Fortnite maker ups war of words in battle over app store payments: Google is ‘crazy’ and ‘Apple must be stopped’
Epic Games Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Sweeney renewed his attack on the duopoly power of Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google as the world’s dominant mobile platforms at a conference in Seoul Tuesday.
“Apple locks a billion users into one store and payment processor,” Sweeney said at the Global Conference for Mobile Application Ecosystem Fairness in South Korea, home to the world’s first law requiring mobile platforms to give users a choice of payment handlers. “Now Apple complies with oppressive foreign laws, which surveil users and deprive them of political rights. But Apple is ignoring laws passed by Korea’s democracy. Apple must be stopped.”
Google also earned a strong rebuke from Sweeney, who criticized its approach of charging fees on payments it doesn’t process as “crazy.” Praising Korea for leading the fight against anti-competitive practices with its recent legislation, the Epic Games founder said “I’m very proud to stand up against these monopolies with you. I’m proud to stand with you and say I’m a Korean.”
The Google Play Store service fee “has never been simply for payment processing,” Google spokesman Dan Jackson said in am emailed response. “It’s how we provide Android and Google Play for free and invest in the many distribution, development, and security services that support developers and consumers in South Korea and around the world.”
Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Epic has been locked in a legal fight with Apple and Google for over a year after it forced the issue of how payments within their app stores are handled by releasing a version of its global hit game Fortnite that included its own system to purchase in-game items. Fortnite was removed from both the App Store and Play Store for breaching their rules, prompting Sweeney’s company to sue the two operators. Legal filings from Epic this week alleged Google set up an internal task force to confront the issue of Fortnite sidestepping the company’s app store and fees.
Apple and Google have consistently said that the fees they charge on purchases via their mobile marketplaces help provide security for users and a global audience for developers. Sweeney sees their exclusionary practices as anathema to the founding principles of the web, arguing that their “policies are so restrictive that if the worldwide web had been embedded after the smartphone, then Apple and Google would have blocked all web browsers from being released on their platforms.”
Epic Games operates its own Epic Games Store for PC gamers, which also charges a platform fee, albeit a lower one, and Sweeney doesn’t dispute Google and Apple’s right to profit from their work.
“There’s a store market, there’s a payments market, and there are many other related markets,” he said. “And it’s critical that antitrust enforcement not allow a monopolist in one market to use their control of that market to impose control over unrelated markets.”
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