Ready Player One – Why Fortnite taking on Apple and Google matters

14 August 2020

Alexandra Tsoi & Charlie Simon

PvP

Fortnite, the wildly popular online video game developed by Epic Games has gone to war with the two tech giants Apple and Google over a dispute about in-game purchases. For those who think this is small time stuff, remember that Epic Games is valued at $17.3 billion as a business. 

The fact that a game developer has decided to sue Apple and fall out with Google speaks volumes about how far gaming has come and how confident it now is as a sector. It also demonstrates that these “nerds” have the power to take on huge tech giants that many have previously thought were unbeatable. Whilst the legal process for beating Apple will of course take a while, the ramifications of the potential outcome are huge. 

A Long Time Coming…

What struck us most about this out-of-the-blue beef, is the video that Epic Games made to defy Apple – cleverly titled “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite”. And while on the face of it, it seems to all boil down to money, it is also so much more than that.

Epic Games knew that once they had implemented an in-game update which would allow players of Fortnite to pay directly to Epic Games (completely bypassing Apple), Apple would respond. But Epic Games would never start a war if they didn’t have a plan – after all, they do know how gaming works. Initial pawns moved across the board, it’s Epic Games’ turn, and this is where the video comes in. 

The video was broadcast in-game so that the players themselves could witness this retaliation first-hand. It echoed that of an advert Apple released back in 1984, and of course references the George Orwell novel suggesting that the rules Apple has put in place are totalitarian.

Moreover, they are saying that these rules condone anti-competitive behaviour. And that is what they are suing over. 

Playing the Game

Anti-competitive behaviour was heatedly discussed a few weeks ago on Capitol Hill. Major tech bosses were questioned over anti-trust issues, and Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram was questioned for being anti-competitive. Not long after, we are faced with this word again. 

In their legal complaint, Epic Games stated: 

“Rather than tolerate this healthy competition and compete on the merits of its offering, Apple responded by removing Fortnite from sale on the App Store… Apple’s removal of Fortnite is yet another example of Apple flexing its enormous power in order to impose unreasonable restraints and unlawfully maintain its 100% monopoly over the iOS In-App Payment Processing Market.”

Epic Games

A bold and head-on statement. They are not pulling any punches. 

But Epic Games is not stopping there. They have encouraged loyal players to take to social media, using the hashtag #FreeFortnite in order to reinstate the game on Apple devices. Did we mention that they have 350 million registered users?

A United Front

The issue here for Apple is that they have entered a fight with one of the most committed audiences of any entertainment industry. The gaming community is a strong digital force. Of course, this isn’t always a good thing, and the power of it has been used to negative ends such as doxxing – the act of searching for and publishing private information about a particular individual online (typically with malicious intent). 

However, if enough people rally behind this movement, it could start a really meaningful discourse around the tech world. The realisation of the power of these companies is really coming to light. One games industry influencer, Alanah Pearce, tweeted:

A Battle Royale for the Ages… Kind of

A battle royale would suggest the last man standing wins. But that’s not how life works. We can’t just kill off companies who threaten our own. We need to adapt, innovate, and change. 

One thing’s for certain, this fight between three huge companies will be historic. So, let’s get ready to rumble.