An acquaintance who is just a few years away from becoming a pensioner has just started work in an old-fashioned, small town hardware store, after 18 months being unemployed due to physical injury. They were surprised to get the job given their age, until, that is, the boss explained that he was ‘fed up with employing youngsters who can barely tear themselves away from games on their smartphones whenever a customer comes into the shop’. Hmm. An interesting insight to life in the modern world for many!
Games on digital devices are a fact of life and readily available from the app stores in the Apple, Google, and Microsoft ecosystems. If you are younger than about 40 years old then it’s likely that playing games on your smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop is part of how you get your fun, which means you should take an interest in the acrimonious legal dispute between Epic – makers of Fortnite and other popular games – and Apple. Events have been unfolding fast – as you can see, for example, here, here, here and here – and they provide an insight into the attitudes and dynamics of major corporations when they have a serious spat.
What appears to have triggered events is a Fortnite update that allowed players to buy in-game currency direct from Epic at a lower rate, bypassing Apple’s compulsory payment system which takes a 30% cut of every purchase. The lawyers are now having a field day. Apple have essentially removed Epic’s games from their app store, and the associated media coverage gives us all a ready insight into how a 2 trillion-dollar corporation (Apple) and 20 billion-dollar corporation (Epic) are locking horns in the dispute.
The courts will, of course, rightly decide the legal rights and wrongs, probably in late September. However, on cogitating about the situation, and notwithstanding what the courts decide, the Badger felt that Apple comes over in what’s been written as just an arrogant, monopolistic, mega-corporate bully whose 30% take on in-app revenues smacks of profiteering. It’s sad that Apple, once an upstart and disrupter itself, has inevitably turned into the kind of corporation that it once challenged. Harsh? Perhaps, but when you’re next playing a game on your Apple device just remember that it’s you that’s paying the 30%.
The Badger has a feeling that the outcome of the EPIC v Apple spat in the courts – regardless of who ‘wins’ – will ultimately start the ball rolling to force changes to the likes of Apple and Google. Given Microsoft was accused of being a monopoly 20 years ago, it’s plausible that we’ll see the likes of Apple similarly challenged at some stage.
So, there you have it. There’s a David versus Goliath fight underway, and it’s a brave person that bets on either David being squashed, or Goliath coming out of the fray without injury…