boast how their own store is more curated… yet they’re trying to force Apple to be more like Valve in this regard. Has anyone asked Epic if they’d let them sell games in their store without giving them a cut of the profits, to see how they’d respond? This clusterfuck of a lawsuit is making both sides look worse than they already looked, and that’s saying something.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Do you mind sharing, how Apple and Epic are encroaching on your life? I’m assuming you’ve got an Android phone, and some non-Apple computer. As far as I know, neither Apple nor Epic offer services which are both central to daily life, and also don’t have alternatives. (For example, email, calendars, and shared documents – all things that you can get with Google, although that’s yet another massive company…)

      1. tmtvl says:

        Apple has encroached into my life by the iTunes store often having albums that aren’t available only otherwise (got even worse after Google killed Play Music).

        Fortunately optical media is still a thing, even if shipping costs can be kind of a pain.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          Dang, yeah that sucks. As for physical media, I’m disappointed we never got any albums released on something like a memory-card. If I’m remembering correctly, there were plans in the 90s and 00s to do just that, but then everything split between old-timey media like vynil, and the streaming stuff that’s totally against actual ownership for customers. I want the best of both worlds! ^^;

    2. Philadelphus says:

      Yeah, my thoughts on this lawsuit are pretty much summed up in “A pox on both your houses!”

    3. Lars says:

      Sure, they’re basically a monopoly inside their own platform, but… it’s their own platform. It’s theirs. They should be able to handle it however they please, even if it robs others from making a larger profit off it.

      That is an argument for Microsoft to ban all other stores than the Windows Store on all Windows plattforms. Or Sony only allowing the PSN Store on …
      Nintendo only allow…
      Google …
      Somehow I like Microsoft for some obscure reason, recently.

      1. Thomas says:

        Google do allow other companies to circumvent the app store on Android. But they make it very hard to do and bludgeon phone manufacturers who try and support something else by threatening to remove Google services from that manufacturers phones. Samsung, Huaweii and Amazon all have version of their own app store on Android I think.

        In a black mark against Epic, Epic did set-up a system to load fortnite on Android without using the app store, but they did so in a very slapdash way that isn’t particularly safe. They gave up on it before this lawsuit

        I suspect Epic might have a decent case against Apple, but I doubt they have any case at all against Google.

    4. Richard says:

      What I want to see is it go to court, and Apple lose bigly.

      What I’m afraid of is that Apple and Epic settle, as then the consumer loses bigly.

  11. Nimrandir says:

    An open letter to Apple’s legal team:

    Your methods were so boneheaded that you mobilized Valve to do something.

    You think about that.

    1. MelTorefas says:

      I don’t know or care how totally accurate this statement is overall, because it made me laugh really hard and I appreciate that.

    2. Ninety-Three says:

      To be fair, they only mobilized in order to avoid doing something else.

      1. PowerGrout says:

        Touché

  12. Geoff says:

    I heard many claims that Apple tries to extend their control to other platforms. So if you’re based on iOS, then they want 30% of ALL transactions, even ones on Android devices. On the other hand, I’ve heard other people say this claim is nonsense, and other people claim it’s true, except Apple makes exceptions for large partners. Maybe my search skills are inadequate, but I couldn’t find a definitive answer to this.

    The more likely answer is that all of that is true / its being made up as they go along. This is true for all the big platforms (Xbox, Sony, etc.) as cross-save and cross-play accounts are becoming more common and they’re all trying to figure out how to handle it.

    The V-Bucks example is a little messy, since its not “content” exactly and you can also earn them in non-paid for ways, but its easy to see how this can be a problem for many games. Imagine you make a Telltale style, episodic game. Episode 1 is FREE, basically functioning as a demo and to hook people on the game, then you sell Episode 2-5 for $15 each to make your money back. If you allow people to associate that DLC with a third party account, they can effectively load it on any platform they login to, which is GREAT for the consumer but bad for those other platforms.

