So what does the Epic v Apple outcome mean for you?
So the Epic v Apple battle is over…again. But this time it may be for good - at least until Epic boss Tim Sweeney decides to go to war with platform holders again, that is. If you don’t recall the whole story, back in 2020 Fortnite on iOS and Android was updated with a new system called ‘Epic Direct Pay’ which directed users to pay for their V-bucks—the in-game currency—directly through Epic. Apple and Google didn’t like this and pulled the plug on Fortnite, kick-starting a long-running legal battle that seems to be finally wrapping up.
Yesterday, the US Supreme Court refused to hear the current legal case between Epic and Apple, shutting the door on third-party storefronts on iOS, but upholding the decision to dissolve Apple’s anti-steering policies. Prompting Sweeney to hop onto Twitter, calling it “A sad outcome for all developers.” Still, he did boast of the fact that developers could now direct users to better prices elsewhere on the web, even for purchases used in applications on iOS. This, and the 30% fee levied on in-app purchases, has been one of Tim Sweeney’s main points of contention with many digital storefronts. However, it has been noted that Apple has managed to weasel in a 12-27% levy on links that take customers to alternate payment methods.
Still, for those boasting about the importance of mobile gaming - which it undoubtedly is - it’s a bit odd that one of the highest courts in the land (well, at least in America) wouldn’t even touch a case that both industry insiders and players alike are watching with bated breath.
In the USA the Supreme Court is, in the most basic sense, the highest-ranking court that overrules lower courts and can set a precedent - a legal example to support a case - for virtually the entire country. Had they chosen to hear the case, we could’ve seen substantial changes not just to Apple and iOS but to the whole mobile gaming industry. It’s definitely a bit odd they wouldn’t even touch it, weirder still they wouldn’t say why, despite raking in billions of dollars and having millions of players. I guess because it’s gaming-related it gets snubbed.
“But what about ME?”So, what do the results of this case mean for you? Well, you won’t be getting any third-party app stores on iOS anytime soon, unfortunately, at least in the US; in the EU new legislation could mean that third-party storefronts are right around the corner. However, with the dissolution of ‘anti-steering’ policies, this means that effectively companies like Epic have won their original case, but not enough for them yet. Now, developers can direct you to alternate purchase options for their games, although the 12-27% levy is still significant. If your preference is premium games then you remain out of luck, as these still need to be purchased through the iOS App Store.
So, for players who are vehemently anti-microtransaction, this may be at least some form of move forward in lowering these prices, as the ones likely to see the most benefit are those playing gacha titles or, indeed, games like Fortnite which have some form of in-app purchase. The floodgates haven’t necessarily opened, as thanks to other legislation - like the EU’s Digital Markets Act - the tide is slowly turning against platform holders like Apple and Google. Supercell, the creators of Clash of Clans, opened their own web store last year and many studios are slowly doing the same.
Summing it all upSo, in short: Apple won’t be allowing third-party storefronts with better overall deals anytime soon. But developers are now free to direct you to their own web store or alternate, and hopefully cheaper, ways to make in-app purchases for their games. While Sweeney might be grousing still (when isn’t he?), it’s arguably a pretty big win for developers and players alike. Yet as always, Apple has managed to introduce it in as limited a way as possible.
But it remains to be seen what the long-term effects of this are going to be. Such as whether the lowering of prices comes to pass, whether web stores are here to stay or indeed what benefit in terms of revenue studios see in the long haul. Given that links are levied, but outside payments don't seem to be, we may indeed see roundabout ways of directing players to these storefronts instead.
We’d probably predict a mixture. It’s been a tough year for the gaming industry already, with layoffs across the board and increased cost-cutting with the already tightened belts. It may be that this honeymoon period quickly wears off and whatever benefits players see are quickly subsumed by the ongoing efforts to boost revenue at a time when many developers are struggling.
What do you think? Has your favourite game already taken advantage of these new rulings? Do you want them to? Let us know in the comments section below!