On Friday, September 10, 2021, a ruling was made in the Apple vs. Epic Games lawsuit. Epic Games, the owner of many influential video games including Fortnite, alleged that Apple’s App Store policies were in violation of the United States’ prohibition on monopolies. By redirecting all apps to their in-app payment system, Epic Games is arguing that Apple is forcing app owners to pay a portion of their profits to the company when they could alternatively direct users to a third party payment platform.
The judge decided that the tech giant was not in violation of antitrust laws, and that Epic Games would have to pay damages for breaking the terms of agreement that it accepted when signing up to offer its app in the App Store. However, Judge Gonzalez Rogers also decreed that Apple would have to allow third party payments, effective immediately. She declared that Apple could not have a monopoly, since mobile game audiences vary greatly as compared to PC and console games. Since app users rely on the “freemium” business model common within apps, where the games themselves are free with paid options for items or upgrades, they should be considered substantially different from paid games on PC or console.
However, Apple has recently appealed the decision and notified the court that they would have to delay their deadline for allowing third-party payments for in-app purchases. While this policy has allowed the company to make huge profits, app developers have argued that this forces them to lose a portion of their profits that they are entitled to.
But does Apple actually have a monopoly? Users of iPhones have no choice but to agree to Apple’s terms of service, and app developers, in order to reach that massive audience, must do the same. By forcing app developers to share a portion of their profits, is Apple unethically stealing money from those who spend their lives creating new and innovative games and platforms? Should these developers be able to redirect their users to third-party platforms, or do they owe a portion of their proceeds to Apple for allowing them to access an audience they otherwise would never have reached?