Is judge right Fortnite can't be forced to use Apple Store payment?
- Epic Games is an American interactive entertainment company founded by Tim Sweeney in North Carolina. One of its most well known games is Fortnite, a player-versus-player game with 350 million accounts and 2.5 billion friend connections.
- In a court filing on Sunday, September 12, 2021, Epic Games announced it would take the Apple ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to brand Apple as a monopoly.
- On Friday, September 10, 2021, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled against Apple in the Epic Games lawsuit from requiring users to pay solely through the App Store, instead ordering the use of external purchasing links. However, Judge Rogers allowed Apple to continue their 15% to 30% commission policy.
- Epic Games blamed Apple for “running its App Store as a monopoly.”. In August 2020, Epic Games attempted to launch its own Fortnite payment system, but Apple responded by removing the game from the App Store which led to Epic’s lawsuit.
Previous to this ruling, developers using Apple's App Store could not direct users to outside places to make payments. By preventing this, Apple hid information from consumers and 'illegally stifled consumer choice.' Since Apple held a monopoly on all in-app purchases, they could upcharge developers as much as they wanted, essentially price gouging both developers and consumers.
This increase in price to developers is inevitably passed on to consumers, raising costs for game players. In addition, Apple's fees could be prohibitive enough that smaller developers were unable to bring apps to the Apple App Store or to bring in the revenue to continue to innovate and develop their apps. Now apps can have buttons and links in them for alternative payments while still having the option to pay through Apple. This change will lower costs for developers and add payment competition also to lower costs for consumers.
Apple already made this same outside payment allowance recently for streaming services. This ruling simply brings Fortnite and other gaming apps in line with Apple's payment rules for all the other apps in their App Store. Apple is still free to control the payment system within the App Store, but it can't prevent Fornite from showing links to direct people outside of the App Store to pay. Something of note is how neither side is completely happy with the ruling, and Epic Games is already appealing the decision. Feasibly, the courts could hand even more power over to developers rather than leaving it in the hands of giant companies like Apple and Google.
Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers' declaration regarding Fortnite's payment methods on the App Store highlights a glaring inconsistency in the tech industry. Applications like Fortnite will now be able to utilize platforms like the App Store without following the specific payment guidelines put in place by Apple. The Apple App Store is the only way to access Fortnite for iPhone and iPad products. Apple's reputation would be protected in their own eyes if they used their own trusted payment system.
Although Judge Rogers ruled in Fortnite parent company Epic's favor regarding the payment process, the judge asserted that Apple is not a monopoly. Apple's gaming and tech industry success should be attributed to the organizations' commitment to a smooth and safe user experience. Although Fortnite is free, the game thrives on in-store app purchases, which are made easily accessible by the advanced features of Apple products. These organizations' processing systems are meant to enhance the user's experience, and the company should receive some form of credit for that.
Apple's 30% commission has remained consistent since the App Store's inception in 2008. They are not bending any rules for Fortnite. Epic reportedly owes Apple $3.6 million due to its failure to follow Apple's payment guidelines from August and October of 2020. Apple did not alter the hefty fee due to the game's monstrous stature; downloads have simply risen over time due to Fortnite increasing in popularity.