"Free Fortnite," the children shouted over an accidentally unmuted public court conference call line. That's how the Epic Games v. Apple trial began on May 3, 2021, and is indicative of how it will continue to proceed as it drags every major entity in the gaming industry into a vortex of absolute, unending insanity.
The origin of this trial was simple enough. Epic openly defied Apple's app store rules by allowing Fortnite in-app purchases to occur without being filtered through Apple first. Apple then kicked Fortnite off its app store for violating its policies. In response, Epic slammed Apple with a giant lawsuit alleging Apple runs an illegal app monopoly.
The situation has only spiraled out of control since, with mudslinging galore leading to every company under the sun getting caught in the crossfire. Companies such as Microsoft and Spotify have sided with Epic ahead of the trial, while others have chosen neutrality and are still getting dragged into the limelight, including Nintendo, which released a 26-page, extremely heavily redacted contract revealing that it bars developers and publishers from having yakuza affiliations.
All sorts of golden nuggets like the above have cropped up now that the Epic Games v. Apple trial is officially underway. Did you know that Walmart was prepping its own game streaming service that could've gone toe-to-toe with Amazon Luna and Google Stadia? Were you aware that, as part of an unending catfight between Apple and Facebook that continues to this day, the late Steve Jobs once referred to Facebook as "fecebook"?
Just about every billion-dollar company you can imagine has gotten dragged into Epic v. Apple in some shape or form, and the big gaming giants are no exception. Here's some of the juiciest insider content that's been revealed so far, potentially including info that was meant to be sealed but ended up going public anyway — because, yeah, that happened as well thanks to the trial.
Epic v. Apple: Microsoft drools over The Last of Us Part 2 and discusses revenue splits
New Microsoft internal documents reveal that the company loved The Last of Us Part 2, going so far as to say that "this game sets a new bar for what we should hope to be able to achieve going into a new generation of consoles" with regards to its evolution of storytelling in the gaming medium.
Even if you think Joel's characterization was bastardized for the sake of plot convenience or that the entire narrative was infantile and contrived in Part 2, Microsoft's top brass beg to differ. However, the documents also show that Microsoft thinks Naughty Dog can't do gunplay right, which would make sense coming from the company that's been producing Gears of War.
There's also a document revealing that beyond its already announced reduced revenue plan for PC game sales on the Microsoft Store, the tech giant was also considering reducing its cut of revenue on Xbox as well, though Microsoft has since said that's not currently the plan (via The Verge).
Epic v. Apple: Epic pays Sony money for Fortnite crossplay to make Sony happy
It's almost hard to believe the lengths Epic Games went to to get Sony on board the crossplay train. To get the Japanese tech company to play ball and allow crossplay between PS4 and all the other Fortnite-friendly systems, including Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS, Mac, and PC, Epic Games had to sweeten the pot substantially.
Epic proposed a plan to Sony where it would deliberately try to "make Sony look like heroes" for allowing crossplay, in addition to other perks such as Epic committing to a game for Sony's VR platform, PS Plus-exclusive Fortnite incentives, and other items. And even then, Sony gave Epic the cold shoulder.
Eventually, a deal was struck wherein Sony gets paid depending on certain thresholds pertaining to PS4 players' crossplay monetary activities. This makes Sony the sole platform holder to require money in exchange for allowing crossplay. And make no mistake, Epic's paying to make it so.
Epic v. Apple: What Epic and Apple were, and are, really thinking
As part of the extensive documentation that's been revealed amid the lawsuit, one particularly spicy email is making the rounds. It's from Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney to Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox, and reveals that Sweeney gave other companies advance notice of its plans to blindside Apple.
"Epic has certain plans for August that will provide an extraordinary opportunity to highlight the value proposition of consoles and PCs, in contrast to mobile platforms, and to onboard new console users," part of Sweeney's email reads.
This email also reveals that Sweeney wanted subscription-free multiplayer on Xbox (i.e., no Gold requirement) instated around the time of Epic's nuclear strike on Apple to help the Fortnite maker's "go free or go home" campaign have as much impact as possible. As we now know, though, that change didn't end up happening according to Sweeney's timetable.
In its opening remarks, Apple also made the situation surrounding the lawsuit sound pretty dire: "If Epic prevails, other ecosystems will fall too. […] Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft all operate similar platform models to Apple. […] Mr. Sweeney's personal preference that all platforms be open is directly contrary to what the antitrust laws say is procompetitive. The law protects Apple's choice to have an integrated system, just like it protects Sony and Nintendo."
You can see all the documentation Apple unleashed, as well as read key bits and pieces of its opening statement (and much more!), here.
Epic v. Apple: Who's next?
The trial rages on, meaning more content is undoubtedly inbound. Even so, what's already on the table is a lot to sink one's teeth into.
Which other massive companies might make indirect appearances as a result of the trial remains to be seen. Just recently, Apple subpoenaed Valve to try to rope both it and its storefront Steam into the controversy, though Valve shot that down like a lead balloon.
Still, even if Valve's not going to be a player in what remains of the conflict, no company seems to be safe from having some sort of entanglement in Epic Games v. Apple. We'll keep you posted on any and all wild developments that ensue.