Epic Games has been at the forefront of the gaming industry this week after Fortnite was removed from both the App Store and the Google Play Store. The takedowns came after Epic breached terms of service by adding its own payment method to let players avoid app store fees.
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This was just the beginning of Epic Games’ massive ongoing campaign, known internally as Project Liberty. The developer waited for Apple and Google to take action against Fortnite, and retaliated with two pre-planned lawsuits. In the filing, Epic Games reasoned that Apple has monopolised the “iOS in-app payment processing market” and “iOS app distribution market”.
It alleged that Apple “imposes unreasonable and unlawful restraints to completely monopolise both markets and prevents software developers from reaching the over 1billion users of its mobile devices (e.g. iPhone and iPad) unless they go through a single store controlled by Apple, the App Store, where Apple exacts an oppressive 30 per cent tax on the sale of every app”.
The Fortnite developer had previously made a name for itself in standing up for smaller developers. In 2018, it was Epic Games which pressured Sony’s PlayStation into supporting crossplay. Just last year, the developer hit out at Valve’s platform Steam for taking large fees and instead, created its own storefront: the Epic Games Store.
Now, in 2020, Epic Games is at it again with a monumental case against two of the biggest companies on the globe. This would be incredible, if not for one thing: this time around, Epic Games dragged its fans into it.
On August 13, Fortnite played a short film inside of its Party Royale mode. Titled ‘Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite’, it was an obvious parody of Apple’s famous 1984 Macintosh commercial, and ended with a wall of text claiming that Epic Games had stood up to the “app store monopoly” and was being censored.
As a result, Epic Games deliberately turned a company issue into a marketing campaign. Knowing this would blow up, the developer has taken a more fanatical approach to the lawsuits and even began a hashtag on social media. With #FreeFortnite, Epic Games is clearly trying to rally its fanbase against Apple and Google.
In reality, the fanbase has nothing to do with this, and the hashtag will not change the outcome of any of the lawsuits – it’s just classic marketing. Not to mention the fact that Epic is blatantly holding mobile players hostage. In its own FAQ, the developer encourages mobile users to spam the hashtag to “make your voice heard”.
Epic blames Apple for blocking mobile users from playing Fortnite Chapter 2, Season 4, when in reality it was Epic’s choice to do this so close to a season launch. With the developer using Fortnite’s mobile player base as something as simple as a bargaining chip, it’s quite distasteful. The game has a young impressionable audience who just want to play games with their friends, not join a watered down fantasy of a revolution.
This is unfair to players, and I wish Epic hadn’t dragged the playerbase into a problem which does not affect them. Apple and Google do indeed have extortionate fees and are taking advantage of a monopoly on their platforms. It’s an industry problem for sure, and I am rooting for change, but leave us out of it.