Everyone expected PlayStation 5 vs. Xbox Series X to be the big video game battle of 2020, but it looks like that console war is taking a back seat to a bigger conflict. Epic Games, the makers of “Fortnite,” has filed an antitrust suit against Apple and begun a series of salvos that got the popular battle royale game kicked off the App Store.
It began with Epic Games bypassing Apple’s payment service by allowing direct payments to the North Carolina-based company. The way the App Store works is that Apple takes a 30% cut from every sale on the platform. By skirting that with its “mega drop” discount, Epic violated Apple’s terms of service.
Players who have already downloaded “Fortnite” from the Apple App Store can still play and spend money, according to the Washington Post, but they will not be able to get the seasonal updates that keep “Fortnite” fresh year after year.
In response, Epic Games filed the lawsuit and created a stinging ad and a hashtag; #FreeFortnite began trending on Twitter soon after Epic launched an ad echoing Apple’s legendary “1984” Mac commercial. Epic’s argument was clear. Apple with its dominance of the mobile market has become the very thing it criticized so effectively in the past.
This “App Store war” could have a larger impact on gaming than what goes on in consoles. If cloud gaming is the future, the challenge to open up iOS devices is going to have big ramifications. It could also rewrite how much platform holders take from developers who want to sell their games on the virtual stores.
In the bigger picture, it shows that video games are a bigger business than ever. While Hollywood and music festivals are suffering during the coronavirus pandemic, gaming has thrived and showed its resilience. While movie box office numbers have plummeted, gaming has posted record sales, according to a Yahoo Finance report.
The coronavirus is changing behavior and it could do so permanently as a generation of kids and young adults turn to video games instead of movies and live entertainment. It happens to be — pardon the pun — one of the few games in town.