Within weeks of testifying before Congress over allegations of wielding monopoly power to squash rivals, Apple and Google have been sued for blocking Fortnite, one of the highest grossing games on iOS and Android, as it tried to add a direct pay feature that would enable its store to compete with the platform app stores.
Not many can afford to litigate against adversaries with a combined market value of $3 trillion, but Fortnite is a force to be reckoned with 350 million players, one of the largest game communities in the world. It makes more than $5 million a day across all platforms, according to SuperData, and has much to gain by keeping Apple and Google’s 30% cut. Lifetime player spending on the battle royale game in the App Store and Google Play exceeded $1 billion in May, reported Sensor Tower. At stake are not only are hundreds of millions of dollars for this one developer, but whether the terms of service are inherently anticompetitive and need to be rewritten for all.
To underscore the irony of just how powerful Apple has become, Fortnite’s publisher Epic Games announced the lawsuit with a parody of the tech titan’s iconic 1984 Super Bowl commercial. A chilling call to action, the video asserts, “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.” Since its posting, several prominent app developers have been protesting the “Apple tax” including Spotify, Match and ironically Facebook, also the subject of antitrust investigations.