I opened Reddit’s r/Apple subreddit, I scrolled down the hottest topics, I opened the hottest replies, and I reacted. No script. No warning. Just my live-to-video thoughts on Steve Jobs addressing Apple vs. Epic… 10 years ago, Facebook vs. Apple on online events and tracker blocking, PUBG being promoted on the App Store as the legal battle escalates, and Jon Prosser’s latest reports on 120Hz for the rumored iPhone 12 Pro.
The Mac mini isn't as popular as any of the MacBooks or even the iMac. But it's beloved by every hobbiest and nerd and newcomer and cross-compiler — by anyone who wants anything from the cheapest Mac to just the last Mac server standing.
The really big question for the mightiest of mini Macs is this, though: Just how much mightier, how much mini-er, could Apple Silicon really make it?
Check out the answer in my weekly column at iMore:
New version of Final Cut Pro X
🎬 Enhanced proxy workflows
🎬 Automated tools for social media cropping
🎬 Editorial workflow improvements
🎬 Motion/Compressor updates
Really good thread from Thomas Grove Carter:
For me, Smart Conform is a really good starting point when making an alternate frame-size version.
It’s results can then be tweaked or changed in the with Transform tools.
Pro tip.Doesn’t just work for Square/Vertical. Also works if you want to switch to 2.35 for example!
Audio cross fades shortcut!
Very simple. Works exactly how it should. Overlapping, user defined, fade handles added to selected clips.
Fine adjustments can be made to length and shape after. Obvs.
If audio is collapsed they remain hidden. If expanded, you see them pop in.
Ripple Training also has a video up with a walk-through of new features:
Also: There’s a 90-day free trial for Final Cut Pro 10.4.9 if you want to check it out/train yourself up.
(Yes, even if you used the 90-day free trial on the previous version — whole new free trial for the new version!)
This is going to be fun.
You may think your iPhone — your any phone really — is water proof... but it isn't. It isn't even really water resistant, not for all water, not all the time. It's…. complicated. But I'm going to explain to you why that is, what you can do about it, and most importantly, what Apple could do about it with the iPhone 12 — or the iPhone after that.
I'll even toss in a Shyamalan twist in at the end. A good one from the first few films. (Yes, seriously.)
It's all in my weekly column over at iMore...
Epic Games mega-snuck the biggest of all shadow bombs onto the App Store and Play Store — a way around giving Apple and Google a 30% cut of all the Vbucks. As a result, Fortnite, their uber-popular Battle Royaler, got shadow banned. Still on phones and download histories, but kicked out of the stores. Epic sued, saying no company — sorry, no phone company — had a right to 30% of their tasty, tasty emote and skin sale billions.
Epic called Apple a controlling, conniving, anti-competitive monopolist, and Google, open-in-name only, while fear-mongering and outright bullying to stay effectively every bit as closed.
Apple and Google retorted that Epic was a grown apps adult, had agreed to the deal, made billions as a result, and was now throwing a temper tantrum to try and claw back just a few billion more.
And, now, impossible as it may seem, things just got weirder.
Sponsored by Brilliant
For all the latest, in-depth analysis on everything Apple and App Store, because this tea is spilling by the minute, hit the subscribe button and bell, and then hold onto your Vbucks.
Last Monday, literally just after my previous video on all this went live, Epic claimed that, in 14 days — 2 weeks — Apple would terminate their developer account. Meaning, they would be cut off from both iOS and macOS developer tools.
And the Apple and tech web lost their collective minds.
Because, Epic isn’t just a game company that makes Fortnite. They’re also a game engine company that licenses Unreal 4 to other companies. Those other companies use Unreal 4 to make games for a variety of platforms, but also to do a wide range of other things. For example, ILM — Industrial Light & Magic — famously, famously uses it to create the virtual sets for the hit Disney+ Star Wars show, The Mandalorian.
Now, most of that work isn’t done on the Mac and isn’t done for iOS, but some of it is, and if Epic loses their developer account, they lose their ability to sign new and updated versions of the Unreal Engine for Mac. Which means everyone using it loses their ability to develop and update their apps.
Sure, Epic could still ship new and updated versions of Unreal that are unsigned, which means Mac developers would have to disable Gate Keeper to install them, but it would make an already annoyingly complex process of signing chains even more annoying. Potentially unworkably so. Which, yes, is pretty much why Epic was complaining about Google’s side-loading being a sham in part one of all this.
And that means Epic isn’t just risking their own game and their own business in going head-to-head and face-to-in-face against Apple and Google — they’re risking the games and businesses of everyone licensing the Unreal Engine from them.
This led some people to get really just extra angry at Apple for making that kind of threat, and others to get really extra angry at Epic for putting these other companies at risk… you know, by not spinning off Unreal and getting it on a legally separate developer account before first making this whole Battle Royale station fully operational.
Epic filed for an immediate TRO — temporary restraining order — saying Apple’s actions threatened millions of innocent customers worldwide, basically everyone who played any Unreal-based game. But also, yeah, that Epic was losing a buttload of money from in-app purchases while Fortnite was kept sitting in the penalty box. And that the court should not just prevent Apple from terminating Epic’s developer account, but force Apple to put Fortnite back on the App Store, even though it would still be in violation of their agreements with Apple, so they could keep on updating and earning while this all gets hashed out.
And.. Just so much to unpack there…
First, what Epic characterizes as a threat is more like a promise. According to the App Store licensing agreement that Epic agreed too, if they violated those policies by sneaking something into their app — just exactly like the Fortnite Mega Drop — their agreement would be terminated effective immediately upon receipt of written notification from Apple.
Now, you can totally believe that’s a complete jackass of a license agreement, but it’s the one Epic agreed to. Which means they knew about it, and still intentionally put every developer who licenses the Unreal Engine at risk by violating it. That’s all on Epic.
Apple, of course, could have chosen not to send a written notification of termination. Even if it created an untenable precedent for them, basically inviting any and everyone else to launch the same workaround, they still chose to send it out immediately.
By contrast, Google seems to have the same stipulations in the Play Store agreement but, at least so far there’s no indication they’ve chosen to enforce them. Maybe they’re negotiating behind the scenes, maybe they’ve just chosen to wait and see and watch Apple’s world burn.
Now, Apple had every legal right to terminate the agreement with Epic immediately — that’s the language — which means Unreal Engine would go bye-bye immediately, but they seem to have chosen to give Epic two weeks.
So that means, despite Epic’s filings, they’re not actually in any imminent, much less irreparable harm. Epic has plenty of time to update the Fortnite app on the App Store — and the Play Store for that matter — removing the Mega Drop, and getting right back onto the stores. They don’t even have to stop their legal action.
They can have their Vbucks money and lawsuits too.
