Epic Games, the game engine developer and creator of the wildly popular Fortnite game, is keeping the focus squarely on antitrust issues in its lawsuit against Apple as pressures mount to rein in anti-competitive practices of the world’s largest tech companies.
Antitrust arguments are gaining ground on both sides of the political spectrum, which could present a more favorable environment for Epic to make its case.
Earlier this month the Trump Justice Department filed its antitrust case against Google even as Congress laid out its roadmap for how to limit the monopoly power of a quartet of trillion-dollar companies: Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Alphabet (the parent company behind Google).
Epic’s lawyers acknowledged in the filing that the company breached its contract with Apple, but said that it only took that step because Apple’s contract restrictions are illegal, according to the company.
“When Epic took steps to allow consumers on iOS devices to make those payments directly, it breached some of the contractual restrictions that Apple imposes on iOS developers,” the lawyers wrote. “Epic did so because those contractual restrictions are unlawful. Epic chose to take a stand against Apple’s monopoly to illustrate that competition could exist on iOS, and that consumers would welcome and benefit from it. Epic did so without advance notice to Apple because Apple would otherwise have used its monopoly control to prevent that competition from happening.”
Ultimately, the argument comes down to whether Apple can claim ownership of commerce occurring on the phones they make and through the marketplace that companies are forced to use to access the users of those phones.
“It’s a crazy, misguided view,” according to a tweet from Epic Games founder and chief executive, Tim Sweeney.
The argument that Epic is making to the court is that Apple’s contractual restrictions are anticompetitive and deny choice to developers and consumers.
From Epic’s perspective, it took the steps it did in creating an in-game marketplace that its players could access directly, to prove that the App Store is not a necessary part of the iOS ecosystem; “they are just the tools Apple uses to maintain its monopoly,” the company’s lawyers wrote.
“Apple has no right to the fruits of Epic’s labor, other than the rights arising under a contract. Consumers who choose to make in-app purchases in Fortnite pay for Epic’s creativity, innovation and effort—to enjoy an experience that Epic has designed,” the company claimed in its filing.
The legal confrontation between one of the world’s most valuable tech company and one of the tech industry’s rising (and incredibly popular) stars began in August when Epic Games introduced a new payment mechanism to its Fortnite app allowing gamers to purchase its in-game currency directly and bypass Apple’s in-app purchase framework.
The company pushed the same update to its Android game, as well. Both Apple and Alphabet responded by taking down the company’s Fortnite game from its app stores.
Earlier this month, Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers, kept a temporary restraining order issued in September in place which simultaneously protected Epic’s Unreal Engine from retaliation by Apple, while allowing Apple to keep Epic’s Fortnite game off of its App Store.