Honestly, I could rant about this all night. I won’t even attempt to hide my disdain for Tim Sweeney and Epic Games. I think he and his company are laughably hypocritical in their comments about openness (when it suits them) and fair play (when it doesn’t apply to their own store). I have no patience for a company that is doing a few of the very things they complain about in regards to Apple, so everything they have said today has fallen on stone deaf ears.
To keep from going off on the deep end ranting about this, I’m going to keep it brief and just hit a few points.
This whole thing is just a PR Stunt
Sweeney knows this lawsuit isn’t going to be successful. Most tech analysts worth anything have already admitted as much. This entire event was obviously prepared long in advance and carefully choreographed. Epic knew Fortnite would get the boot from the App Store as soon as they thumbed their nose at Apple and everything was set up to hit as soon as that occurred.
If Sweeney knows he won’t win anything of significance in court, then what is he looking for? Today was about publicity. He knew the tech press would fall all over this and he was right. He got attention, both positive and negative, and lots of it. This isn’t about the court of law. It’s about the court of public opinion and Apple frankly has problems there at the moment. How else is a billionaire going to paint himself as a man of the people who’s fighting for the little guy?
Why did Epic go this route?
They want to inflame gamers and their fans against Apple to help push for what they want. By setting themselves up to look like the good guys who were just giving a discount to their customers by going around the big, bad monopoly, they framed Apple as the ultimate villain. Not only did Apple revoke this discount, they blocked the app and future updates. Most fans of Fortnite and Epic aren’t going to care that they knowingly broke the rules and knew exactly what would happen.
The ironic thing is, Epic didn’t even pass along all of the savings from offering in-app purchases though their own payment system to their customers. They were pocketing some of that savings, as well. More on that in a moment.
The ugly truth
Part of the reason I find all of the posturing and self-indulgent, aggrandizing by Tim Sweeney so irritating is that the tech press seems fine with setting up billionaire in charge of a company worth $4.5 billion as the champion of the little guy. This is absolutely laughable, but I have to hand it to Sweeney in one respect. The tech press is myopic enough to eat it up and fall for all his talk while ignoring his and his company’s actions.
Let’s get this straight right here- this is a fight between a multi-billion dollar company and a $2 trillion dollar company over making more money. Forget openness, fairness and any other company or developer besides these two. This is all about money. Period. Epic wants more and doesn’t want to give much, if any, back to Apple. Or Google either, as we found out later.
What are the implications?
Tim Sweeney says he wants to blow up the App Store. Forget all of the talk about Apple being fair and open. Epic wants to do anything it can to make more money, and they are willing to try and revoke Apple’s right as a business to determine their own distribution methods to accomplish that.
I think it’s extremely unlikely this lawsuit will succeed, especially with a conservative Supreme Court, but Sweeney knows Apple is unlikely to back down and Epic has enough money to drag things out for a while. They also know that the discovery process for the trial will just add to the anti-Apple and Big Tech sentiment. I’m certain Epic will try to use this to extract a deal.
However, Apple is far from helpless. Their legal team will be larger and more practiced at this kind of thing. Also, while there is a lot of anti-Apple sentiment at the moment, the company also still wields enormous political clout, including with the President of the United States. That’s a field Epic can’t really play on.
That last part is key. So far, Epic has been spared any effects from President Trump’s potential ban of TicTok and payments to Tencent. However, there is a potential scenario where Epic and Fortnight are suddenly cut off at the knees because of their large Chinese investor and the President’s anti-China stance. While this is possible, I actually don’t think Tim Cook would lobby in favor of it because this same ban hurts him terribly in China if the iPhone loses access to WeChat.
However, what Tim Apple thinks won’t necessarily stop Donald Trump from taking unilateral action against Epic. They are now in the news taking on a company he has often been associated with and they are backed by a Chinese company he already has an ax to grind with. This is one way all of this attention could backfire on Sweeney.
Epic showed its hand later in the day
You want to know how I know that Tim Sweeney is full of it when he talks about openness and fairness? Why is Epic suing Google, as well as Apple? At least they have a reason to attack Apple, even if it won’t stick in court. Sure, Google also charges 30% in its Play Store. However, they don’t block users from sideloading apps or using alternative app markets. Epic famously took this approach with Fortnite on Android when it first came out.
In spite of all their talk about Apple, Epic is going after Google because they whine and cry that the experience of sideloading or creating their own store is sub-standard and that Google makes it more difficult. Epic finally caved and brought Fortnite to the Play Store not too long ago, but they ran the same gambit on them today as they did with Apple, with the same end result. They were booted from the Play Store and then Epic promptly sued. The only thing missing was the cheesy video.
This lawsuit against Google cleared this all up for me. Tim Sweeney and Epic aren’t the least bit interested in anything but cashing in on the zeitgeist to be in both major App Stores with little to no cut handed over on their in-app purchases. They have their opportunity for the “freedom” and “fairness” they supposedly seek on Android. It’s pretty obvious that’s not really what they want. Frankly, that is all marketing and PR bullshit.
All of this is 100% about Epic cashing in and getting more money by cutting into what Google and Apple make on transactions. It will be interesting to see if anyone who covers tech will ever call them out on it.