Epic Games vs. Apple Court Hearing Day One: Screaming Fortnite Kids, Tim Sweeney Takes The Stand
Today marked the first day of the Epic Games vs. Apple legal battle where the former is accusing the later of holding a monopoly over the mobile market. The first day is just one of many and it was a circus. To start, the dial-in number was accidentally made public, so a large number of Fortnite fans called in to demand the game be brought back. One even yelled to the court, "I would suck you all to get Fortnite mobile back." Once the chaos died down and the dial-in number was continued, the proceedings began in earnest, including Epic CEO Tim Sweeney taking the stand.
Epic Games vs. Apple Day One
For those that may not be caught up, the legal battle between the two mega-corporations began back in August 2020 when Epic Games snuck in a hotfix for Fortnite on mobile. This hotfix snuck past the iOS user agreement, cutting around the promised 30% cut to Apple, giving Fortnite players a chance to purchase in-game items directly from Epic. This was a deliberate goading to get Apple to act, a goading that was successful when Apple promptly removed Fortnite from the App Store. Google also followed suit, though that legal proceeding is still a far way off.
Epic Games was prepared, it immediately launched a #FreeFortnite campaign using Orwell's 1984 imagery, as well as a 60-page document detailing how Apple continues to abuse the antitrust act. Apple fought back with its own claims that Epic violated the terms of its contractual agreement, and now we're here.
The trial itself is open to the public to listen in on with an audio-only broadcast. You can learn more about how to do just that right here.
The kids are alright
The courts opened up a way for listeners to hear the ongoing legal proceedings but failed to make sure the line was secure. Instead of just listening, Fortnite fans were given unlimited power and were able to talk directly to those in-house. Since this is the gaming community we're talking about, chaos ensued. It was, you've got to admit, pretty hilarious. The normally somber room was suddenly filled with gamers begging for Fortnite mobile to be restored and a large number of fans chanting "free Fortnite." Others blasted Travis Scott songs, a clear homage to the in-game concert featuring the artist last year.
I joined the call first thing this morning after reporting how our readers could join me in partaking via the dial-in and it was pretty easy to see how instantly the room changed. Instead of a quiet and respectful courtroom, the proceedings erupted into a cacophony of fan pleas as the staff frantically tried to figure out how to mute the hundreds of callers weighing in.
The trial begins
Sweeney took to the stand today to kick off the proceedings, and he held nothing back when it came to slamming Apple for its monetary approach. "Apple was making more profit from selling developer apps in the App Store than the developers themselves," he said when he took to the stand. His contribution lasted just over three hours, answering questions from the prosecution and defense about Epic Games' side of the legal fight.
In his statements, he made it clear that Epic Games has been "happy" to contribute to the Apple ecosystem with its Fortnite integration, but has stated that since the relationship began with Apple back in 2010, his feelings have changed. Sweeney claims, in a statement that Apple quickly denied, that the restrictions surrounding the iPhone market have become more and more strict through the years. He then said that Apple has a beautifully constructive market, one that could be beneficial for so many developers, but instead, the tech company has been more focused on being a secluded success (a monopoly) versus being "a door" for other companies. The Epic Games camp then proceeded to say that Apple is predatory in the way that it locks its users into its ecosystem in a way that is harmful to developers that want to showcase their products within its storefront.
Apple claimed the opposite with its camp saying that the tight ecosystem was not meant to keep people out, instead it was created to "invite developers in without sacrificing its privacy and liability." That notion is curious given previous documentation revealed the flimsy security Apple has regarding its storefront, making it "difficult" to detect fraud within its App Store.
The two sides then argued what a "competitive market" should look like. Is Epic Games wanting too much, or is Apple too narrow in its vision? You decide.
Today was just the start as witnesses and key figures from both Apple and Epic Games will be put to the stand to testify. What happens at the end of this trial remains to be seen, but there are two major outcomes that are possible (with a thousand smaller ones, as well).
The first is that Epic Games could be victorious, despite the judge in charge of this case having previously stated that she does not feel that Epic is the victim here. Nevertheless, the case could turn. If this happens and the Fortnite company can prove that Apple is in violation of the Antitrust act, a provision designed to protect consumers from predatory business practices and to provide a balanced competitor environment, then Apple can be turned on its head. Right now, Apple is very much in its own island: you can't download an app without using the iOS store, you can't download music unless it is a certain file type - you can't even charge your phone unless you have a very specific charger (unlike a micro-USB, which is most common). iMessaging, the application processes, and so much more could be opened up to be more inclusive to other operating system types, making the iPhone and iPad user experience more integrated and familiar when compared against similar technology types.
The other major outcome is that the court favors Apple, throwing out the case made by Epic Games, leaving the company open to a countersuit by Apple for retribution. Bear in mind, there are a thousand splintering ways this could end, but the basic picture is that Epic must prove Apple is in violation or Epic loses its entire case.
Thoughts on the Epic Games vs. Apple lawsuit? What are your predictions for what's going to be the outcome? Sound off with your thoughts in the comment section below.