The impact of ‘Fortnite’ could be epic on Big Tech’s anti-trust investigations

While lawmakers and privacy advocates continue to push for anti-trust integration from four of tech’s biggest companies, some big names in video gaming could speed things up.

This is one of the initial conclusions of legal experts and developers following the lawsuit filed by Epic Games Inc. against Apple Inc. AAPL,
and GOOGL by Alphabet Inc.,
+ 0.77%
+ 0.68%
Google launched Epit’s hit video game “Fortnite” from its app stores on Thursday. “Fortnite’s” ouster came after Epic publicly announced an offer for players to get discounts on in-game purchases if they paid Epic directly.

(Late Monday, Epic sought a temporary restraining order in the federal court in California to block Apple from removing “Fortnite” from the App Store. Epic also asked the court to stop the iPhone maker from terminating its developer account). on August 28.)

The size and impact of Epic may just be the impetus to increase anti-trust investigations, said Ram Mohan, chief executive officer of domain name registrar Afilias Inc.

“Clearly, for the first time, there’s a company that has the ability to challenge the rules that Apple and Google have created,” Mohan told MarketWatch. “Smaller companies can’t do that. Ironically, big technology is needed to tackle Big Tech. ”

Underscoring Epic’s status, Spotify Technology Inc. SPOT,
+ 3.41%
and Match Group Inc. MTCH,
provides quick statements of support, and Facebook Inc. FB,
later claimed Apple refused to weigh its 30% fee on the feature of Facebook’s new paid online events. FB,

Read more: Manufacturer ‘Fortnite’ accuses Apple, Google of illegal monopolistic practices in tech battle generously

Eventbrite Inc. EB,
also could join the choir of dissent. The company said it has been announcing until December to start following Apple’s rules about in-app purchases due to events going online.

Epic could privately be seen as Apple’s most dangerous antagonist, both financially and symbolically. “Fortnite” raised $ 1 billion in player spending on Apple iOS devices in mid-May, based on estimates from mobile app research firm Sensor Tower, suggesting that Apple received hundreds of millions of dollars from the hit video game.

In the larger picture, Epic represents a video game industry that could prove a tipping point for anti-competitive actions by federal lawmakers, including the CEOs of Apple, Facebook, Google, and Inc. AMZN grille,
+ 1.09%
at a landmark anti-trust hearing last month, as well as separate investigations by the Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission and Attorneys General. Microsoft Corp. MSFT,
+ 0.66%
has apologized to Apple for its stance on cloud gaming apps, which do not allow the iPhone maker in the App Store for apparent violations of its policies.

When Apple was asked for comment on Epic’s legal actions, Apple on Monday reiterated a statement last week: “Epic has had apps in the App Store for a decade, and has taken advantage of the App Store ecosystem – including its tools, testing and distribution that Apple provides to all developers.Epic freely agreed to the terms and conditions of the App Store and we are pleased that they have built such a successful business on the App Store.The fact that their business interests now lead them to push for a special regulation does not change the fact that these guidelines create an equal playing field for all developers and make the store safe for all users.We will do our best to work with Epic to resolve these violations, so they can return ‘Fortnite’ to the App Store. ‘

Apple’s incomprehensible stance on video games – and developers’ pushbacks, both small and large – is the type of scenario that introduces antitrust pressure on Apple and Google to change their platform operations, said Rebecca Allensworth, a law professor at Vanderbilt University.

“Antitrust has always had a dual system of enforcement: private like the Epic packages, and public like the FTC and DoJ surveys,” Allensworth told MarketWatch. “Companies feel maximum pressure when they are under both types of control.”

Anti-trust lawyer Jonathan Rubin adds, “What the Epic package suggests is that even private marketplaces organized within the confines of a private company should be subject to anti-trust oversight.”

So far, only a small developer, Blix Inc., has taken over Apple – both in court and in collaboration with the office of Rep. David Cicilline, DR.I., Chair of the House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law. Cicilline led an hour-long inquisition of the four CEOs on July 29.

Read more: Antitrust questions blow, but do not break Big Tech CEOs in historic hearing

‘What Epic does is very powerful. I think it’s a big step forward, and is driving momentum for stronger anti-trust control, ”Blix co-CEO Ben Volach told MarketWatch. ‘We heard this from Spotify [it filed a complaint with the European Commission last year against Apple, charging the iPhone maker with anti-competitive behavior related in part to the fees it charges on purchases made through the App Store], but it took a bold move in the US Epic’s action talks toward a broader Apple monopoly. “

Blix, which claims to have the data backed up by Apple-suppressed App Store rankings of products competing with Apple’s own apps, sued Apple last October, alleging patent infringement and anti-trust violations.

Blix also claims that Apple and Google are working in concert on pricing, leading to Google abruptly removing their BlueMail email app from the Play Store – 36 hours after Blix developers revealed they were collaborating with House lawmakers. “Google has taken revenge on us for outspokenness on anti-trust issues,” Volach said.

A Google spokesman said in a written statement that the BlueMail app had been returned to the store. Volach countered that unfavorable media coverage forced the hand of Google after 15 hours.

However, it could take the actions of much larger companies like Epic to move the needle on anti-trust actions in a political setting that is becoming increasingly hostile to Big Tech.

For years, developers have been digging about Apple’s 30% tax as exorbitantly high. But many felt they had no choice: There are 1.5 billion Apple gadgets in use worldwide, and users of Apple devices collectively spend almost twice as much on apps as owners of Android gadgets.

“It shows the power of Apple and Google, if you have a company as big as Spotify collaborating with Epic. “When titans adopt titans, you know there’s a problem, and that gets people’s attention,” Jamie Court, president of nonprofit Consumer Watchdog, told MarketWatch.