Friday, September 18, 2020

Apple Says Epic Is “Saboteur, Not a Martyr”

Tina Davis (Slashdot, 9to5Mac):

In an overnight filing, Apple said “Epic started a fire, and poured gasoline on it, and now asks this court for emergency assistance in putting it out.” Epic can fix the problem “by simply adhering to the contractual terms that have profitably governed its relationship with Apple for years.”

How can they do that when Apple terminated their account said “we will deny your reapplication to the Apple Developer Program for at least a year”?

Apple told the court that removing the game from its store wasn’t anticompetitive because Epic’s players can use other mobile devices or PCs, laptops, or gaming consoles. “Only a fraction of Epic’s customers access Fortnite using an iPhone, and Epic’s revenues from other platforms greatly exceed its revenues from iPhone players,” Apple said.

Florian Mueller:

The numbers that Apple’s opposition brief provides speak a clear language:

“Apple has taken this approach thousands of times with other developers and their affiliates.”


“Apple has terminated over 75,000 unique accounts for introducing new features without going through App Review; over 2,000 accounts for introducing a non-IAP payment method; and over 60,000 accounts for introducing hidden features or obfuscating code (for example, by installing executable code).”


“Apple does not wait to be fooled a second time before terminating an affiliate for the bad deeds of its principals.”

So it’s not just that the language of Apple’s contracts allow such termination; it’s routinely done.

Florian Mueller:

Apple’s filing furthermore explains that Unreal Engine is not the market leader--Unity is. While Unreal Engine is, according to Apple, “used by a minuscule fraction of iPhone apps,” Unity (which my app development company uses as well) “characterizes itself as ‘the world’s leading platform for creating and operating interactive, real-time 3D content,’ and is available for ‘more than 20 platforms, including Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and the leading augmented and virtual reality platforms, among others.’” Apple goes on to say that “Unity is used by the overwhelming majority of Apple developers that use a graphics engine.”

M.G. Siegler:

I don’t think that Apple, while they might be explicitly following the letter of what Jobs said back then, I don’t think they’re following the intents of what was implied by what he was saying. If you go back and read those quotes, I think he’s basically saying, look, we’re launching this new in-app purchase service because we’re trying to make the best user experience for people to be able to transact within our apps and on our devices. And we think that we can create a better experience for those users using what at the time was the iTunes Rails to be able to pay for these subscription services, and now it’s obviously all run through the App Store. And if you feel like, if you’re a service that brings in your own users a different way and you can do that, that’s great, you get to keep all of that money. And if they choose to use our Rails to do it, then we’ll take that 30% cut.

And we can talk about the 30% cut itself in a second, but I just think that Apple has deviated from that mentality and now it’s all just like, how do we make sure that we are getting that 30% cut and they are signing up are via our mechanism. So it feels like they’re not so much competing on having the best experience or product necessarily anymore. They’re competing on obfuscation and trying to make it confusing and/or just like impossible to sign up.


I think that they should get a lot more granular in terms of how they support those types of businesses and recognize that not every type of business necessarily should be taking a 30% cut of their revenue out of, and I know that they’ve changed it slightly over the years. They have the 30% finder’s fee that again morphs into a 15% thing in year two and whatnot. But some of that was just because of back-end deals that they cut with some of the other bigger players like Amazon, and then they felt like probably some level of hypocrisy if they didn’t offer it to everyone, but there’s still a lot of hypocrisy going on behind the scenes.

Bobby Allyn (via Hacker News):

“It’s not just Epic being exploited by Apple, but it’s every developer who goes along with that scheme colluding with Apple and Google to further their monopoly,” Sweeney said in the interview. “These stores are making a lot more money from creative works than the creators.”


A 30% fee on new technologies in the future, Sweeney says, can stifle innovation. And more than that, “it’s going to be one of the worst dystopias you can imagine from the science fiction literature with a few corporations controlling not just digital items and games but everything,” he said.

