There’s no good guy in the Epic Games vs. Apple lawsuit

Fortnite has been banned from the Apple App Store after launching the Mega Drop incentive today. Mega Drop is designed to let players save 20% on in-app purchases by paying Epic Games directly instead of utilizing Apple’s payment system. However, since this is in violation of App Store guidelines, Apple pulled the plug, and Epic Games is filing suit.

However, Epic Games isn’t portraying this situation for what it really is: Epic flexing so they can reduce Apple’s 30% cut. Instead, Fortnite‘s banning from the App Store is being framed as some kind of tyrannical action. Epic Games obviously meant for its addition of direct payment to provoke Apple. Only hours the game’s removal from the App Store, a whole social media campaign, #FreeFortnite, was deployed, complete with a parody of Apple’s iconic “1984” ad.

Whether or not Apple’s guidelines requiring it to be the sole payment processor for apps listed in the App Store is anti-competitive or not is for the courts to decide. However, Epic Games has fired the opening salvo in the court of public opinion with its #FreeFortnite campaign. Mobilizing the Fortnite fanbase to pressure Apple is smart, but the way Epic is handling it is cringeworthy.

The #FreeFortnite blog portrays the situation as being 100% Apple’s responsibility. For example, the FAQ for “Why can’t I access Fortnite on iOS?” reads:

“Apple is blocking your ability to get the latest Fortnite updates! All players should have a choice in payment providers and save up to 20%. Apple wants to limit your payment choices! Join the fight against @AppStore on social with #FreeFortnite.”

Other parts of the blog contain epithets like:

  • “Make your voice heard in the fight against the app tax!”
  • “Apple’s rules add a 30% tax on all of your purchases, and they punish game developers like us who offer direct payment options.”
  • “Apple is keeping prices high so they can collect 30% of your payments, and is blocking Fortnite in order to prevent Epic from passing on the savings from direct payments to you!”

Nothing on the #FreeFortnite blog puts any responsibility for the App Store ban on Epic Games. Apple hasn’t recently changed its App Store guidelines concerning payment processing. Fortnite has been on the App Store since 2018, but you’d think this was some sort of surprise from Epic Games’ rhetoric. The truth is, Epic knew that Apple would take action against them for violating App Store guidelines. It had this PR campaign and the suit ready to go before the update was pushed.

I’m all for Epic negotiating more favorable terms from Apple, but #FreeFortnite comes off as propaganda. Considering much of Fortnite‘s fanbase is comprised of underage, impressionable players, are these tactics something we should be comfortable with?

Over 2020 we’ve had COVID, the resurgence of BLM in response to the murder of George Floyd, the Hong Kong protests, and more. It’s been a rough year for everyone. With these real issues, a multi-billion dollar corporation casting itself as the underdog against another isn’t compelling, it’s tiring. Corporations aren’t your friend, and Apple and Epic Games are just arguing over who gets to take your money.

Epic will pretend like it’s your buddy because you get 20% off your V-Bucks with them, but they’re saving 30% if you didn’t have to pay through Apple, so they’re still profiting an additional 10%. It’s just another case of two massive companies going at each other at the expense of the customer, and it’s gross.