“Epic is suing for change”

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Fortnite developer Epic Games and Apple yesterday (May 3) delivered their opening statements at the commencement of their antitrust trial.

The first day of the trial began yesterday at 8:15am at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Epic Games, the plaintiff, had initially filed legal action against Apple in August 2020 after the company pulled Fortnite from its App Store. At the time, Epic had introduced “Epic direct payment”, which allowed players to purchase Fortnite’s in-game currency directly from the developer, bypassing Apple’s App Store.

Epic Games started with its opening remarks, as delivered by Cravath, Swaine & Moore partner and former US District Judge Katherine Forrest. They described Apple’s iOS system as a “walled garden”, which they claim the tech giant uses to “trap” users and developers.

“After Apple succeeded in building its walled garden and luring enough developers and users in, a tipping point occurred. Users and developers alike became trapped inside. Apple threw away the key,” Forrest said, according to The Washington Post.

In accompanying slides (per The Verge), Epic Games also highlighted alleged internal emails from Apple’s management – including its late co-founder Steve Jobs and current CEO Tim Cook – reportedly discussing ways to “lock in” users and developers.

“Epic is suing for change,” Forrest said in the company’s opening statement. “Not just for itself but for all developers.” She likened the iOS ecosystem to a monopoly, saying that it puts “individual app developers were in a tenuous position” because Apple “could terminate developers at any time for any reason at all”.

In response, Apple alleged that Epic Games’ opening remarks were “deceiving”, describing the developer as a company only interested in lowering its expenses.

“Epic has decided it doesn’t want to pay for Apple’s innovations anymore,” Apple’s lawyers said, per The Washington Post. “Epic is here, demanding that this court force Apple to let into its App Store untested and untrusted apps.”

A majority of Apple’s opening remarks were spent on the video game industry as a whole and how it pertains to Fortnite. In its own slides, the tech giant noted that its 70/30 per cent developer/platform split was in line with industry norms, and it pointing out that players could freely switch to an Android, consoles or PC.

Earlier this year, Epic filed a new antitrust complaint against Apple in the European Union. The company alleged that “through a series of carefully designed anti-competitive restrictions, Apple has not just harmed but completely eliminated competition in app distribution and payment processes”.



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