    First party (Apple, Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, Steam, Epic, whomever) provide SOME value though in terms of providing the server space to hold the files, the bandwidth to distribute those files to users, the purchase processing, the certification process that makes sure the software works (mostly) correctly on their platform, etc. They also provide optional services games can use like matchmaking, leaderboards, analytics, etc. We can haggle over whether that value is ACTUALLY worth a 30% cut or not, but it does cost them SOMETHING to provide those titles, content, and services on their storefronts.

    If a user who (lets say) prefers to play on PS5 downloads your episodic game and plays there, but sees the episodes are for sale 50% off on Epic / Xbox / wherever, they could login there with their third party account, purchase that DLC, link it to their account, and then download and play that content on PS5 without Sony seeing a dime. Sony still has to provide the certification for the title, still provides the storage for the files, still provides the bandwidth for you to download, still provides customer service for any issues you may have, and maybe even more services depending on what your game includes, but now they’re not getting the $4.50 per DLC they would normally be paid. To make a really horrible analogy, you’re giving Best Buy your money to buy a new hard drive, but then expecting Walmart to actually deliver you the hard drive because its closer / more convenient for you.

    Is that fair to Sony? Certainly not. Should Sony (and every other platform) then get a cut of every DLC sale your game makes across all platforms? Also certainly not. But no one has settled on the “correct” method of solving this dilemma yet either. All of the platforms are actively trying to figure this out and making decisions and exceptions to policies on a per game basis as they try to find the right solution. Microsoft and Sony have had very similar language to Apple’s regarding not allowing purchases redeemed from outside their ecosystem, but they’ve been providing exemptions for games that do this currently in an effort to move forward towards some future solution.

    1. Ashen says:

      Episodic games aren’t really a problem. Nobody buys The Walking Dead on Android and then expects to have access to the iOS version.

      The problem is with cross-play “live service” games with cash shops. If you spend $100 on Fortnite stuff in the Epic store, you’ll still have access to all of it when you log in on your iPad and Apple doesn’t get a dime out of it. And it’s not entirely unreasonable for them to argue against it given all the operational costs you mentioned.

      Most games sidestep this simply by separating accounts. But if you want to have crossplay then you invariably walk into this weird grey area with no easy solutions in sight.

      1. Geoff says:

        Episodic games might be an uncommon example, but its the same principle in both cases.

    2. Bubble181 says:

      The solution can’t be (though it’ll no doubt turn out that way) the anti-consumer “just buy everything all over again and again”, though.

      I buy a car from Garage A, I buy new tires from Carshop B. Next time I’m in for an oil change in Garage A, I don’t expect to pay for my tires again. Yes, my tires wil lwear down and if A has to re-balance my wheels or replace my brakes, sure they’ll interact with the tires. That’s still part of their job.

      If Sony, Microsoft, and Apple all feel they should get a cut from a game I bought on Steam but play on my PS5, Windows PC and iPhone, that’s….Their problem. I’ve bought a license (remember, I don’t buy games anymore!) to play MineLoreShooter from Valve, I expect them to adhere to the fine print. If my license says I can access the game on all those platforms, well, good. If it says it’s a PS5-only license, fair enough. But no matter what, *I* am not the one who’s costing Apple or MS a dime. If Valve sells cross-platform licenses, they’ll have to divvy up whatever part goes to the store to Apple, MS and Sony, perhaps. I don’t care. I also don’t care when I buy a car how much of the sale value goes to the brand ,how much to the garage, and how much to the importer. I pay, they can decide it for themselves. And if they feel they don’t get their worth…Then don’t participate.

      1. tmtvl says:

        If I buy the Devil May Cry collection on Steam I don’t expect it to be available to me on my PS3, though. And if I were to have Dragon Age on Steam and my PS3 and I buy DLC for it on Steam I wouldn’t expect to have it on my PS3… except if I bought it directly from EA and EA itself handles DLC distribution.

        1. Geoff says:

          But there’s not a situation where “EA handles the distribution”. DLC / game content for Playstation is distributed by Sony servers, regardless of where it was purchased / how the content was unlocked. Which is the same problem Epic is arguing with Apple. Users are going to give their money directly to Epic, to unlock content that is provided and served to them by Apple. Epic gets to keep all the money while expecting Apple to just provide all of the server space and bandwidth for distribution of content.