The Fortnite Team:

Apple is preventing Epic from signing games and patches for distribution on Mac, which ends our ability to develop and offer Fortnite: Save the World for the platform. Specifically, our upcoming v14.20 release will cause bugs for players on v13.40, resulting in a very poor experience. Since we are no longer able to sign updates and release fixes for these issues, beginning September 23, 2020, Fortnite: Save the World will no longer be playable on macOS.

We are issuing a refund for all players who purchased any Save the World Founder’s or Starter Packs (including Upgrades) and played Save the World on macOS between September 17, 2019 and September 17, 2020. Additionally, any purchased V-Bucks spent on Llamas on macOS in this period will also be refunded.

Current Mac versions of Fortnite are signed with the Epic Games International certificate, which hasn’t been revoked. That account is otherwise used for Unreal Engine and related sample apps. In theory, Epic could sign new Fortnite builds with this certificate, but Apple would see that as trying to get around the termination of the main Epic account and perhaps endanger Unreal Engine.


2 Comments RSS · Twitter

It now seems to me that Apple is Uberizing app developers, the way Uber Uberized taxi drivers.

App developers are essentially selling copies of their apps to Apple. Apple then sells them to the customers. That's like a store, except that the App Store goes beyond being a store:

* If I buy a chainsaw or an appliance, the manufacturer still gets to ask me for my contact information for the warranty. Then they can have a relationship with me. But Sign-In with Apple makes that impossible.

* If I'm a chainsaw manufacturer, I can sell my chainsaw through another store. With Apple and Android I have to build a completely different chainsaw for each market (electric versus gasoline).

So the net result is not that different from Uber. Uber drivers must provide a car (an investment) and take the risk of ferrying an axe-murderer. The App Developer buys equipment (development system, test systems), and the initial investment into making the app, and takes on the risk that his/her app might not sell. Uber gets a cut for their "technology" and sets the price of fares, taking on no risk. Apple gets a cut of the price for their "technology" (the App Store), and essentially sets the price of apps, again taking on no risk.

This makes it very clear that Apple is no longer a friend for developers, but an entity that exploits them like a resource. Whether one wants to continue being such a resource is something to consider for one's future career path... Learning a whole new slew of APIs might be a pain, but so is slowly being boiled alive.

The way Apple has treated Epic has made this blindingly obvious, and for that I am grateful. Better to know where the dragons lurk than be under the illusion that all is well... however unpleasant the realisation might be.

Epic's response is here:

I read most of it. IANAL, but Epic argues very clearly, and unless they got some legal detail wrong, their argument seems pretty solid to me.

There's a section of letters between Apple and Epic's lawyers. I was struck by how little Apple seems to care about its own customers. Apple forced Epic to implement Sign In With Apple, and prevented them from asking for people's contact information when signing up. Then they told Epic they would kill the ability for those customers to keep their accounts. Apple was as unhelpful as possible when Epic asked for more time to migrate those users.

So Apple requires third parties to treat it like a book publisher, but then it doesn't treat the people who purchase 3rd party apps from it through its App Store as it they were its valued clients: they don't care about the disruption they cause to their customers, only about their share. While Fortnite is "just a game", what happens when this happens with your financial app? your Neuralink interface? a medical diagnosis application? or anything else that is vital to users' well-being? "Go away, good riddance!" is very different from "We're really sorry our customers will suffer from this disruption, let's work together to minimise it".

Another sentence I found interesting was: "Apple also complains that Epic publicized the fight to “engender goodwill”. Epic’s public statements were made to expose to the public Apple’s anti-competitive conduct -- which Apple takes pains to conceal. So much for Apple's claim that telling users Apple skims 30% off the top is "irrelevant information".

The contrast between Apple's behavior and the impression they want to give their customers is revealing. Book publishers exercise editorial discretion, and it's not unreasonable for the AppStore to do that too. But there are many book publishers and publishers care about their customers. Whereas there's only one way to install apps, and from these documents it's clear that Apple doesn't care about the impact of its decisions on its customers. (You can't hide behind a contract, if you are the one who created the contract, and you have sole power to change it). This strengthens Epic's argument that iOS should allow multiple competing App Stores.

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