Epic Games' war on Apple, Google may ease entry of new players in gaming industry

The war on Apple and Google, if won by Epic Games, may remove a lot of barriers for new players, leading to greater innovation and growth in the industry.

In the last one week, the wildly popular game Fortnite has been banned in the app store by Apple and Google play store. The game had seen upwards of over 250 million downloads on the App store alone. Following this, ban Epic Games, the company behind the game, have sued both companies.

Epic Games is an American video games and software developer and publisher based in Cary, North Carolina. The recent incident started when Epic Games, in their latest update for Fortnite, decided to offer users the option to make in-app purchases directly. This would bypass the payment systems set-up by Apple and Google for apps. These actions were taken by Epic Games to bypass the 30 percent fee taken by both companies for every transaction.

The actions taken by Epic Games are in violation of the guidelines set in place by Apple and Google for their respective digital app stores. The ban was not taken well by Epic Games and has resulted in them filing a lawsuit.

The fight with Apple is clearly much bigger on the agenda for the firm as they even released a video soon after, which took a shot at Apple's famous 1984 advert. The advert in question was made to sway consumers towards Apple over the then industry leader, IBM. Epic Games claim that Apple have become the Big Brother of the industry, something they opposed in the past. They have complained about Google having similar monopolistic behaviour, along with the fact that they look to bully potential competition out of the market.

Epic Games, the creators of  Fortnite (in pic), are all set to sue tech giants Apple and Google. Image courtesy: Twitter/@FortniteGame

Epic Games, the creators of Fortnite (in pic), are all set to sue tech giants Apple and Google. Image courtesy: Twitter/@FortniteGame

The complaints about such behaviour by Google is nothing new. In 2018, they were fined $5 billion by the European Union for their monopolistic behaviour. This included Google pre-installing Chrome and Gmail along with other Google suite apps into Android devices.

As far as Apple are concerned, they have been called into question by Spotify, in relation to how their 30 percent cut in the charges towards Spotify Premium subscriptions makes impossible for them to compete against Apple music.

Even in their home country, both these giants have been questioned. In July this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) CEO Sunder Pichai sat alongside Jeff Bezos (Amazon’s CEO) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook’s CEO) for a historic Antitrust hearing. They were questioned about their trade practices as well as their monopolistic behaviour within their respective industries.

Google, in their official statement, indicate that they are not stopping Epic Games' Fortnite be available for Android devices, just that they will no longer make the game available through the play store. Epic Games will need to distribute the app through other channels.

However, Epic Games have a different story to tell. They claim that in the past they had a deal with mobile manufacturer OnePlus. The deal would have seen the Epic Games app be shipped pre-installed on the devices, such that it would allow users to seamlessly download as well as update all their games without the use of the Google play store. OnePlus were forced to renege on this deal as Google raised concerns about it allowing Epic Games to bypass the play store.

Apple takes this behaviour of stifling competition one step further. According to a court filing by Epic Games, as of 28 August, Apple will terminate their membership in the Developer Programme. Epic Games is not just the owner for Fortnite but also the company responsible for Unreal Engine, a game engine developed by them. The fact that several other popular games including PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) use this game engine makes it an integral part of their business.

If the company was to be removed from the developer programme, it would affect their ability to continue their work on the Unreal Engine. This is because Epic Games would no longer have access to a lengthy list of tools and features that are necessary for the purpose of improving the game engine.

Quoting Epic Games, “The damage to Epic's ongoing business and to its reputation and trust with its customers will be unquantifiable and irreparable.” According to Apple, all Epic Games needs to do to make this situation go away is submit a new version of their game Fortnite that does not bypass the payment systems set up by Apple.

If the claims made by Epic Games are to be believed, Google have made life difficult for Epic Games, as most users of Android devices prefer to download apps through the play store. Apple, however, seem to be intent on making the developer either heed to their demands or completely removing them from the equation.

Both Tech and Gaming industries require constant innovation to grow. This innovation is often much faster when it is possible for newer, smaller firms to make an entry into the industry in a bid to challenge the established names. Monopolistic behaviour highlighted within the claims by Epic Games will raise the barriers to entry for new firms and as such it will slow down the growth. This war, if won by Epic Games, may remove a lot of barriers for new players, leading to greater innovation and growth.

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