We look at the issues that led the two firms to pick a fight over content allowed on Apple’s App Store
Apple and Epic Games will go head to head in court in front of a US federal judge on Monday, the latest stage in the Fortnite maker’s campaign to break open the iPhone’s walled garden. The feud has been growing since last August, when Epic set in motion a plan – known internally as “project liberty” – to try to get past the restrictions Apple places on software made for iPhones and iPads. Here is what brought the two companies to this point.
The App Store is the only way to install software on iPhones and iPads, but companies have to play by Apple’s rules if they want to be included. Those rules are byzantine, controlling everything from adult content to security practices, but Epic’s main issue is with the rules controlling how it can charge customers for “V-bucks”, the in-game currency used to buy items in Fortnite. Apple requires large companies to pay 30% of the money they receive for such sales of digital goods – since last December, smaller companies can apply for a discounted rate – a cut which Epic’s founder and chief executive, Tim Sweeney, had long complained was extortionate.
Sweeney sent Apple a behind-the-scenes ultimatum: allow Epic to run its own App Store for iPhones, where it could take payments without a cut. Apple rejected Epic’s terms, and on 13 August Epic unilaterally updated Fortnite to allow users to buy V-bucks direct, and offered a discount for those who did. Apple and Google, whose Google Play app store rules were also circumvented, retaliated within hours by removing the game. Epic took the fight public, reworking Apple’s famous 1984 commercial to pitch the company under Tim Cook as the new villain.