I mean, come on, Epic Games is a small fish in this big tank now that it’s trying to take on both Apple and Google simultaneously. It would seem that they face impossible odds, and even the argument that Apple and Google maintain a monopoly won’t save them when you consider that there are plenty of jurisdictions in the world. They’re only concerned about the United States.
Why then, did Epic Games decide to face off against Apple and Google now? It’s been a 30% cut for either of those companies for In-App-Purchases for a long time. It’s certainly nothing new. Anyone who is operating on the mobile app market knows that the App Store and the Play Store get their cut. That aside, it’s their app store doing all the hosting, all the distribution, and finally, their top lists, which probably drive a lot of your sales.
It would be one thing if Epic Targetted only Apple. After all, with Android devices, you can sideload or even use other stores to get your apps. Apple, on the other hand, only really allows sideloading of internal apps, though the instructions to do so could feasibly be followed by anyone so long as they had the IPA file. No, it seems Epic wants to attack both, and that’s where this whole situation seems so strange to me.
Thirty Percent of Profits
As an indie developer, it has indeed occurred to me that should one of my apps makes $100,000.00, and Apple would immediately take their cut of $30,000.00. That’s a lot of money!
Then again, these rules are applied to everyone equally. I mean, are there any examples where Apple and Google looked the other way? Well, I can think of one right of the top of my head, Spotify. Spotify does not allow you to subscribe through the iOS app. You have to go to their website to subscribe, and you pay Spotify themselves.
Interestingly, Spotify has been allowed it’s continued existence on both the AppStore and the PlayStore, and it’s instances like these that most likely have Epic Games upset. Why can Spotify keep the entirety of their profits, but we can’t. Perhaps it’s mulling over this at 2 am that fateful night that finally gave Mr. Sweeney the push he needed to declare war.
Remember that not all apps on the App Stores sell anything at all, many of the apps there are made profitable using advertising-based models. That means, for those developers, Apple and Google are providing the distribution for the cost of the developer license. For Apple, that is a USD 99.00 yearly fee, and for Google, that is a one-time USD 25.00 fee.
It’s safe to say that both Apple and Google make quite a bit from their developers before apps even reach the end-users, and they could afford to reduce their share a bit. According to The Verge, in the lead up to all of this, Microsoft condemned Apple’s practices of restricting how people could use their own devices.
What is Epic Trying to Accomplish
Well, the obvious takeaway is that they want to keep more of their own money in their own pockets. Which is an admirable goal that any self-respecting business person could agree with, right? Is it fair?
There was a time where you would see ads or commercials for games, and the end of those ads would show, “Available Now on the App Store!” or “Download Now from the Google Play Store!” For a long time, these stores themselves drove a considerable percentage of the sales that a developer expected to make.
That, however, changed with the saturation of the market. Putting your game on either company’s vast app stores now will net you almost nothing. When I published Nimbus Lagoon (No longer available) in 2016, I made $4.37. Literally, not even enough for a payout. That’s okay! I learned a lot, and I’m ready to build my next app, but my point is, I needed to handle advertising because unless you’re one of the lucky few selected for big promotions on their end, you’re on your own.
So if I still have to pay Apple and Google 30%, and I now have to have a huge advertising budget as well, should that 30% maybe come down a little? On the developer’s side, I think it should. We are all aware that the App Stores are providing the distribution side and the developer tools, but reasonably they are making money hand over first no matter who downloads your apps. They make money whether or not you even manage to finish your app.
Apple Looking at the Unreal Engine
The bit about the Unreal Engine is probably the thing that worried me the most when this all started happening. Personally, my development thus far has been either with SpriteKit (Apple’s 2D animation kit) and Unity. Still, the Unreal Engine is incredibly popular with developers, and Apple seems to be threatening that portions of that will no longer work with apps on the app store.
If they were to follow through with that, then thousands of developers would have issues, well beyond the problems currently being faced by Epic Games themselves. Whether that would fuel anger against Apple or Epic Games, it’s too early to tell.
What Are The Odds
Well, I’m the furthest thing from a lawyer, but I’ve read the developer agreements for both companies, and I’m thinking they’re going to go in their favour. It is evident in the developer agreement that you can’t do what Epic did. Then again, I’m a big fan of the “you don’t know until you ask” mentality, and maybe, just maybe, it’ll change.
Only time will tell.
Worst case scenario? Maybe Epic will throw Spotify under the bus as well.