Apple vs Epic Games trial kicks off featuring the same old arguments, hundreds of angry Zoombombing tweens

'Hello? I would please like Fortnite Mobile back...'

Apple and Epic Games met in California federal court on Monday, kicking off a bench trial with potentially radical consequences for how software is distributed and monetised on closed mobile ecosystems like iOS.

The formal commencement of the trial follows months of legal wrangling, prompted by Apple's decision to ban the popular free-to-play shooter Fortnite from the App Store last August. Epic Games had provoked Apple's ire after it introduced its own payment system, in protest of Apple's long-standing practice of swallowing 30 per cent of sales and in-app purchase revenue.

Tim Sweeney, Epic's outspoken CEO, told the jury (audio recording of the telephonic hearing here) that Apple's payment policies had deprived the company of "millions" in revenue which it could have reinvested in the business, and resulted in higher costs for users.

Fortnite was the highest-grossing game in 2019, with revenues of $1.8bn across all platforms, including iOS, Android, Xbox One, PC, and the PS4. Although free to download, Epic makes money by selling an in-game currency, which can be used to purchase weapons, skins, and other virtual items. Apple has claimed that Epic has earned $750m lifetime revenue from the iOS platform.

During the same period, Apple earned an estimated $15bn from the App Store, with gross sales of $50bn.

Katherine B Forrest, serving as counsel for Epic, additionally described the App Store as "monopolistic" due to its position as the gatekeeper for third-party software on the iOS platform. Whereas the open nature of Android allows for the sideloading of apps, as well as the use of third-party marketplaces, Apple has opted to exercise tight control over what software can run on iPhones and related devices.

In opposition, Apple argued that its control of the iOS platform didn't constitute an antitrust abuse as anyone can opt to use alternative platforms. Its counsel, Karen L Dunn, pointed out that as a gaming platform, iOS competes with Android devices, as well as more traditional consoles, like the Xbox and Nintendo Switch. Forrest countered that this line of argument "[defies] common sense" as people don't use their consoles and mobile devices interchangeably.

Apple re-emphasised its oft-repeated argument that its control of the iOS platform, encompassing distribution and payment processing, is a necessary evil to protect customers.

The second day of the trial is due to commence today, with Sweeney facing cross-examination.

While the ruling of a federal judge in this legal salvo would have nationwide consequences for both parties, Epic has shown an unwillingness to wait, launching a campaign to push legislation at the state level that would chip away at Apple's market control.


Googler demolishes one of Apple's monopoly defenses – that web apps are just as good as native iOS software


Although Epic has readily found allies willing to join this fight, including Spotify and gadget tracker manufacturer Tile, successes have proven more elusive. Legislation introduced in North Dakota and Arizona were respectively rejected and quietly killed during the committee phase.

Epic has additionally waged a brutal public relations campaign against Apple, painting it as the authoritarian "Big Brother" character depicted in the iconic 1984 Macintosh ad.

In April, Epic raised a $1bn funding round, giving it an equity value of $28.7bn. With plenty of cash in the bank, the developer looks set to continue this fight to the bitter end.

Although Apple and Epic Games stuck to their previous party lines, some novelty came in the form of the court's dial-in line, which had been misconfigured to allow all participants to speak.

Youtube Video

For almost 20 minutes, a court employee played whack-a-mole with dozens of scratchy-voiced teens, who implored the judge to "bring back Fortnite," plugged their YouTube channels, hurled obscenities, and blasted music through the line. If you're tempted, you can listen to the chaos (and the rest of the hearing) in the video above. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading
  • China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D
    Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

    Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

    The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

    In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022