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Fortnite Creator Epic's Battle With Tech Giants Could Harm Consumers

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If you have middle school-aged children or older, chances are you’ve heard of Fortnitean online multi-player game, created by Epic Games Inc., that allows users worldwide to compete in a battle to the last person.

On Aug. 13, Epic filed suit against both Apple and Google in federal court alleging “anti-competitive restraints and monopolistic practices.” While the details of the quarrel are important, the real danger for consumers comes from attaching antitrust concerns to the fight. Tying the dispute up in court for years likely prevents the parties from negotiating a mutually beneficial agreement.

The game is nominally free, but offers in-app purchases that greatly increase a player’s chance of success. It has more than 350 million players worldwide.

The dispute began because the two most popular ways players download the game to their phone is through Apple’s App Store and Alphabet’s Google Play app marketplaces. As a condition of offering Fortnite, Apple and Google both required that in-app purchases be run through them, incurring a 30% commission. The App Store is the only way to download the game onto an iOS device. The game can be downloaded on an Android device by methods other than Google Play.

In August, Epic deliberately violated these terms by offering its own payment system, potentially cutting out Apple or Google and denying their commission. Predictably, Apple and Google removed Fortnite from their app marketplaces. Epic was ready with lawsuits and a snazzy PR campaign the same day.

Apple filed a countersuit Sept. 8 to stop the game maker from using its own payment system for Fortnite.

Apple and Google argue that its terms and conditions assure certain standards of privacy and security for users. They could also argue that their stores are private property and they can set any rules they like.

Read the full article at Bloomberg Law.