          1. tmtvl says:

            Then that’s stupid of Epic, they should just distribute the content from their own servers…

            wait, isn’t that what the case is about? Well, can’t Epic offer users downloads in-game? (I’m seriously asking, I dunno if iOS blocks that kind of thing, in which case Apple is shooting themselves in the foot.)

            1. Richard says:

              Apple block the ability of users to purchase those downloads – that’s the specific clause in the ToS that Epic broke.

              You can distribute data from your own servers, but you cannot distribute code.
              Except when Apple decide you can’t, or that you can.

              Apple also block all interpreters, except their own JS engine. Except where they don’t, except where they do.

              It’s a minefield full of arbitrary decisions.
              For every “Apple blocked app A because it did X” there’s an “App B does that, Apple let it through so they must be fine with it”.

              We have two identical iOS apps where we donate the proceeds to two different charities.
              Apple blocked them because we said that in the descriptions – we now get regular support calls asking about the difference between the two.
              We’ve even had one of them get approved and the other rejected – yet the only difference is the name!

      2. The+Puzzler says:

        Sony’s whole business model is that they sell the machine at a loss, then they get money for every PS5 game sold. If you want to buy a cross-platform version of a game, then you’re going to have to pay extra so both Sony and Microsoft can take their cuts.

      3. Geoff says:

        Sure, its not on you, the consumer, to navigate any of that. If the game is sold with the functionality that content you buy (DLC, microtransactions, whatever) is available cross platform, then great. But the ability to do that is not a given for developers and its a mess they need to navigate. Its why most games up until recent times haven’t allowed cross play or sharing accounts and data. The point is more that, from the development side, there’s not a clear process from any of the big name platforms (except Steam and maybe Epic, who frankly don’t seem to care) on how to navigate those systems. Their rules haven’t changed (by default, they restrict any shared content / cross play), they’ve just been more likely to grant exceptions to their TRCs to individual developer requests in recent years.

  13. bobbert says:

    What jurisdiction is this in, again? If it is in Europe there is always the ‘succeeding while American’ angle.

  14. Lino says:

    Typolice:

    and all transactions much go through them

    Should be “must”.

    Really interesting article! Regarding how big Apple is compared to Valve, I think part of the reason for the discrepancy is that Valve really doesn’t want to be bigger than it needs to be. I read somewhere that revenue per employee is a very important metric for them.

    And it shows. According to Statista, in 2020 Apple made 1.9 million per employee. But according to estimates saw in Owler, Valve made 5.2 million. There are even articles as far back as 2011 that talk about how Valve’s revenue per employee is higher than both Apple and Google.

  15. TLN says:

    I kind of wish there was some way for both Apple and Epic to lose, because they are both so obviously driven by greed anyway.

    1. Crokus Younghand says:

      Everyone is driven by greed – if not for money’s greed, then that of praise, respect, self-worth, remembrance, etc. “They are greedy” is a very lazy argument (made under a greed for time :). The real question is whose self-interest inspired action will have more favourable ramification for the wider society. That is what the courts and committees are there to decide, not who is more greedy.

      1. TLN says:

        I don’t see how a “win” for Apple or Epic will result in favourable ramification for anyone but themselves and their shareholders. Apple simply wants to retain the status quo, and while Epic likes to pretend they’re doing this for the customers (by making the prices in their in-game store cheaper than buying through Apple), the reality is of course that if they were to win they will raise their own prices as soon as they’d be able to get away with it. I can’t understand the way Shamus is cheering for one side to lose over the other, the only feeling I can muster is some kind of aggressive indifference about the whole thing because there is no outcome that I’d be happy with.

        1. Crokus Younghand says:

          If Apple wins, the users are protected from a race to the bottom in App Stores (wrt security standards, etc.). If Epic wins, the consumer gets to run whatever they wish on their own hardware that they brought with hard-earned money. Question is: which of these outcomes trumps the other one?