Apple said roughly as much in a statement later the same day. That they very much wanted to keep Epic as part of the developer program and on the App Store. That Epic had created this problem for themselves but could also fix it for themselves by submitting that type of update, one that reverts Fortnight into compliance. Which Apple said Epic had agreed to and which apply to all developers.
Also, that Apple wouldn’t make an exception for Epic because they don’t think it’s right to put Epic’s business interests ahead of the guidelines that protect Apple’s customers.
A lot to unpack there as well.
You could argue Apple and Google created this war by running their stores the way they do. But, I think it’s entirely fair to say Epic started this particular battle with their Mega Drop. That was clearly planned to provoke Apple and Google into responding, and Epic had everything from lawsuits to videos to other press stunts ready and waiting for just the moment they did.
Where Apple’s stance remains problematic is the constant insistence that their policies apply equally to all developers. I covered this in excruciating detail in last week’s video, link in the description, but to sum up — it’s fairer to say Apple’s policies — and Google’s — apply equally to all game developers. Developers of non-game apps operate under varying degrees of very different guidelines. Something that it’s just wicked obvious game developers don’t like one bit.
Also, the idea that Apple is doing this to protect their customers. Big picture, they probably believe that as much as Epic believes they’re standing up for customers as well.
But debates over privacy and security vs. choice and competitiveness get real abstract real fast, bordering on projection and rationalization, when it comes to who gets what control and share of skin and emote money.
Apple didn’t just put out a press statement. Apple also filed a response to Epic’s request for a restraining order.
It went a little something like this: Epic wanted the benefits of the App Store without having to pay for them any more, and so breached their contracts with Apple, trying to use Fortnite players and Apple users as leverage. And it’s all shades of shady that Epic is asking for quote-unquote emergency relief for a situation entirely of their own making — that Epic in fact created the harm to game players and developers that it now wants the court to remedy. But, all of this would just go away if Epic retracted their mega drop. Without the court or lawyers having to spend a minute or waste a dime. And that Epic could keep on suing them anyway.
Basically, in Apple’s words: Epic wants the Court to allow it to free ride on Apple’s innovation, intellectual property and user trust.
Which, just, wow.
Now, opinions on the benefits of the App Store vary. Some believe it has no value and that Apple shouldn’t be allowed to charge a penny more than the $99 a year they collect for the developer program, plus whatever single digit percentage basic transaction fees work out to be.
Others, that the App Store provides some benefit when it comes to the development tools and frameworks Apple provides, the international transactions and taxes they handle, the hosting, delivery, including app-thinning and bitcode that happens server-side, exposure, discovery, and promotion on the store front, and the trust they’ve built up from iOS users that makes them so willing to spend so much on the App Store. Just that it’s not worth 30%. Maybe 15% or thereabouts.
Still others, that the App Store does in fact provide 30% worth of value and they have no problem with it, because keeping 70% of what they make on the App Store is way more than 100% of the much less they make off it. And that people who keep wanting the App Store to be more like the Play Store should maybe consider why the App Store makes so much more money than the Play Store, even with far fewer downloads.
And some canny indies feel that the App Store would be worth 30% to them if Apple actually delivered on everything they said they would, but review remains capricious and often callous, frameworks like the ones for subscriptions, unacceptably cumbersome and convoluted, and that, basically, if Apple wants their full share they should devote a hell of a lot more time, energy, and resources to providing full service.
There are also developers who find Apple language in these cases super offensive — that Apple basically gives them a love letter in WWDC form every year, but any time there’s a disagreement, act as though developers owe them everything for the frameworks they provide, even while denying them non-Apple frameworks as alternatives, and should basically just shut up and be grateful for their existence. In this case specifically, how Epic benefits from something like Apple’s Metal, even though they’re not provided anything else to use, like the cross-platform Vulcan.
Other developers, though, don’t seem to mind it one bit, feeling Apple’s versions are genuinely easier and better.
Now, the part about Epic being able to fix all this with a single App Store rollback is also true, like I mentioned before. It’s the part where Apple says Epic could do all that while just keeping on with the lawsuit is super interesting. Like the quiet part out loud. More on that in a hot take minute.
Apple went on to say that by Epic’s logic, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, among others, would also be monopolies, and all this anti-trust rhetoric is just an orchestrated campaign, a thin veneer, to get the App Store benefits without having to pay for them.
And this is actually… kinda true. Because, the fact that Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch exist means there are more distribution opportunities and markets for game developers than for non-game developers. And Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo all take the same 30% cut as Apple and Google.
Epic has said previously they don’t mind paying 30% to Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch, because the business models and opportunities are different — Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo often sell hardware at a loss and provide big game developers better partner plays and marketing.
But also, Sony owns 1.4% of Epic, and Nintendo and Microsoft both license the Unreal Engine making their relationships more intertwined and complex… as we’ll soon see…
Anyway, the usual remedy for that is choosing not to put your games on the platforms you don’t think are worth it and investing in the ones you do. And if Apple and Google suddenly find themselves unable to attract the game studios their users are demanding, they’d be forced to concede some points or otherwise change the rules to get those big studios on board.
That’s the big business version of voting with their wallets, and what companies like Netflix and Amazon have done to successfully negotiate better terms and wholesale changes to the guidelines for their apps and categories.
But the high-order bit here is that Epic doesn’t really want changes to the App or Play Store. They want to become the store.
Included in the filings were a couple of remarkable works of… lettering… by Epic CEO Tim Sweeney sent to Tim Cook, Phil Schiller, Craig Federighi, and Matt Fisher, Apple’s CEO, head of App Store, SVP of software, and VP of App Store respectively.
In the first letter, dated June 30 of this year, Sweeney said Epic wanted to offer customers alternate payment options on the App Store and a competing Epic Game Store, also on the App Store, that got to use the iOS frameworks, and all the App Store mechanisms for a seamless installation and update experience.
Epic wanted them for themselves, but also hoped Apple would make them available to other developers as well.
And that it’d be great if Apple gave Epic a side-letter or altered their contracts to allow Epic to do all this.
And, yeah, the inclusion of “hoped” and “side-letter” sure make it seem like Epic would have taken a deal just for them, other developers be damned, if they could have gotten one.
Sweeney gave Apple 2 weeks to agree to the terms in principle, and if Apple didn’t, Epic would take it to mean Apple didn’t care about letting Android customers choose their store or payment options.
Yes, Android customers, which was either a simple error on Sweeney’s part, or an indication the same type of letter was sent to Google and they just find/replaced it all sloppy like.
There’s no indication Sweeney sent the same type of letters to Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo, of course, even though all sophistry and subjective opinions aside, an Epic Game Store makes as much sense on the Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch as it does on the iPhone or Android Phones.
It could be Epic really feels the business models are different, is giving them a pass due to their deeper financial mingling, or is just warming up with what they feel is an easier-to-win battle with Apple before turning on Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo next. That’d certainly be a smart strategy.
