Remember when billion and trillion-dollar companies could just get along? Me neither. In case you need a refresher, the feud between Epic Games and Apple began last year when Epic introduced an update in Fortnite that allowed users to buy V-bucks, Fortnite’s in-game currency, directly from Epic, bypassing the 30% transaction feed paid to Apple or Google on the App Store and the Google Play Store, respectively.
Apple retaliated by removing the game from the App Store. In response, Epic released the (frankly ridiculous) “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite” video, which parodies a famous Apple ad warning of a future marked by corporate dominance of everyday life and started the #FreeFortnite campaign. Epic also sued Apple.
The ongoing legal battle between the tech giants ramped up recently as the UK government announced it had begun an investigation into Apple over “anti-competitive behavior.” The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will be looking into all of Apple’s business practices, including Apple’s 30% cut of anything purchased on the App Store. The investigation will focus on whether “Apple imposes unfair or anti-competitive terms on developers using the App Store, ultimately resulting in users having less choice or paying higher prices for apps and add-ons,” according to a statement obtained by PC Gamer.
The Competition and Markets Authority also directly named Apple UK Limited’s parent company, US-based Apple Inc, in the investigation.
Epic isn’t mentioned in the statement, but given the ongoing legal battle between Apple and Epic and that the 30% cut is one of the elements of the investigation, it isn’t hard to draw a line between the two. Andrea Coscelli, the chief executive of the Competition and Markets Authority, has said the CMA has already found “worrying trends.”
It’s unlikely that either the investigation or the lawsuit will be tied up anytime soon. The latter is scheduled to go to trial later this year, but the former might take much longer.
Epic likes to portray itself as the little guy standing up for the common man in this situation, but it’s worth remembering that Epic is a billion-dollar company. They also attempted to weaponize Fortnite’s userbase, which is mostly made up of kids, against a trillion-dollar company. What’s worse is those kids probably don’t know what’s going on; they just want to play their favorite video game. I’d say the whole thing was insane, but we all lived through 2020. While victory in this lawsuit might benefit the rest of us by reducing fees in mobile storefronts, Epic is almost certainly doing it because it will improve their bottom line.
Whether Epic wins or not, however, that old Apple ad was right about one thing: the world belongs to corporations now; the rest of us just live in it.