wild pieces of dirty laundry
Apple vs Epic trial: 5 fascinating revelations about the video games industry
Everyone brought reciepts.
There was never any question that the courtroom showdown between Apple and Epic Games would have big consequences for the gaming industry. But few could have predicted this trial would yield more scalding hot tea than a Real Housewives reunion. It’s a rare, fascinating chance to see the dirty laundry of this notoriously secretive aired in public.
Unfortunately, getting to the juicy gossip involves wading through a lot of tedious lawyer blather, so we’re sifting through all the boring stuff so you don’t have to. Here’s five of the most fascinating revelations from the Apple vs Epic trial.
No crime please, we’re Nintendo
Nintendo prefers its employees and business partners not to have any affiliation with the Yakuza, Japan’s infamous organized crime organization.
Seems reasonable. They do seem like some pretty unpleasant guys. Ostensibly, this has a lot to do with preserving Nintendo’s family-friendly image, though it’s still surprising that the company would go so far as to officially forbid organized crime affiliation in its internal communications. Perhaps it has something to do with the quirks of Japan’s amusement and nightlife scenes, which the Yakuza games inform me are mostly controlled by gangsters.
Speaking of which, hopefully this edict doesn’t bode ill for the prospect of Sega bringing Yakuza to the Switch at some point.
Feeling quite cross
It was never a secret that Sony was resistant to the idea of allowing owners of different consoles to enjoy online games together, regardless of platform. But now, we have a fuller picture of PlayStation’s reluctance to bring cross-play to its consoles.
An email thread between PlayStation and Epic execs sees the console-maker dig its heels in at the prospect of bringing Fortnite crossplay to PS4, even after Epic’s promise of a scenario where “Epic goes out of its way to make Sony look like heroes.”
Another Sony document from 2019 details plans for a cross-platform revenue share that would force publishers to pay Sony royalties if PlayStation owners made up a certain share of the userbase. It’s not clear if this policy was ever enacted by the company, and these plans may have remained strictly hypothetical. It is, however, quite clear that this move makes Sony the Lucille Bluth of the games industry.
Walmart goes cloud gaming
Part of the reason that this trial has been so strange is how all-encompassing its orbit has been. It’s not just revealing new details on Epic and Apple, but seemingly random bystanders too.
The absolute strangest example of that came when court documents revealed that Walmart was working on a cloud gaming service. That revelation happened to come out because Epic had taken a meeting with the corporate giant in 2019 to demo it.
What we know is that the service worked like Google Stadia, where players could stream a game over the cloud and seamlessly hop from device to device. Walmart was hoping to pull in third-party support, integrating launchers like the Epic Games Store and Steam into its service. Players would have the option to subscribe to the service, buy games carte blanche, or “BYOG” (Bring Your Own Games). As part of it, Walmart would also sell a mobile clip designed to attach a phone to a controller, which included... a kickstand.
It’s a fresh glimpse at just how serious the cloud streaming race was heading into the 2020s. We’ve already seen outsiders like Google and Amazon try to break into gaming with a service model, but Walmart is an especially surprising horse in the race. It’s not clear if the project is still in the works or if Walmart canned it entirely, but it could signal that a second wave of cloud services could be coming in the near future.
Microsoft’s no-so exclusive games
Microsoft has really struggled to bring compelling exclusives to Xbox Series X thus far, and court documents revealed that’s unlikely to change soon. Several of the platform’s upcoming exclusives won’t be that way for long. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 will apparently only be an Xbox console exclusive for three months after launch, while the launch title Tetris Effect: Connected’s exclusivity window ends in June 2021.
Currently, the PS5 has a lot more exclusive games planned for the months ahead, and those titles will stay exclusive for longer periods of time. Microsoft will need to step up its game soon if they want to compete with the PS5. Thankfully, the document confirms that Image & Form’s intriguingly quirky game The Gunk will be an Xbox exclusive indefinitely, so that’s a step in the right direction.
New app store, who dis?
The Apple-Epic trial has also brought the juicy, simmering beef between the CEO Tims into public view. According to an email revealed as part of the proceedings, Epic’s Tim Sweeney asked Apple’s Tim Cook about opening up the App Store in 2015:
"Hi Tim, y'all should think about separating iOS App Store curation from compliance review and app distribution. The App Store has done much good for the industry, but it doesn't seem tenable for Apple to be the sole arbiter of expression and commerce over an app platform approaching a billion users."
Cook replied with some Keke Palmer-esque ignorance.
“Is this the guy that was at one of our rehearsals?" Cook asked his employees.
Only three weeks prior, Epic Games had showcased an in-development version of Fornite at an Apple keynote. That presentation didn’t even land on Cook’s radar.
When there’s inevitably a film made about this trial, this is the opening scene. It’s a perfect origin story for Sweeney to become a thorn in Cook’s side. It’s the cinematic kiss that grants this whole trial some narrative weight.
The Apple v Epic trial is expected to last three weeks, which leaves plenty more time for hot gossip. We’ll definitely be keeping our ears open.