Now, Epic isn’t asking for side-loading because, through their own statements and court filings, they’ve said Android’s implementation of side-loading makes it so difficult and scary, and Play Protect effectively blocks it, to the point that it may was well not even exist.
My guess is though, Epic realized mainstream customers just don’t use it. Nerds, yes, absolutely, and nerds chronically mistake themselves for the market, but Epic doesn’t They want the really big market, the real mainstream market.
I’m also guessing Epic doesn’t even really care about the alternate payments in their first big ask. Because the second big ask is an alternate store. And once they have the store, they control the payments. There’s no need for any alternates. So that reads more like a fallback than an endgame.
The reason Epic wants the Epic Game Store on the App Store and Google Play Store is because, again according to Epic, side-loading isn’t a viable option.
Also, that Google bullied OnePlus and maybe LG into reneging on deals to pre-load the Epic Launcher onto their phones.
Fortnite did go into the Samsung Game Store, and was exclusive to Samsung for the Galaxy Note 9 launch — exclusives being something Epic is happy to use, and some would say abuse, to grab market share from Steam on the PC.
But, my guess is, as popular as Samsung devices are, their store drives a fraction of the downloads of the Google Play Store. And Epic knows that, if even Samsung pre-installing an alternate store can’t drive enough revenue, getting people to side-load an Epic Game Store wouldn’t do much better. It would do much, much worse.
And that’s why Epic wants their Game Store on the App Store and Play Store — so it’s in front of every App Store and Game Store user. So it gets to take advantage of all the discovery and trust that they’re also been arguing isn’t worth as much as Apple and Google want to charge for it. To use all the mechanics Apple and Google have engineered and provided to maintain a level of user experience they don’t believe they can deliver on their own, while effectively cutting Apple and Google out of any piece of skins and emotes action.
Because, once the Epic Game Store is on the App and Play Store, you can bet Fortnite won’t be. It’ll only be on the Epic Game Store. At least if they can grab enough downloads that way. And if not, they’ll have their own transactions to fall back on. Less shot, chaser. More Jab, uppercut.
And to that, some people will say yeah, hell yeah, stick it to the platform. Apple and Google have fed off their initial innovation for a decade. It’s time for a new deal. Free as in Fortnite.
And others would say, you don’t like the rules of the house, you tried to move out but found living on your own too hard, so now you want to not only stay at the house for free, but charge a cover for your parties and stick the hosts with the bill. Get a job.
Oh, Sweeney’s other letter?
2am right before the Mega Drop, telling Apple that Epic will no longer adhere to the App Store payment restrictions, and would be launching their own direct payment system in Fortnite, passing 20% of the 30% savings on to customers, minus the associated transaction costs, of course.
Ok, he didn’t break out the numbers like that. But, in Epic’s defense, they had a lot of marketing still to do.
The Bad Apples
That Epic is suing both Apple and Google but targeting Apple so much more than Google is also interesting. So much so that I can’t help but wonder if Epic suing Google at all wasn’t a mistake in strategy. Maybe they thought they had to sue both to ensure the distinction they were trying to make about phones being general purpose computers and game consoles being… consoles.
Or maybe this is Epic’s way of… having it both ways. For example, there’s no Google Don’t Be Evil video the way there’s an Apple Don’t Be 1984 video.
There’s also seemingly no TRO or request for emergency injunctive relief against Google the way there is against Apple. Even though there’s no indication Google has notified Epic that they’ll be revoking their developer license. Even though there’s also no direct analog to macOS developer tools for the Epic Unreal Engine on Google’s platform. And yeah, it’s just “even thoughs” all the way down.
Earlier this week, Epic also announced a hashtag FreeFortnite cup. They say it’s the final days of the entire Fortnite community’s ability to play together. Since Apple has blocked Fortnite from the App Store and iOS players will be left behind when Chapter 2, Season 4 launches on August 27.
If you don’t want to be left behind, Epic says, you can jump on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, GeForce Now, and through both the Epic Games App at epicgames.com and the Samsung Galaxy Store. And join the fight against @AppStore on social with #FreeFortnite.
All of your friends. Awesome prizes. And… wait for it… one bad apple.
So, again, nothing similar about the PlayStore, which Epic’s lawsuits say they very much want on, and argue the side-loading options are so egregiously not good enough.
Just #FreeFortnite on the App Store.
Just right now as I film this, Epic clapped back at Apple’s clap back, with more court filings. And, plot twist, with the support of Microsoft.
This time, they focused on the Unreal Engine specifically, with Epic saying because the engine was on the line as well, Apple’s actions were unnecessarily punitive, affecting developers who have built on Epic’s engine. Or, as Epic phrases it, the breadth of Apple’s retaliation is itself an unlawful effort to maintain its monopoly and chill any action by others who might dare oppose Apple.
Same as before, some would agree with his, and others would argue that Epic is the one putting developers at risk by putting the Unreal Engine at risk.
It’s also quite acceptable to believe both Apple and Google are being irresponsible and putting these developers, who have nothing to do with this case, Apple’s alleged monopoly or Epic’s righteous or wrong-headed violations, and maybe they should both sit down and figure out a way to separate Fortnite from Unreal so they can separate their squabble from other people’s consequences.
Microsoft, for their part, says Apple denying Epic access to development tools prevents them from supporting Unreal on iOS or the Mac, and places Unreal Engine and those game creators that have built, are building, and may build games on it at a substantial disadvantage.
Game developers like Microsoft, which uses it for Forza.
Now, it’s a big deal that Microsoft is giving Unreal their support, regardless of whether or not Microsoft depends on them. But it’s also telling that Microsoft filed only in support of Unreal and not Fortnite and the rest of Epic’s case against Apple.
Because that particular can of hurt might just fall on Microsoft’s Xbox store next.
This story is obviously changing, mutating, and escalating quickly. There may even be a ruling on the TRO by the time you watch this, and Epic may have even decided whether they’ll stick to their protest or update Fortnite and profit-take while continuing to sue another day. So, seriously, hit the subscribe button and bell so you don’t miss the next update.
Either way, U.S. law certainly doesn’t seem to be on Epic’s side in all this. Given how many viable game markets there are, all at 30%, it would be very hard to make any of the monopoly charges stick. And either way, courts have been loathe to impose any “duty to deal” on companies, that is to say, force one company to work with another, even competitors, and they’re even murky for monopolies for a variety of reasons.
Likewise, with Qualcomm, we just saw the courts effectively carve out hyper-competitive from anti-competitive. In other words, businesses are supposed to be extremely competitive. Especially with… their competition.
Which is probably why Epic is spending so much time and effort appealing to the court of public opinion in the form of in-game advertising — or propaganda, depending on how you view them — but also to the court of U.S. and E.U regulators.
See, existing laws are one thing. But both the U.S. and the E.U. are looking into big tech companies, how they deal with partners like developers and competitors, especially smaller ones, and what’s better for consumer pricing and opening markets respectively.
