The legal battle between Epic Games and Apple over in-game microtransactions is expected to drag on for months. However, this week we’ve already heard some amazing claims from Apple – suggesting that Epic started the lawsuit only to fuel dwindling interest in Fortnite.
In an objection letter filed with the district court yesterday, Apple claimed the entire dispute was essentially a PR stunt to increase interest in the Battle Royale (via The Verge).
“For reasons unrelated to Epic’s claims against Apple, Fortnite’s popularity is declining,” Apple said. “By July 2020, interest in Fortnite had dropped nearly 70 percent from October 201
Later in the filings, Apple cites numbers from Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic, noting that “only 20 percent of Fortnite users accessed the game exclusively on Apple devices and only 10 percent of active users play on iOS.”
“If Epic were really concerned that this dispute would damage its reputation, it would not go into these lengthy efforts to get it known,” added Apple. “For all reasons (including the #freefortnite campaign), Epic believes his conduct here will lead to goodwill, build reputation, and lead users to Fortnite, not the opposite. There is no harm in that.”
It is likely that Apple prepared these arguments to counter Epic’s claim that Apple did irreparable damage by booting Fortnite from the App Store. The suggestion is that Epic started the dispute on purpose to serve its own business interests and that losing Fortnite on iOS will not have a disastrous impact on Epic’s overall revenue.
There are a few questions, however, that remain unanswered by Apple’s selection of examples here – most notably that numbers for Fortnite’s popularity have been left out since October 2019, and we know from Epic’s own statistics that Fortnite spiked during the Travis Scott event the popularity recorded in April this year. Additionally, Epic recently argued in its own filing that iOS is the largest platform for Fortnite with 116 million registered users (nearly a third of Fortnite’s total of 350 million). Epic also claimed that 63 percent of Fortnite users on iOS only use this platform. Since Fortnite’s removal, daily active users on iOS have decreased by over 60 percent. It seems like this is going to be a battle of statistics – and how they are designed.
Aside from the new PR stunt claims, the filing mostly confirms Apple’s previous argument that Epic is making its own problems, and could solve them by simply rolling back an update. “Epic started a fire and poured gasoline on it and is now asking this court for immediate help in extinguishing it, although Epic can do it itself immediately by simply adhering to the terms of the contract that have governed its relationship with Apple for years,” it says the file.
“If Epic were really concerned about getting iPhone users access to Fortnite or developer access to Unreal Engine, it would disable the ‘hotfix’ and follow Apple’s guidelines until the claims are resolved. Instead, Epic is sticking to its own customers hostage. ” Gaining leverage in a business dispute. “
If you just catch up on that clash of the titans, the dispute started back in August when Epic added a secondary payment system to Fortnite to avoid Apple taking over 30 percent of all microtransactions in the game. In violation of the App Store’s terms and conditions, Apple launched Fortnite from its storefront (Google followed suit) even though Epic had finished with a PR video and a PR campaign – and filed lawsuits against both.
We have seen a number of legal filings since then, and Epic has successfully obtained an injunction to prevent Apple from blocking access to its Unreal Engine developer tools. The next key stage in the legal process is the full court hearing, scheduled for September 28, over the Epic injunction that will restore Fortnite to the App Store if successful. Things are sure to get juicy.