Epic Games has been fighting it out with Google and Apple in the courts for more than a year now. The legal battle started when Epic Games challenged the in-app purchase policy of Google and Apple’s app stores with its launch of a version of Fortnite – Epic’s world renouned game – that included its own in-built system for in-game purchases. Following the release, both Apple and Google promptly removed Fortnite from their app stores citing breach of rules, causing Epic Games to sue the two platforms. Epic Games’ legal filings from this week claim that Google formed an internal task-force to tackle the problem of Fortnite evading Google Play Store and its fees.
Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games Inc., on Tuesday at a conference in Seoul, condemned Apple and Google’s duopoly over global mobile platforms with renewed vigour.
At the Global Conference for Mobile Application Ecosystem Fairness in South Korea, the Epic Games CEO said, “Apple locks a billion users into one store and payment processor”. Incidentally, South Korea happens to be the first country in the world to introduce a law that mandates mobile platforms to provide its users with options of payment handlers. Sweeney further said, “Now Apple complies with oppressive foreign laws, which surveil users and deprive them of political rights. But Apple is ignoring laws passed by Korea’s democracy. Apple must be stopped.”
Sweeney also criticized Google’s policy of change fees on those payments it does not process, calling it “crazy”. The Epic Games CEO, in a statement commending South Korea’s revolutionary stance against anti-competitive policies with its new legislation, said, “I’m very proud to stand up against these monopolies with you. I’m proud to stand with you and say I’m a Korean.”
In an email sent in response to Sweeney’s attacks, Google spokesperson Dan Jackson said that the service charge levied by the Google Play Store “has never been simply for payment processing”. The email further read, “It’s how we provide Android and Google Play for free and invest in the many distribution, development, and security services that support developers and consumers in South Korea and around the world.” Meanwhile, Apple has yet to respond to the attacks by Sweeney.
Google and Apple have maintained that the charges they levy on sales through their mobile app stores go towards user security and providing developers access to a worldwide audience. However, Sweeney believes these exclusionary policies and practices to be a disgrace to the core principles on which the web was founded, insisting that their “policies are so restrictive that if the worldwide web had been embedded after the smartphone, then Apple and Google would have blocked all web browsers from being released on their platforms.”
The Epic Games Store, Epic Games’ own store, is available to PC users and, like Apple and Google, also charges a fee for using the platform, although one lesser than that charged by its counterparts. Of note here is the fact that Sweeney, despite his attacks on the two tech giants, has not questioned or objected to Apple and Google’s right to earn from their platforms. “There’s a store market, there’s a payments market, and there are many other related markets,” he said, adding, “And it’s critical that antitrust enforcement not allow a monopolist in one market to use their control of that market to impose control over unrelated markets.”