And if anything, legislators and regulators have proven themselves to be it’s resounding illiterate when it comes to technology.
You may know them from previous actions like handing an 83% share of eBooks to Amazon and web browser dominance to Chrome.
Basically, they operate with hammers and the remedies they propose could range from being truly beneficial to consumers, detrimental to big tech companies, or even odds, both.
Because, if or when the U.S. and or the E.U. force Apple and Google’s app markets open, Epic wants to be there with a Game Store to take advantage of it. And if they can help kick the doors down, so much the better.
Some people say they’re all for this. That it will force Apple and Google to compete for usage and payments on the merits, on trust and experience instead of lock-in. That it provide more opportunity and options for more apps and people. That, ultimately, it’ll be better for developers and consumers.
Others say they hate the idea. That it will create fragmentation and confusion, forcing consumers to figure out which store has which app, create multiple accounts across multiple payment systems, and open them up to greater risk of malware and fraud. That, ultimately, it’ll be worse for developers and consumers.
And a lot of this comes down to whether you think Apple’s App Store has been so successful because of or in spite of the level of control Apple exerts over it. Whether they’ve simply been given or have earned the customer trust needed to drive so much money through the App Store economy, how much a trillion dollar company is entitled to for that economy, and how much they should be required to give back simply because of their success, even to billion dollar companies like Epic.
Which is a really important, nuance argument to have. Way more nuanced than something like, I dunno, Epic should just go make the Fortnite phone, 240Hz with a three day battery, and Apple should make AppNite Battle Royale and sue to get their store on Epic’s phone. Which is no joke popping on Twitter.
But I do think Apple and Google would be wise to get ahead of regulators and law-makers on this, pick the concessions that would win them the most while hurting them the least. Whether that’s a proper Gatekeeper for iOS or reader app equivalent for games or… That’s a whole other video, and I’m working on it.
I you think Apple Silicon is just about giving us MacBooks that are more like iPads, well, then you my friend are 100%, completely, out-of-your-mind-palace wrong.
It’s also about giving us iMacs that are more like iPads.
See my column at iMore for the full story:
Always a joy to be on The Talk Show and chat briefly with John Gruber about the latest Apple news. This one was a very short 2:39 hours.
Epic Games, the company behind the massively popular Fortnite franchise, declared Battle Royale on Apple and Google this week, flagrantly defying both platforms’ locked-down in-app payment policies. In retaliation, Apple and Google kicked Fortnight off the App and Play stores. Which is… pretty much exactly what Epic was waiting for. Because they sued. Instantly. Not for money. Not to get back onto the stores. Not even to get their own payment options. No. But to get their own store.
Yeah, it’s just so much drama. So much spin. So. Much. Money. And I’m going to explain all of it to you, tell you exactly what’s really going on, and I’m going to do it right now.
Previously on Fortnite…
Almost exactly two years ago this week, back in August of 2018, Epic Games announced they weren’t going to be putting Fortnite into the Google Play Store. No. Just hard no.
Fortnite, especially it’s Battle Royale incarnation, is Epic’s mega-hit survival shooter game. Some initially dismissed or derided it as a PUBG knock-off, but it has gone on to become one of the most successful online games ever for both players and streamers alike. Ninja Tifu much?
Now, Epic had put Fortnite into Apple’s iPhone App Store, because they had no choice. And they’d already made like $15 million dollars no-choice bucks off the in-app purchases, but they had to give Apple 30% of that, and there was no way their CEO, Tim Sweeney, was going to give Google 30% as well, not if he could help it, not with side-loading, blessED side-loading on Android as an option. Epic were confident they didn’t need Google, that they could have their launch and eat up every V-Buck of in-game profit too.
So, pause, why did they have a problem with Apple and Google taking 30% and not Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo taking the exact same 30%?
Sweeney’s answer is that the iPhone and Android are general purpose computers while the Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch are not. That the Xbox, PlayStation, and… ok, sure, the Switch hardware is often sold at cost or at a loss, and the big gaming platforms will invest far more in marketing and partnerships with the big game studios, so they’re more dependent and deserving of the 30% cut. And that iPhones and Android Phones are typically sold at higher margins and don’t help market or partner with the bigger studios anywhere nearly as much.
Others, of course, would point out that Xbox, Playstation, and Switch have web browsers, some have video conferencing, video and music streaming services, messaging — in other words, apps,” and could run pretty much any app or any App Store Microsoft, PlayStation, or Nintendo allowed. The differences between general purpose computers and consoles are largely anachronistic and arbitrary now.
Also, consoles stay on the market for years, for ever in technology time, distributing those initial costs more effectively than many phone companies that swap out products year-over-year or few, and that most developers aren’t big game studios who even get, much less benefit, from those kinds of marketing and partner pushes. Where, big game studios do get plastered over the front pages of those mega popular stores.
And, that Sony owns a 1.4% stake in Epic, which isn’t as big as Tencent’s 40% stake, but isn’t nothing. Nintendo now uses Epic’s Unreal engine, so they have a development partnership beyond most game companies, and that after some initial scuffles, Epic now loves Xbox, whatever that means.
For that 30%, though, Apple, for example, invests heavily in everything from Swift to iOS Frameworks to Xcode beyond the hardware as well. They also handle hosting and delivery for apps, if not in-app purchases, taxes internationally from the U.S. to Japan and back, which is apparently as complex as it sounds, transaction processing, review, developer relations, and editorial features, which, in fairness, some developers find super thin if not opaque or downright hostile, they handle support, even while intermediating the customer relationship, and provide access to massive customer bases with credit cards or other payment methods on file, who trust and are used to transacting through through those stores. Trust built on over a decade of transactions. And Google does similar with Android.
So, the value proposition, the benefits and the drawbacks, are complex and messy to begin with… and it got even more so quick.
Because, according to Epic, Google played hardball and pressured Android vendors like OnePlus, maybe LG, not to pre-install the Fortnite launcher on their phones, not if they wanted to stay in Google’s good graces.
But, Samsung did include Fortnite on their phones, starting with the very high-profile Galaxy Note 9 launch, both with Epic’s installer built-in and Fortnite on the Samsung store.
So, maybe Samsung was just too big to pressure or just didn’t give a flying floss about Google’s hardball.
Epic also claimed Google uses scary, repetitive pop ups, conflates side-loading with malware, and launched Play Protect to block it, all to make side-loading basically non-functional as a realistic, viable alternative.
Side-loading on Android is kinda, sorta like Gatekeeper on the Mac, where you can choose to install app outside the official App Store, you just have to click through the warnings about the potential risks.
Android nerds laughed at the idea of it being difficult or scary in any way, but for mainstream customers, it’s legitimately harder to find and more cumbersome, and stressful, to install apps than it is on the Play Store.
