Judge Accuses Epic Of Dishonesty In Fortnite-Apple Legal Battle, Disputes Anticompetitive Walled Garden
Liar, liar, pants on fire! That pretty much sums up what a judge accused Epic of doing in its highly publicized and costly dispute with Apple over the royalty rate it collects for apps sold in its App Store, as well as in-game purchases. The judge told Epic that even though some people might consider the team a bunch of "heroes" for taking on Apple, its claims against the company are "not honest."
"You did something, you lied about it by omission, by not being forthcoming. That's the security issue. That's the security issue!," Judge Gonzales Rogers told Epic during a court broadcast that was livestreamed on Zoom, according to CNN. "There are a lot of people in the public who consider you guys heroes for what you guys did, but it's still not honest."
The livestream is not available for viewing, as far as I can tell, though if you dig around you can find bits and pieces of it on the web. What it basically boils down to is Epic reiterating previous claims that Apple's banishment of Epic and Fortnite from the App Store is causing the developer irreparable harm, and also harmful to consumers.
This whole mess was initiated by Epic, though, when it decided to break its contract with Apple. Every developer that makes a buck (or a whole lot of bucks, as is the case with Epic) from apps hosted on the App Store has to fork over a 30 percent cut to Apple. That includes the sale of the app itself, and in-game purchase, which for Fortnite entails exchanging real currency for V-bucks.
Epic apparently grew tired of sharing that much revenue with Apple and determined that it was being anticompetitive. So it updated Fortnite to bypass Apple's revenue share for in-game purchases. Apple responded by booting Fortnite from the App Store, and later Epic as well, which brings us to the current legal battle.
Judge Rogers is not making a determination on the outcome. Instead, this revolves around Epic's request for a preliminary injunction, to force Apple to reinstate Fortnite back into the App Store. However, Judge Rogers did not seem all that sympathetic, at one point saying she was "not particularly persuaded" by one of the legal arguments Epic made. She also threw cold water on Epic's claim issue with Apple have a walled garden, so to speak.
"Walled gardens have existed for decades. Nintendo has had a walled garden. Sony has had a walled garden. Microsoft has had a walled garden. What Apple's doing is not much different... It's hard to ignore the economics of the industry, which is what you're asking me to do," Judge Rogers said.
Apple also had some harsh comments in reference to Epic, saying its CEO Tim Sweeney is "trying to be the Pied Piper of other developers," trying to get them to "cheat" and "breach" their contracts.
While this case remains unsolved in the early going, the judge's remarks highlight the kind of uphill battle Epic is facing. From the outside looking in, it is difficult to envision Epic ultimately being successful. That said, she offered Epic a glimmer of hope, saying she agrees that "there is an uproar in the marketplace about a lack of competition" for app stores that distribute iOS applications.