Epic Games and Apple are locked in a trial over alleged antitrust practices by the iPhone maker that could see the entire App Store ecosystem change depending on the outcome.
The trial, which kicked off today with testimony from Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, will try to answer one question: do Apple’s in-app purchase policies violate antitrust law? Back when Epic Games filed a lawsuit against Apple for “anti-competitive restraints and monopolistic practices” — as stated in the original lawsuit — the Fortnite developer alleged that Apple’s policies were unfair to both Epic and millions of other developers.
Apple takes 30% of every in-app purchase made through apps available in its App Store. This includes signing up for a streaming service like HBO Max as well as microtransactions or cosmetic items in games.
Before Epic Games circumvented Apple’s policies by giving players in-game the choice of how to pay for things like V-Bucks (a move that Epic Games knew would get the app removed from the store for violating policies), the company was also forced to give Apple a cut of the profit.
“Apple imposes unreasonable and unlawful restraints to completely monopolize both markets and prevent software developers from reaching the over one billion users of its mobile devices unless they go through a single store controlled by Apple, the App Store, where Apple exacts an oppressive 30% tax on the sale of every app,” Epic said at the time in its lawsuit.
Despite it being the same cut imposed by other companies, including Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo, Epic is arguing that customers on iPhones and iPad devices should have alternative payment options on the hardware they use. On the first day of the trial, Epic’s lawyers referred to Apple’s ecosystem as a walled garden. Or, to quote the Eagles, you can never leave once you’re in it. This has led some companies to directly skip putting their apps on the App Store, like Xbox Game Pass.
Apple, on the other hand, is going to position the App Store, and the security oversight that comes with the App store, as crucial. There are nearly two million apps available to iOS users, and because they have to go through an approval process, Apple can ensure that people are getting a vetted experience.
Plus, Apple’s team will point to the 30% cut as inline with the rest of the industry; therefore, giving Epic a special cut isn’t fair to the rest of the developers abiding by Apple’s rate, which is the same rate as other competitors.
“The fact that their business interests now lead them to push for a special arrangement does not change the fact that these guidelines create a level playing field for all developers and make the store safe for all users,” Apple’s original response to Epic’s lawsuit stated. “We will make every effort to work with Epic to resolve these violations so they can return Fortnite to the App Store.“
The trial will take place over the next three weeks. Sessions kick off at 8:45am PT, and will run throughout the day. IGN will update this story every day in the coming weeks so you know what to expect on a particular day. We’ll also cover news from the trial as it happens.