Either way, Epic gave up on side loading and, in April of 2020, released Fortnite on the Google Play Store, giving Google 30% of their incredibly lucrative in-app purchases revenue.
Now… there’s still just a lot to unpack here, like why does this all sound so strangely like an old Sopranos rerun?
Well, let’s address it… with what happened this week.
Last Thursday, Epic announced the Fortnite MegaDrop. A permanent 20% discount on all-in currency. On Xbox, on Playstation, on Switch, on PC… even on iPhone and Android.
The latter two by breaking App Store and Play Store policy and offering alternative payment options — credit card and PayPal.
If you used any of those methods, you saved 20% on v-bucks. Yes, seriously, v-bucks. If you felt more comfortable sticking with Apple and Google payments, well, Epic said, you get no savings because Apple and Google collect what they called an exorbitant 30 percent fee on all payments.
Why beef with Apple and Google’s 30% and not Xbox, Playstation, or Switch? Well, again Epic thinks those are fair given what they claim are different cost structures, and, again, Sony owns part of Epic, Nintendo partners with them, and who even knows what’s going on with them and Microsoft these days.
Why only 20% savings on V-bucks for players if Epic is saving 30% on revenue sharing? They didn’t say. Maybe to cover costs for their own transaction processing. Maybe just to increase their own profits, maybe both.
Now, Fortnite is free-to-play, or freemium, or whatever you want to call a game you can download and kinda enjoy without spending a dime, but can only kinda really enjoy by spending all your dimes to get more stuff faster. Like surfing on funny tasting water and stale bread vs. ordering just all the Big Macs. With bun and special sauce upsets.
See, it turns out, people won’t spend $5, one time, up-front for a premium game but they’ll spend $5 a day, every day on a freemium game’s loot boxes or to have a better skin than their friends, or to get their cars back on the track faster, or whatever. Ego and instant gratifications, and the big games run psi-ops at a scale that make even the big casinos drool. They even use the same terms for their biggest spenders — whales.
And Epic doesn’t think it should have to share any of that whale cheddar with Apple or Google. Because other types of apps don’t have to share any of their revenue.
Specifically, for physical goods and services, Apple and Google don’t take a cut of in-app transactions. Basically, because they can’t. Physical goods require real money to produce and deliver. A book from Amazon, sneakers from Nike, a drone from Best Buy, a burger from McDonalds, the driver’s time and gas on lift. So, even early on, apps selling real-world goods and services used their own payments systems, typically their own account and billing services, with the apps as more mobile-friendly, convenient, functional proxies for their website front ends. There was just no way Apple or Google were ever going to get any of that.
Digital goods, though, well, for those the apps and games had to share revenue. All of them on iOS, and while I’m not 100% sure about all the when’s and where’s on Android, games as well. Games have to pay their 30% tithe.
Now, that has caused some problems over the years. Specifically, with apps that re-sell their own digital content.
If you’re Amazon taking 30% of a Kindle sale, or Spotify paying a fraction of a cent per song play, turnibf around and paying Apple that same 30% on that same Kindle sale or subscription… it’s just a non-starter.
Basically, there’s room for one middle-person, one broker, not two, not multiple. In other words, you can’t aggregate ebooks or songs in an app and then have a platform aggregate apps in a store, with 30% being charged all the way down.
So, over time, Apple made exemptions for what’s now commonly referred to as Reader apps. Most recently, even letting apps like Amazon Prime charge your Amazon account directly. But it’s still huge opaque and controversial, and I’d need another whole video to dive into it why and what can be done about it, so let me know if you want that in the comments.
Games, though… games for both Google and Apple get no exemptions.
Now, sure, in-app purchases aren’t for physical goods, so there isn’t the same real-world overhead, and they’re not aggregating anything like books or music they’re paying creators for, so there’s no double or multiple agency. There’s just code once, charge everyone. They’re delivered from the company’s own servers, though, so there are infrastructure costs they’re paying instead of the platform.
But, it’s mostly pure profit for everyone involved. I mean, so much profit. Ridiculous, unfathomable, genius for some, borderline immoral for others… profit.
Apple and Google want a taste, a piece of the action, and Epic wants just all the action.
Ok, so, I’ve already said I think Apple’s wrong about streaming game services because they’re just inevitable. And I have a lot of personal opinions about the 30%, side-loading or Gatekeeper on iOS, alternate payment options, the disparity of API access between first and third party apps, and the ongoing transition of apps from scarcity to abundance, from unit pricing to subscription and, yeah, streaming. But, that’s another video entirely.
For this video, what happened next was both predictable and… completely bananas.
Once Fortnite dropped their drop, or sucker punched their service agreement, or whatever you want to call it, Apple had four basic options. Whether they chose to negotiate with Epic behind the scenes or not, and depending on how much leverage they wanted for those negotiations:
They could have done nothing, letting Fortnite occupy app street. They could have blocked future updates to the Fortnite app but leave the current version available. They could have revoked Fortnite’s certificate and rendered every existing version of the app already installed just completely inoperable. Yeah, basically the nuclear option. Or they could pull the Fortnite app off the App Store, preventing new installations, but leaving the millions of current installations working as-is.
And that last one is what Apple did. They kicked Fortnite off the store but left it on all those billion phones in everyone’s pockets. At least the ones that had downloaded it beforehand. They could even keep using Epic’s 20% off payment options. Just no one else could download it, even if they’d downloaded it before on a different or the same device.
Should a platform, any platform, have that power? Does it depend on how they use it, like to punish a social network for spying on us, or quickly remove an app or dozen that used some malware-laden code from off the web, or is order by China to remove VPNs or America to remove TikTok? That’s a huge part of what all of this is all about, so let me know your opinion in the comments below.
What Apple said was that Epic games had violated the App Store guidelines, guidelines that are applied equally to every developer.
Now, as we just went over, that’s not entirely true. Or, at least, requires the very Obi Wan Kenobi defense of: from a certain point of view. The guidelines are applied equally to all game developers. Physical retailers and even some content providers are subject to different guidelines for different payment types. Something Epic is super salty about.
Apple also said these guidelines are designed to keep the store safe for their users. But, again, retailers and some other content providers have shown, in an approved way, the App Store can be safe even with alternate payment options. And Apple has shown pretty much the same thing with all apps using notarization and trusted developer certificates on the Mac with Gatekeeper.
Anyway, Apple accused Epic of enabling a feature that wasn’t reviewed or approved, which is true, and violating the App Store guidelines Epic had agreed to, which is also true. You can think those guidelines are reassuring, perfectly acceptable, problematic, unfair, or complete BS, but Epic still violated them.
Also, that Epic had benefited from the App Store for a decade, which, I mean, they’d been up on Apple’s special event stages plenty, parts of demos, featured. And that makes it sound like they used Apple and the App Store to get them through college and now want to dump them for a younger, hotter deal. But it could also mean they hated their position, that dependency, the whole time, so just bided their time until they could do something about it.
