It’s a trial that began with teens flooding the public phone line, gave us debates over the appropriateness of a naked banana, and asked the eternal question “what is Eurogamer?” Yes, the Epic Games v Apple antitrust trial has now concluded, and after three weeks of remarkable discussions the decision over who won rests with a federal judge.
The trial wrapped up yesterday with some closing remarks from both parties, with Epic reiterating that the case would have an impact on the wider mobile games market and other developers (via GamesIndustry.biz).
“Epic acknowledges that this is an important case, that there’s an important set of conduct, and that a remedy… of the sort that Epic has requested would be important and significant,” said Epic’s counsel Gary Bornstein. “But that is because the issue affects such a large number of consumers, such a large number of developers, and has persisted for such a long period of time.”
In response, Apple’s counsel Richard Doren argued that Epic’s proposed changes, such as a reduction in commission fees, introduction of direct payment systems and allowing third-party app stores on iOS, are “scary for Apple’s iOS customers, for Apple’s developer community, for Apple, and for this court.
“The law protects technological incompatibility as pro-competitive,” he added. “That is how consumers are given a choice… Apple’s business model was developed long before it had anything that anyone planned as market power, it served its customers and developers well, and Epic is now attempting to [change this] without any… guidances as to what the impact of that attack would be.”
In his final remarks, Epic counsel Bornstein said that Apple’s comments bore an “undertone of ‘We’re the good guy. We’re the benevolent overlord of this ecosystem. Let us continue to do it without competition because it’s worked out okay so far.’ That is not a defence under the antitrust laws. Competition is what’s supposed to guide excellence, not just trusting that Apple will be excellent on its own.”
Judge Gonzalez Rogers thanked both counsels for their work on the case, and said there was “a lot of material” to go through (in fact, there’s a total of 4500 pages of testimony). She joked that it might not be until 13th August that a decision is made – the anniversary of the Fortnite mobile hotfix that introduced a direct payment system and began all the trouble. As for when the verdict will actually materialise, it “will take a while” Rogers said, but also she’d prefer to “get to this while the memory of the testimonies [and] the arguments are fresh”.
Epic boss Tim Sweeney, meanwhile, took to Twitter to “thank everyone for their efforts” and post a photo of the Popeyes next to the courthouse – which I assume he must have visited frequently. (Tim Sweeney was spotted eating Popeyes on stream in May last year, which delighted the internet at the time, so it’s probably a reference to that.)
The Epic vs Apple trial has now concluded! I won?t be commenting before the verdict is delivered. Thanks to everyone whose efforts made this possible, and to Popeyes for building a fine restaurant next door to the Oakland federal courthouse. pic.twitter.com/xma2xyRBtW
— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) May 24, 2021
The last week of the trial was a slightly less zany affair than the opening weeks, but one of the highlights was Apple CEO Tim Cook protesting that he doesn’t know basic information about how his business works. This resulted in some rather bizarre exchanges that are definitely worth a read (which you can find on our sister site GamesIndustry.biz).
Looking beyond the wacky conversations, of course, the trial will determine whether Apple’s 30 percent commission on app sales is excessive and anti-competitive (as Epic argues). As the New York Times [paywall] notes, however, antitrust laws tend to favour defendants, meaning Epic began this trial at a disadvantage. Judge Gonzalez Rogers seemed open to arguments from Epic, but also reluctant to force Apple to change its business.
Either way, her ruling is likely to be appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (and this could eventually also be appealed to the US Supreme Court). So while we can expect a temporary lull in proceedings, I’m sure we’ll be hearing about this case for some time to come.