San Francisco/Los Angeles – Apple Inc. has threatened to prevent Epic Games Inc. from supplying key graphics technology to other apps, as well as removing the firm’s developer account and cutting off its developer tools, in the latest skirmish in a battle over app store fees.
The iPhone maker’s plans were disclosed in a court filing by Epic on Monday.
The disagreement stems from a longstanding Apple App Store rule saying that games must bill their subscriptions and purchases made within apps through Apple’s billing system, which charges a 30 percent fee. On Thursday morning, Epic began offering customers a way to directly buy items for its popular game Fortnite and circumvent the fees. Hours later, Apple pulled the app. Google followed suit later in the day, removing Fortnite from its Play app store.
Epic has asked a California federal court to block Apple’s removal of Fortnite from the App Store, suing Apple last week over the move.
Epic also asked the court to stop Apple from terminating its developer account on Aug. 28. Epic said it will probably suffer irreparable harm if the court doesn’t order the Fortnite game app to be made available to smartphone users.
“The court cannot, on today’s motion, level the playing field against Apple,” Epic’s lawyers wrote in the filing Monday. “But the court can order that while its practices are being litigated, Apple cannot retaliate by blocking Fortnite and tools for the Unreal Engine and harm the hundreds of millions who — especially in this time of social distancing — use Epic’s software to play, build and stay connected.”
The latest moves represents a major escalation of an antitrust dispute that has been building for more than a year. Epic’s Unreal Engine is a suite of software tools used by millions of developers to build 3D games and other products.
Cutting off Epic from Apple’s iOS and Mac developer tools would mean the gaming company would no longer be able to distribute Unreal Engine to other developers, Epic said in its legal filing.
“I do think that is likely to be perceived as an overkill response. They are supersizing the confrontation,” said Lewis Ward, research director of gaming at IDC.
Other app developers that use Unreal Engine may essentially be “held liable for what Fortnite did,” he added. “If that is accurate, then this is going to be a much bigger snowball.” Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Removal of Epic’s developer account would prevent the game-maker from selling new apps to more than 1 billion iPhone, iPad and Mac users, and could mean the removal of the company’s other games. The firm sells one game on the Mac App Store called Shadow Complex Remastered and another iPhone and iPad game called Battle Breakers.
In its court filing, Epic highlighted comments from Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook from a recent antitrust hearing in Congress. Cook was asked by lawmakers whether Apple had ever retaliated against a developer who complained publicly about the App Store. Cook said his company doesn’t “retaliate or bully people,” according to the filing.
“But Apple has done just that,” Epic wrote.
U.S. judge urges Apple, Epic Games to put antitrust claims before jury – Reuters Canada
(Reuters) – A federal judge in California on Monday urged Apple Inc and “Fortnite” creator Epic Games to take their antitrust dispute before a jury, saying the higher courts would be less likely to overturn the result.
“I know I’m just a stepping stone for all of you,” District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said during a virtual hearing from Oakland, California.
Epic Games sued Apple in August, alleging the iPhone maker’s 30% commission on purchases made through Apple’s App Store was anticompetitive. The judge’s comments came during a hearing to decide whether to keep in place an emergency order saying Apple could remove “Fortnite” from the App Store but could not harm Epic’s developer tool business.
Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; editing by Jonathan Oatis
Google to make third-party app store use easier with Android 12 – GamesIndustry.biz
Google has stated that beginning next year with Android 12, it will make it easier to use third-party app stores on Android — but it’s also doubling down on its existing requirement that it get a 30% cut of Play Store sales.
As reported by Android Central, Google confirmed a Bloomberg report from last week saying that by September 2021, all apps selling digital goods through the Play Store will be required to go through Google’s payment system.
Though this does not impact the vast majority of developers who are already using this system, a handful of companies including Netflix, Spotify, and Tinder have bypassed it by permitting direct payments in their apps.
Epic Games attempted a similar thing with Fortnite back in August on both iOS and Google Play, and was removed from both storefronts.
Additionally, Google has issued a statement promising that it is planning to make third-party app stores on its platform easier to use for customers in the future.
“We will be making changes in Android 12 (next year’s Android release) to make it even easier for people to use other app stores on their devices while being careful not to compromise the safety measures Android has in place,” the statement reads. “We are designing all this now and look forward to sharing more in the future!”
These moves appear to be directly in response to the ongoing conflict between Epic and the mobile platforms, which has escalated into a legal battle between Epic and Apple, but which Google has requested to stay out of in favor of handling its own case separately due to differences between its business model and Apple’s.
Google currently already allows third-party app stores on its platform, and Fortnite itself is accessible via Epic’s website in the browser on Android, while Apple does not permit third-party stores at all.
Google to enforce 30% cut on in-app purchases next year – CNBC
The move means developers have until Sept. 30, 2021 to use Google’s billing system, which takes a 30% fee from payments, instead of independent payment systems. The announcement brings Google Play’s policies in line with Apple’s App Store policies, which have come under fire from developers and regulators over several issues, including its own 30% cut.
Apple has argued against scrutiny of its App Store by pointing out that other app stores, like Google Play, also take a 30% fee from in-app purchases.
Google didn’t name apps that had been skirting the rule. It said 97% of developers selling digital goods already comply with its policies. Netflix and Spotify prompt users inside their Android apps to use a credit card to pay them directly.
“We want to be sure our policies are clear and up to date so they can be applied consistently and fairly to all developers, and so we have clarified the language in our Payments Policy to be more explicit that all developers selling digital goods in their apps are required to use Google Play’s billing system,” Google said in the announcement, signed by Sameer Samat, a VP of product management.
Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, updated its Android software in August to allow gamers to directly pay Epic for in-app purchases of digital goods like colorful outfits, which circumvented Google Play billing.
Google responded by removing Fortnite from the Play Store. “While Fortnite remains available on Android, we can no longer make it available on Play because it violates our policies,” Google said at the time. Epic Games sued Google.
Apple also removed Fortnite from its App Store and is embroiled in its own legal battle with Epic Games.
Google’s Play Store doesn’t attract as much attention as Apple’s App Store
Google has received significantly less attention than Apple over its 30% cut, even though its policies are similar to Apple’s.
One core complaint from Apple developers is that Apple takes 30% from digital purchases made within the app, which can hamper services like Spotify, which have significant costs associated with their services like rights to music.
Android allows users to install apps without using the Play Store, including apps that distribute other apps, such as Samsung’s Galaxy App Store, the company pointed out in its Monday blog post. But, the Google Play Store is the way most users download applications on an Android phone.
Google hasn’t taken as much heat on its cut of in-app purchases, however.
And, when Apple CEO Tim Cook testified in front of the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust this summer, he answered specific questions about which apps Apple allows on its platform and how it uses its power to hamper smaller developers.
When Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified at the same hearing, he faced questions about Google’s role in advertising, search, and data collection, instead of how much Google charges app-makers to use the Google Play store.
Google said next year’s Android release will “make it even easier for people to use other app stores” without compromising user security.
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