Apple said those benefits include the tools, testing, and distribution that Apple provides to all developers. Which is true and I covered a minute ago. And that these guidelines create a level playing field for all developers.
Which is… kinda murky? I mean, again, rightly or wrongly, different categories of apps are treated differently, though games are all treated the same. But they do allow a brand new company, one that doesn’t have Epic’s billions and can’t afford their own store, to sit side-by-side Fortnite on the iPhone or Android and compete for our attention and time.
So, of course, this all immediately became a huge Apple story. With some slinging their well-worn, but still sparkle-coated rent-seeking monopolist signs, and others dunking on wanting access to a high-value, high-trust market place while biting the hand that fed it.
And it looked like it would stay that way… until just a few hours later when Google kicked Fortnite off the Play Store as well. Same as Apple, leaving current installations in place but preventing any new ones.
Google said the Android ecosystem was open, with multiple stores, but those that chose to use the Play Store had to follow the consistent policies that are fair to every developer and keep customers safe.
Basically, a shorter but openy-touting-er version of Apple’s statement.
So, yeah, turned out Apple and Google had the lightsabers.
But, Epic… they had the lawsuits.
Epic sued so fast that it’s impossible to believe this isn’t exactly what they were waiting for, certainly prepared for, maybe even hoping for. With Apple, no question. With Google, who knows?
They had a video ready too. A parody of the most famous ad video ever, Steve Job’s 1984, introducing the Macintosh. Which… ok for boomers if completely without context to zoomers.
Also, a threat that iPhone users in specific and mobile users in general might now miss out on the next season of Fortnite, when, of course, Palpatine might just have another broadcast for us all or… who knows.
The law suit against Apple invoked the same 1984 symbolism. Against Google, their old, lost and lamented, don’t be evil mantra.
The suits were filled with all the killing words — or buzz words, depending on how you feel about them — accusing Apple and Google of having monopoly control over the App Store and Play Store respectively, and their in-app payment systems, and being anti-competitive when it comes to iOS and Android app distribution.
And yes, Google too, because, remember, Epic accused them of bullying other Android phone makers and of scaring people away from, and effectively blocking side-loading.
The timing was perfect for Epic as well. So perfect they may just have been waiting for it. Because both Apple and Google are currently being scrutinized by both the US and EU for anti-competitive practices, and Apple and Google’s CEOs, Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai, both just testified before the U.S. congress where they had to face serious questions about how they treat partners like developers and competitors like… Epic might want to become?
So, are Apple and Google monopolies? I try to avoid the word in this specific context because I find it non-useful. You can engage in anti-completive behavior without being a monopoly, and that behavior can be legal or illegal depending on how you engage in it. There are also legal monopolies, including many infrastructure companies. It usually depends on how big you are, how much control you have over the market, and how much regulation that market has in place.
For example, the US tends to favor lower prices for consumers. So much so, they spanked Apple, but hard, over ebook prices, handing Amazon almost 90% of the market as a result. The EU tends to favor more competition, even if, like with the Microsoft browser ballot, it didn’t really help Opera or Slepnir, or ultimately Firefox, and just handed the internet over to Google’s Chrome. So, instead of a choice between a half-dozen rendering engines, we’re now down to basically two and a fork. And one’s one life support.
It’s also incredibly dependent on who gets to define the market and how they get to define it. Apple has a minority share of mobile operating systems globally. There are far more Android devices in the world than iPhones. In some countries, they’re absolutely tiny. But, in the U.S. they have a roughly equal share to Android, maybe a little more. And they have a majority share among U.S. teenagers who just love iMessage, AirDrop, and FaceTime. The App Store has also traditionally been the most lucrative market for developers than the Play Store, even though the Play Store typically has more downloads. But I’ll just leave it to you all to argue over whether or how much Apple’s policies contributed to that lucrative-ity?
Now, Google does allow other stores and side loading on Android, but Google Play is by far the most popular, most lucrative store on Android, and as I’m repeating ad nauseum infinitum now, Epic found side-loading to be a non-starter because the vast majority of mainstream customers can’t even find it or want to be bothered with it, maybe wouldn’t even trust it if they did. And again, you can argue over how much Google has to do with that.
As to Google bullying Android vendors, that’s something they’ve been accused of in search with Yelp, mapping with Skyhook, and mobile with Epic and others for years now. Openness advocates just ignore it because Google has a reality distortion field that’s like 100x anything Steve Jobs ever enjoyed in his prime. Just like Apple fans ignore all sorts of distasteful things about Apple as well.
It’s the problem that comes from being loyal to companies rather than demanding companies be loyal to us.
CRAVATH, SWAINE & MOORE, the lawyers representing Epic in their suit are the same ones that represented American Express vs. Ohio, and won it at the Supreme Court. The ones that represented Time Warner in the AT&T merger. The ones that most recently represented Qualcomm vs. the FTC, so far winning on appeal.
Which means they’ve usually been on the other side of these types of anti-trust cases… but maybe that means they know where all the attack skeletons are buried?
Of course, it’s a safe bet Apple and Google’s have top notch in-house and external councils as well.
And, while Apple and Google haven’t yet commented on the suits, Epic CEO Tim Sweeny just could help but tweet all over it.
Now, this might make it feel like I’m picking on Epic more than Apple or Google here, but seriously, Apple and Google have put out one statement each. Epic and Sweeny just keep marketing, filing, and tweeting. So there’s really just more stuff from them to pick on. So much more….
Sweeny said Epic is fighting for the freedom of people who bought smartphones to install apps from sources of their choosing, the freedom for creators of apps to distribute them as they choose, and the freedom of both groups to do business directly.
Though he previously said side loading on Android was unacceptable due to the nature and number of steps it took, which Android experts dispute, and which keeps people safe from malware, which was and is a huge problem on PCs that lack warnings, certificates, and other protections, which is the model Epic seems to want.
But, others would argue what Epic really wants is to collect just all the money without any of the friction, responsibility, or care or consideration for any of the users beyond their money.
Sweeny also said we all have rights, and we need to fight to defend our rights against whoever would deny them. Even if that means fighting a beloved company like Apple.
But not Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo, because he thinks they’re not general purpose computer makers but Apple and Google are, and that their Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch business models deserve a higher revenue share than the iPhone or Android. And, of course, are part-owners, development partners, or just beloved by Epic.
That the fight isn't over Epic wanting a special deal, but about the basic freedoms of all consumers and developers.
This could well be completely sincere and true. Or it could be another billion dollar company hijacking a common cause to knock down and replace an incumbent.
It’s clear from their legal filings that what Epic really wants is their own store, the newly renamed Epic Game Store, on the iPhone and on Android so that they’re no longer paying Apple or Google 30% but having other developers pay them, much as other developers do on the PC version of the Epic Game Store today. In other words, they don’t want to remove the gatekeeper — they want to become another one.
