It’s all a bit heady, if not entirely obfuscated to the point of Orwellian corporate diplomacy/warfare that is quickly becoming far more common than the vast majority understand, or at least find themselves willing to admit.
Epic Games has had Fortnite removed from both the Apple Store and Google Play Store (a few hours after the first) as they broke the rules of hosting applications on those storefronts for the mobile devices. Specifically, they wanted microtransactions to be purchased and fulfilled entirely through the Epic Games Store so that Apple and Google wouldn’t get the standard 30% cut of the profits for said microtransactions.
Moments after the title was removed from the stores, Epic Games unleashed a fascinating swell of media that many are hard-pressed to identify as anything other than corporate propaganda, readily drawing comparisons between George Orwell’s 1984 and Apple’s practices.
As though they hadn’t read the book 1984, or at the very least massively misunderstood the premise of its foundation.
The goal from Epic Games was simple; break the rules of the app stores and then use their Fortnite fans to levy pressure onto the app stores into giving Epic Games a better deal.
We haven’t even gotten to the most tone-deaf part of this entire boiling pot of dumpster juice, but lets first offer a bit of context into the background of these companies (and how they got to this point) so we can further understand the times that we suddenly find ourselves in.
30% is a standard cut for platforms; has been for a long while, and it’s unlikely to go anywhere in a hurry. The cut allows platforms and storefronts to reinvest into their presentations and designs, offering better services to consumers which then attract more consumers in the long run.
When one looks at how absurdly feature-rich Valve’s Steam platform is, that didn’t occur due to charity; that was from Steam offering developers of all sizes an area to market and interact with their developers. It’s also pointedly one of the reasons that the Epic Games Store is still fundamentally lacking in even the most basic features; it’s not readily pulling in a monumental profit which allows EGS to reinvest into that storefront to bring about features.
The vast majority of the 30% cut argument began on the back of Epic Games attempting to elbow into the PC gaming platforms; they didn’t have much so they made that their primary sticking point. This point became latched onto by many young fans of Epic Games as it was, many argue, the only reason for using the said platform.
Bear in mind that there is a multitude of servers and backend services that are running to bring these titles to everyone’s home, and it all makes a bit of sense why storefronts charge this. For some gamers, they don’t even get a choice: Xbox and PlayStation consoles are notorious for walled-gardens similar to Apple, as there aren’t competitors offering downloadable titles directly onto the console (which is the same reason the sales are lackluster at best).
We’re not claiming as to if 30% is actually too high, or not high enough, or budgets; we’re just offering context. Apple is a bit unfriendlier of the two mobile providers as they require yearly fees to list your application, and along with their bizarre requirement that said application needs to be built on an Apple device is the reason why many developers frown on the tech giant. Epic Games has notably attempted to circumvent these app store cuts with Google Play, where they attempted to direct Android users onto their website to avoid giving Google a cut. They’ve also applied for exclusions from the cut, that was denied by Google.
The fact remains, however, that these App Stores can only survive and continue to be curated by receiving a cut from EGS; Apple owning the entirety of their platform (typically referred to as a walled-garden) is a boisterously crummy move that negatively affects consumers and developers, yet it is well within their rights to do so.
Looking directly at Epic Games, they began the process of purchasing exclusivity rights on PC from various publishers and developers, a wildly anti-consumer move that was geared towards creating a drought of new anticipated titles going anywhere aside from the new Epic Games Store. For fans that disagreed with these tactics, it meant that everyone just had to wait until the agreement was up so they could purchase it on their favored platform.
Epic Games had the cashflow, thanks entirely to Fortnite, to ensure that competition would be unfairly leveraged to help bolster their sales. Include onto this that, every time Epic Games Store offers a free title, it counts that as a purchase on their store which wildly skews the reporting accuracy of their figures to appear as they’re stronger on the scene than they are.
A bunch of billionaire companies is now set to collide, and the fans are going to be the ammunition. Let’s take a collective look at the fascinating video that Epic produced to release shortly after they were kicked off of the app store; it’s forty-eight seconds long of face-palming idiosyncracies that would make even a well-established satirist take notes.
First, we’ll take a factual account of Epic Games statement after the video:
Epic Games has defied the App Store Monopoly.
In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices.
Join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming “1984”.
Epic Games knowingly broke the rules that all applications are to abide by, and they were prepared for the delisting from Apple and Google (although Apple is the prima facie) with not only these bizarre propaganda videos but also with a lawsuit that was already entirely written and prepared for, which Epic Games then filed within hours of the delisting occurring.
Since Epic Games broke the rules, they were delisted: Epic Games isn’t special because they managed to hit a home run with Fortnite and attempts to become special so they can gain more money (because billions are never enough for these corporations) is an interesting premise for the current episode of ‘dystopic stupidity’.
Yet this entire movement that Epic Games is attempting to begin operates off of a singular premise: that young players of Fortnite aren’t going to understand that they are being fed propaganda to become pawns that will apply pressure on Apple and, to a lesser extent, Google Play.
It’s decidedly ambitious from Epic Games and a bit of a gamble in that this won’t blow up in their faces (which many firmly believe it rightfully should). In the modern era where we are inching closer to 1984, where protesters are being picked up in unmarked vans and not seen from again, where the politicians readily lie to their constituents to further their financial gain, and the culture is so wildly divided during a pandemic that the United States can not control, the entire video and hashtag are so wildly out of touch that it brings to mind the Pepsi commercial that magically quelled unrest between rioters and police.
Epic Games lawsuit states that Apple is acting unfairly and in a manner that is ‘anti-competitive’; the pot metaphorically calling the kettle black as Epic Games has announced that they’re eager to continue purchasing exclusivity contracts with upcoming titles for PC, regardless of whether those developers have promised (and begun taking preorders from) other platforms and storefronts. AN additional segment states that despite Epic Games’ attempts in the past to receive some favorable status from Google and Apple, this lawsuit isn’t actually about receiving favorable rulings for themselves, but everyone.
Rulings that would then astronomically help Epic Games.
This marks as one of the first times in the gaming industry that corporations are attempting to use propaganda to cause a backlash against other corporations; worth a bookmark in the history books for an interesting new take on corporate warfare as it exists in the current era.
The underlying point in all of this, what makes it so uncomfortable for many industry veterans, is that Epic Games is knowingly relying on their far younger audience to apply pressure on storefronts because they don’t want to have to pay other corporations for their services. It’s akin to asking for free things from businesses because you’re an ‘influencer’, and it’s a frankly shameful ploy from the studio. The ensuing legal battle from this should be entertaining fodder with far-reaching consequences that neither side fully understands just yet.