Apple, Google face lawsuit from Epic Games

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Epic Games, an American video game and software developer and publisher, have filed federal antitrust lawsuits against Apple and Google questioning their rules.

The move was prompted by the tech giants’ act of removing Epic’s popular video game “Fortnite” from their app stores for breaching the guidelines for in-app payment.

What really happened?

Epic’s Fortnite is a highly popular free game that could be downloaded from the Google and Apple stores. Their source of revenue is in-app purchases, like in-game currency and weapons.

However, Apple and Google, which hosts the app, takes a 30% cut from these sales. Fortnite decided to find a way around this and started allowing users to make purchases directly from their website.

When playing the in-game currency, the players were given a choice of paying $9.99 via the App Store or pay a lesser $7.99 through the game’s website.

This led to Google and Apple kicking out the most popular game of the decade from its app stores. Removal of the game from the App Store means new players won’t be able to download it and current players won’t be able to obtain updates, however, the game will continue to function on devices where it’s already installed.

Epic’s lawsuit in the US court did not request any compensation from Apple or Google, instead demanded enforcement actions that would bring an end to the tech giants’ activities related to their app stores.

“Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation. Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched, and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear,” Epic said.

Epic also attacked Apple on social media, launching a hashtag campaign #FreeFortnite, urging players to seek Apple refunds if they lose access to the game, and creating a parody of Apple ‘s famous “1984” TV ad.

Experts say that games are the largest contributor to spending inside the App Store, which is in essence the largest component of Apple’s $46.3 billion service segment per year.

In a statement, Apple said Fortnite was dropped because after offering applications in store for a decade, Epic had introduced the payment option with the “specific intent to breach the App Store guidelines.”

Google said that Epic violated a rule requiring developers to use Google’s in-app billing system for video game products.

Apple and Google were among the major American technology companies that came under anti-competitive scrutiny at last month’s hearing with lawmakers.

Since Android works differently from iOS, users can still download and install “Fortnite” from the website of Epic and other non-Google stores like the one run by Samsung on their smartphones, Epic said in a blog post.

Spotify, a music streaming competitor of the iPhone makers, who has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple in Europe, applauded Epic’s move in a statement.