And yes, absolutely, Epic currently charges less for their gatekeeping than Apple or Google, but also provides far less in return. Far less reach and exposure, and far more demands around exclusivity deals. And their model could also change at any time.
Either way, some think it would just mean more competition that benefits everyone, others, more fragmentation that is both a blessing and curse.
Sweeney finished by saying there's nothing wrong with fighting about money. You work hard to earn this stuff. When you spend it, the way it's divided determines whether your money funds the creation of games or is taken by middlemen who use their power to separate gamers from game creators.
Which is great and all, but Epic has been controversial in their own right, and was sued back in 2018 for using dance moves without credit or compensation to the creators. In other words, using their power to separate dances from dance creators, the people who worked hard to earn that stuff. Which, even if copyright ends up not protecting at all, maybe doing what’s right should, especially by a company so vocal about demand it for themselves?
Now, it might seem I’m being harder on Epic here than Google or Apple. But that’s not the case. Epic has simply done more so far. Apple and Google have put out one statement each. Epic has been talking and talking for days. So, there’s just more to comment on when it comes to them.
When I asked you all in a poll on the community tab, 16 thousand of you answered so far, and as of right now 40% of you think Apple’s in the right, 18% think Epic, 17% think they both have valid points, 3% of you think both should just stop, and 21% honestly have bigger problems to worry about right now. Fair enough.
But, should be fairly clear by now that I don’t find Epic’s or Apple’s or Googles statements in all this all that compelling. At least not fo far.
I think going after Apple right now, right at this specific moment, was strategically smart. Especially with the Hey and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate controversies still so fresh, and the US and EU just champing hot on big tech’s tail.
Co-opting long-standing developer gripes about revenue sharing and distribution and payments options, while under threat of regulation, even break-up is TIGHT.
But, going after Google as well, even though the US and EU are just as hot on their tails, but where the developer gripes are very different… might have not been anywhere nearly as strategically smart. Nowhere nearly as tight.
Not only did it erase or erode some of the support they got from the Apple suit filed only hours before, it might also have exposed their motives as being less altruistic and more… like I said — the casino that wants to stop paying taxes to the city so it can become it’s own city.
That absolutely doesn’t mean Apple and Google are in the right or even in the clear. Just that Epic may not be the Batman we want or need either. Because, push comes to shove, there’s just no way of knowing whether non billionaire, even non-millionaire developers will benefit a lot, little, or not at all by whatever result Epic ends up getting here.
Like I said, I have very strong feelings about how I think app stores need to evolve and change for this next decade of devices. Sure, to stave off what I can only imagine will be the bluntest, most technologically illiterate remedies imaginable from the U.S. and E.U., but also to do the one thing I think is being largely forgotten here:
Better serving us, the customer.
I’m beyond super excited about the potential for a new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro — running Apple Silicon, with mini LED, Face ID, USB4, 5G, WiFI6, and much, much more.
Check out my weekly column at iMore for everything I'm hoping to see!
Every single time Apple’s App Store policies have been criticized or challenged, I’ve always just said — show me a game-changing app, show me an app that can exist on Google Play but not Apple’s App Store. Show me an Instagram, Uber, Netflix, TikTok, Spotify, Candy Crush, something that just becomes table-stakes for a vast majority of users, because so far, not only have all of the those worked just fine on the App Store, they’re almost always worked first and best on the App Store.
Show me that, because, if and when it happens, then the App Store will absolutely, positively, have no choice but to change.
And, year after year, for over a decade now, nothing and no one has been able to to do that, to prove the App Store definitively and decisively wrong.
Microsoft has accused Apple of refusing to allow their upcoming Xbox Game Pass Ultimate service onto the iPhone and iPad App Stores.
If you’re not familiar with it, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, formerly Project xCloud, promises to let you stream over 100 Xbox games to your phone or tablet for $15 a month.
Essentially, to be the Netflix or Spotify — the TV+ or Apple Music — of games. All you can play with just one monthly price to pay.
And Microsoft isn’t the only company pushing a service like this. Far from it. Google, Nvidia, Facebook — basically everyone in games is getting into or wants to get into… this game.
And Apple’s having none-of-it, not on the iOS App Store at least.
Now, there are a lot of issues facing the App Store, the app economy, the nature of apps, and the technology, but that’s a much bigger video. So, if you want to see it, hit the like button and we’ll see how his it goes.
This issue is relatively straight forward. And it’s seriously pissed off Microsoft… and a lot of iPhone and iPad users who also want them some Xbox on iOS.
Ok, so, game Streaming services, far as I can tell, really are similar to video and music streaming services.
Apple doesn’t allow app stores on the App Store. You can’t just make a container to download and execute arbitrary code. That’s a huge security risk. A malware Pez dispenser of the highest order.
But… this also isn’t that.
This, you download a catalog app, or a reader app as they’re often called, just like you would Netflix or Disney Plus, Spotify or Tidal, and that’s the only code that’s ever installed on your device.
And the reader app is reviewed and screened just like any other app on the store.
Then, once you’ve installed it, the reader app streams video and audio from the cloud — from the company’s servers. Just like you’d stream audio and video for The Old Guard off Netflix or Folklore off Spotify.
The video and audio just happens to be for a game instead of a movie or song.
Again, to be 100% crystal clear, you’re not installing any additional apps or files, you’re literally just streaming and caching the audio and video bits. The apps and files all remain on the server, the cloud.
And sure, you need to be able to control the game, send input back and forth, but that’s really just a slightly more sophisticated version of controlling media playback.
Instead of play, pause, skip forward or back, it’s up up down down left right left right b a… Whatever.
At the end of the day, it’s still just a stream.
And while the App Store allows video and audio streaming apps on iOS, they don’t allow streaming app or game apps.
It allows Remote Desktop and VNC clients, even dedicated ones, so you can access apps and games remotely from a local box on your own network, like SteamLink ultimately had to settle for, but you cannot currently access them from the cloud, from someone else’s box.
Like Judge Dread, that is the law.
Microsoft vs. Apple
So, last week, Microsoft announced they were cutting short their TestFlight beta for Project xCloud. That’s how this all… well, not began, because this all has been an undercurrent for basically ever, but flared up again.
If you’re not familiar with it, TestFlight is a beta testing service Apple acquired a few years ago and turned into the only official way developers can let users try out their apps before they launch.
And 10,000 people were trying out the Halo: The Master Chief Collection Project xCloud beta on TestFlight when Microsoft announced they were cutting it short… and focusing on delivering the full cloud gaming experience to Android users beginning September 15.
In other words, they wouldn’t be launching on the iPhone or iPad, only Android.
And, yeah, Xbox fans and open computer platform stans alike were pissed.
