"Fortnite": The online game was dropped from the App Store in August
Photo: CHRIS DELMAS / AFP
Epic Games! ”Someone shouts into his phone so that everyone else in the audience can hear.
"You screwed it up and lost your app on iOS," comments someone else.
And a third person says they hope Epic Games boss Tim Sweeney knows what he's doing: “If he screws up, we won't have iOS anymore.
Incidentally, this call is live. "
With such audio comments, which the US website “VentureBeat” wrote, an internationally acclaimed process started on Monday in Oakland, California, which revolves around Apple's rules for the app business on the iPhone.
The occasion is a lawsuit brought by the game company Epic Games, which is known outside of the game industry above all for its online shooter "Fortnite: Battle Royale".
In addition to the voices that can be heard, the typical »Fortnite« players suggest that it was probably young people who wanted to follow the process as an audio live broadcast - and noticed that they themselves had not been muted as expected.
The result was a memorable conference call sound chaos, a snippet of which was posted on Twitter.
You can also listen in retrospectively on YouTube.
"I think we have the phone lines under control," said Judge Yvette Gonzalez Rogers when the transmission was back to normal after about 20 minutes.
"That won't be a problem in the future."
That's why Epic Games takes on Apple
In the process, in which no bystanders are allowed as viewers on site, the point is that Epic Games no longer wants to give 30 percent of the income from the sale of "Fortnite" digital content via its iOS app to Apple.
Apple is defending the current system in which applications can only be downloaded from the App Store.
Among other things, this is necessary to protect users from fraud and software errors, argues the company from Cupertino.
The dispute over "Fortnite" and Apple's standard fees escalated in August. At the time, Epic Games deliberately no longer adhered to the requirement that had been in force for more than a decade during a "Fortnite" update that virtual items on the iPhone can only be offered via Apple's payment system, including a participation of up to 30 percent depending on the app . Apple then threw the popular online action game from the App Store. However, if you already had the app on your phone, you can continue to use it - and buy game currency directly from Epic Games, at a cheaper price than before.
The attorney Katherine Forrest, who represents Epic Games, compared Apple and its rule in court with an automaker who wants to have 30 percent of the price every time they refuel.
Apple replied that the 30 percent was customary in the industry and that its own investments in building the platform justified the levy.
In addition, players could buy additional content or the "Fortnite" game currency called V-Bucks elsewhere, not just directly in the iOS app, according to Apple: The content can then also be used on the iPhone without the purchase price being paid to Apple beforehand fall away.
"Fortnite" brings in more money on the Playstation
The first day of the trial began with the opening speeches, and Epic Games boss Tim Sweeney was interviewed.
Sweeney said, among other things, Apple's rules harm "every facet" of its business.
He supports Apple's right to offer a system for in-app purchases - but there must also be room for alternatives.
As part of the process, Epic Games hopes, among other things, for a chance to offer iOS users their own app store.
Tim Sweeney, the head of Epic Games: He was interviewed on Monday
Photo: Noah Berger / dpa
In cross-examination, Apple's lawyers confronted Sweeney with the fact that Epic Games had no problem with being active on game consoles such as Sony's Playstation or Microsoft's Xbox on identical terms.
Sweeney then referred to different starting positions: The sale of console hardware is seen as a losing business, the money must be earned through games.
The iPhone, on the other hand, is highly profitable.
"Fortnite" currently has a total of 400 million players, Sweeney said.
The Apple lawyers also emphasized that the consoles for Epic Games are a much more important source of money than the iPhone.
For example, "Fortnite" had made six billion dollars on the Playstation by the end of 2020 and 3.5 billion dollars on the Xbox.
On the iPhone it was only $ 750 million.
Speaking of the Epic Games Store, Epic Games' own PC games marketplace with a twelve percent fee, Sweeney said the offering was hundreds of millions of dollars away from being profitable.
He doesn't expect black numbers for three or four years.
Does Apple have a monopoly or not?
Epic Games accuses Apple of unfair competition in its lawsuit - on the grounds that Apple has a monopoly on the sale of apps on the iPhone and is taking advantage of it.
Apple replies that the iPhone cannot be defined as an independent market, but that the games business must be viewed on different platforms.
Whose reasoning judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers follows on this question, could be a decisive factor for the outcome of the proceedings.
Another key question is whether to consider the App Store as part of iPhone usage, as Apple argues. Among other things, the company points out that a centralized app store has the option of checking all applications. Epic Games argues that the app platform should be seen as a separate product. After all, Apple has always allowed software to be downloaded from sources other than its own app store on its Mac computers. Apple points out that the security requirements for smartphones are higher.
Lawyer Forrest accused Apple on Monday of having built a closed system around the iPhone. Forrest referred to the iMessage service as an example of the barriers. This means that Apple users can communicate with each other, but contact with owners of Android smartphones is limited. Apple lawyer Karen Dunn countered that Epic Games demanded that the iPhone company let unsafe and unchecked apps on the platform.
The US case shows parallels to the investigations of the EU Commission, which Apple accused of unfair competition in the App Store last week. Apple is discriminating against other providers of music streaming apps, said competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager. The Brussels authority sees, among other things, a problem usually that subscription sales in iOS apps have to be processed via Apple's payment platform. The group retains 30 or 15 percent of the income. The result: If someone takes out a Spotify subscription on iOS that costs as much as a subscription to the Apple music service Apple Music, the bottom line is that Apple gets more money.
In the Brussels case, too, Apple argued that users could purchase subscriptions without paying them on Spotify's website and use them on their iPhone.
However, the commission regards the iPhone as an independent market for app distribution, similar to Epic Games.
The Oakland trial is expected to run through the end of the month.
However, it can be assumed that the losing side will appeal.
mbö / dpa