The Epic-Apple courtroom battle commences

FITTINGLY, THE legal deathmatch is happening online. On September 28th a court in California heard arguments, via video call, in a case that pits Apple against Epic Games, the maker of “Fortnite”, a hit video game. At issue is whether the tight control Apple exerts over the software that can run on its smartphones amounts to a monopolistic abuse of power. The verdict, when it comes, may determine what other digital marketplaces can and cannot do.

Apple’s software practices have seen challenges before (see table). But Epic’s is the most brazen. In August Epic offered “Fortnite” players 20% off in-game purchases on iPhones if they paid Epic directly, not via Apple’s App Store, which takes a 30% cut on most transactions made in apps. This violated App Store terms; “Fortnite” was booted from the platform. Expecting this, Epic responded with the lawsuit (and a cheeky PR campaign).

The hearing concerned the narrow question of whether Epic could force Apple to return “Fortnite” to the App Store while the case proceeds. But it offered a preview of both sides’ arguments. Epic contends that Apple’s “walled garden”—in which iPhone software can be downloaded only via the App Store—stifles competition. In 2018 Epic launched a PC games store, charging a 12% commission. Steam, the dominant store, then dropped its cut from 30% to 20%...

via Business Feeds

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