      2. Brian says:

        You’re really twisting the word greed beyond all logical meaning and sense just to validate your boneheaded greed is good ideology. It doesn’t paint you in a very honest or intelligent light.

        Most of the stuff you associate with greed does not and, in a real world situation, cannot be associated with greed.

        1. Shamus says:

          If you’re really interested in changing someone’s mind, then this is NOT how you do it.

          If you’re NOT trying to change someone’s mind, then you’re just picking a pointless fight with a stranger. I have better things to do than moderate that sort of thing.

          Either way, knock it off.

    2. ContribuTor says:

      There absolutely are ways for both to lose.

      For example, a judge (or even a jury, though I doubt we get that far) could rule against Epic on the grounds that they explicitly accepted Apple’s contract, profited by it for years and many sales, and are therefore estopped from now arguing that agreement is unfair.

      Epic loses because they didn’t win, and because they’d have to be bound by their previous agreement if they want to distribute for iOS.

      Apple loses because they get zero precedent value. There’s no ruling that third party app stores can be banned, or that a different developer who never accepted Apples App Store policy couldn’t do the same thing. Basically a hollow victory – they spend tons on lawyers for a ruling that gets them very little.

      Then Epic and Apple both lose tons of money because Fortnight is no longer sold for iOS.

  16. Jamey says:

    I did some cross-platform mobile development, working on versions of the same app in iOS and Android. Long-and-short of it, as succinctly as possible: Apple collects 30% of any revenue that comes in on an iOS device. Could be an app purchase directly from the store (obvious) or an in-app purchase. The version of your product that lives on Android is wholly independent.

    Where it gets tricky is if you accept in-app purchases and the account is cross-play. If you sell an in-game widget to someone playing when they are logged in on their Android version of your app, and they _still have access_ to it when they log in to your iOS version, that is technically a violation of Apple’s TOS, unless _at the time they log in on the iOS device_ you pay Apple 30% of the revenue you collected to give them access to that widget.

    So I can absolutely see and understand the confusion. A better system IMO would be if the government treated “digital goods” as simply a transaction with no actual goods, considering that for all purposes it’s just an EFT of sorts. Apple (or whoever) is collecting a “transaction fee” not a tax. From that angle making it dependent only at time of transaction makes sense. Of course, Apple is a private company and is under no obligation to provide service to anyone, so if they want to say, “We do not sell apps that allow for collecting money for transactions outside of our platform,” that’s their right. They don’t have to have a reason.

    Legally speaking, Epic doesn’t have a leg to stand on, IMO. Apple sells iOS devices. For an additional fee you can buy apps, which Apple has absolute control what apps are available and at what price. That’s not a monopoly any more than Ford has a monopoly on Car Stereos.

    1. Richard says:

      If your description of the situation is correct, then legally speaking, Apple don’t have a leg to stand on.

      Let’s take your Terrible Car Analogy and run with it:

      Ford has decided that you can only buy car stereos for Ford vehicles from Ford directly.
      Ford dealerships, franchises, independent car repair shops, Radio Shack et al are all banned from selling any car stereos, they physically can’t be installed by anyone other than Ford themselves.

      Radio Shack etc can pay Ford a fee to be permitted to design car stereos and advertise them.
      Once they’ve got a design they think people will buy, Radio Shack must send Ford the designs.

      Ford will then decide whether or not the stereo can be sold, and will manufacture and sell the car stereo – it doesn’t matter that Radio Shack have their own manufacturing plants and chain of stores, they must pay Ford to do all that.

      Any consumer wanting a Radio Shack car stereo must create a Ford account, and buy it from Ford directly.
      While they’re doing that Ford will show the consumer some adverts for Best Buy and Fry’s car stereos.

      Oh yes, and any CDs you want to play in that car stereo have to be bought from Ford as well.

      If any customers bought any CDs for their old General Motors car, they usually can’t play them on their Ford car stereo.

      Some music companies have decided to make CDs that play on both GM and Ford cars, but the moment someone actually plays their “GM” CD on their Ford, Ford reserves the right to demand more money from the music company.
      Ford doesn’t always demand that cash, but might.

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