Apple and Google have been sued by Epic Games after both companies removed the popular online game Fortnite from their app stores. Epic Games, a video game publisher with its own proprietary online store, has alleged that Apple and Google have engaged in monopolistic practices by removing the game from its stores. The lawsuit brings up potential antitrust implications against Google and Apple, whose app stores serve as private marketplaces for consumer software of all types.
Fortnite is one of the most popular online games right now, with more than 350 million registered players worldwide. Although the game is ostensibly free to play, Fortnite is sustained through online microtransactions for in-game items, costumes, and other rewards. Until recently, these microtransactions were processed through the Apple and Google app stores, with Apple and Google taking a cut of the profits.
However, Epic Games recently changed the model so that Fortnite players would need to pay Epic directly for these microtransactions rather than going through the app stores. Claiming that this violated their company policies, both Google and Apple removed Fortnite from their stores, resulting in Epic suing the app store owners for anticompetitive practices. The lawsuit’s primary claims revolve around these microtransactions, and whether Apple and Google had the right to ban Fortnite for Epic’s change in financial practices.
On the one hand, Apple and Google have already faced scrutiny for their app stores, and executives from both companies recently testified in Congress about alleged monopolistic practices. On the other hand, regardless of alleged anticompetitive practices, Apple and Google do have a right to regulate what software is sold through their online storefronts. It should be noted, however, that Epic Games has its own digital storefront, which sells both Epic’s own products as well as third-party software, potentially making Epic a competitor for Apple and Google. Whether that improves their claim against the two marketplaces for anti-competitive conduct, or merely makes them seem more self-serving, remains to be seen.
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