Console vs. Open Computer
Now, pretty much every gadget these days is a computer. Sure, your Windows PC and Mac are computers, and your iPhone and Android phone are computers, but everything from TVs to cars to appliances to toys have chips in them and full-on or embedded operating systems running on them.
Windows PCs, Linux PCs, the Mac — these are all indeed open computer platforms. That means you can do almost anything you want on them. Install and run almost anything you want, manage them how you want to manage them, live how you want to live, dance how you want to dance, you know the bit. They’re more or less controlled by the person who owns the box. You. Me. Us.
The iPhone, iPad, Xbox, PlayStation, Oculus, Switch, infotainment units, these are all what’s more commonly called consoles, at least to varying degrees.
Xbox, PlayStation, Switch — they’re all tightly controlled by Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, the company that owns the platform not the person who owns the box.
And yeah, you bought it, it’s yours, you have the atoms, but they still control the bits. They decide which ones can and can’t run on it. In others words, they decide which apps or games are available, how you can buy and download and install them, even how you can play them and whether or not you have any access or control over the data from them.
You can only play the games on Xbox that Microsoft allows, only move your data between Switches if Nintendo allows. Only install the app on your iPhone from the App Store and then only the apps Apple allows onto the App Store.
With consoles, you bought a window with a view, not a garden.
Now, I can already feel some of you rage typing into the comments — Xbox and Switch are consoles, the iPhone and iPad are NOT consoles, you gorram, frakking, Apple-headed, sassing-frassing… whatever.
And, whoa, language.
But also, yes, sure, there’s a range between open computing platform and console. With, like, Linux and Windows on one end, and Android and Mac as you get closer to the middle, then iOS, Oculus, Xbox, and Nintendo as you hit the fully controlled console side.
And it’s totally blurry because Apple lets a huge swath of traditional computer programs onto the App Store, like word processors and — shiver — spread sheets. I mean, gaming consoles often have web browsers now, but spreadsheets? Those are like VisiCalc and Lotus and Excel traditional crunchy computing.
But, since Steve Jobs announced the App Store in 2008, it’s clear Apple has viewed the iOS devices as consoles. As game and app consoles. And Apple as the console-todian. Custodian. Whatever. English is flexible. At me.
But… at me with which side of this whole general computer vs. console argument you fall on, in the comments.
Microsoft vs. Apple
So, Apple responded, saying they need to be able to review all apps individually, index all apps for search and rank on charts individually, and that Microsoft’s service simply wouldn’t allow that, so Apple simply couldn’t allow it on the iPhone and iPad.
And… yeah… immediately, everyone and their reblogger pointed out that Apple clearly doesn’t review every movie or show in Netflix or song in Spotify.
And Apple would probably respond that with very, very few Bandersnatch-ian exceptions, Netflix videos and Spotify audio isn’t interactive and so doesn’t require the same kind of review.
In point of fact, there was never an iTunes review team the way there’s been an App Store review team for over a decade now.
But, again, play and pause are interactions. And it’s not like Netflix shows or Spotify songs are in the iTunes Store search system or charts either.
Though they can present themselves for Siri search and Up Next, like Amazon Prime chooses to and Netflix just as assuredly does not.
And for those concerned about ratings, games already have parental guidance categories, so as long as they flag content appropriately, parental controls should behave appropriately.
Which is pretty much what Microsoft said in their… rather apoplectic statement.
Also: That Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass.
Which is kinda all shades of shady, in that:
- Apple isn’t a platform. macOS and iOS/iPadOS are a few of Apple’s different platforms.
- macOS is indeed a general purpose platform but iOS and iPadOS, while functionally close, are philosophically a chasm apart.
- Microsoft knows this because they’re exactly the same, with Windows as a general purpose platform and Xbox, remarkably similar on the inside, as very much… not.
The minute Microsoft opens Xbox up to competitive app stores and streaming services, they can yell all they want about the iPhone or iPad and how closed they are. Until then, really only Google — and maybe Facebook… I’ve lost track of how locked down Oculus is these days — but really only Google gets to point double 1960s animated Spider-Man fingers at anyone with any ounce of authenticity.
I’ll link to both statements, in full, in the description, but none of that is even really my main point here.
Of course, immediately, many accuse Apple of doing all this for the money. Of not wanting a competing game service on the App Store, or anything that would eat into their contentious 30% cut of the App Store profits.
And, certainly, Apple made a big deal about services revenue over the last few years, promising to double it from 2016 to 2020 and then just last quarter proudly announcing they’d done it and with half a year to spare. And services revenue is heavily driven by App Store revenue which is heavily driven by in-app purchases which is heavily driven by fremium games.
You know, the ones we all won’t pay $5 for to buy upfront but will gladly pay $5 every week for just to get a better skin than our friends or to get back on the track faster — good old ego and instant gratification.
Which is a far cry from Steve Jobs saying if the App Store ever broke even, Apple would be happy.
But, interestingly, when Tim Cook was asked just last week if he’d make the same commitment again for the next 4 years, if he’d promise to re-double services revenue by 2024, he demurred.
Now, that simply might just be because he’s not ready to promise it yet, or because now that that original promise has been delivered, Apple is ready to rethink how it drives services growth going forward.
Because, let’s not forget, Apple does let Disney+ and Spotify on the App Store, which compete with TV+ and Apple Music.
And a subscription service isn’t a store. Though maybe there’s some concern in-app purchases will move into subscription services and out of the App Store.
But, I mean, who knows when you’ll be able to buy Billy Butcher’s jacket from the Boys with one-click and Amazon will Prime it to you door next day. Or a song from a movie, a game from a video. It’s all coming.
Even then, even if it was all about the money, Apple and Microsoft would play let’s make a deal, like they did over 365.
Apple would get somewhere between 30 and 15% over the first year and thereafter, and they have money.
Or, to delve dangerously close to fanfic, some have also suggested Apple is holding out on Game Pass to force Microsoft to license the currently OEM-only Windows on ARM for the upcoming Apple Silicon Macs.
Either way, 90% of the time when people say Apple is just doing something for the money, it’s usually way more lazy than it is accurate.
90% of the time Apple is doing it for control. And if you disagree, let me know why in the comments.
Now, right at the beginning of this I said no one had ever been able to point to a single game-changing app that would work on the Google Play Store and not on the App Store and, because of that, it basically rendered all arguments about Apple’s controlling App Store nature… moot.
Not Instagram, not Uber, not Netflix, TikTok, Spotify, not Candy Crush, because those have all been available often first, often best on the App Store.
Not a single game-changing app.
Because one of the next game-changing apps… is games. Not Xbox, not Stadia, not Nvidia, not Facebook, not any of them by themselves, but all of them. Together.
The digital age has seen everything, all media, go from hard to get to ridiculously easy, from scarcity to abundance, from unit pricing to subscription or ad-supported. It’s happened to news, music, television, movies, comics — you can get almost all of it, all for just $10 to $15 bucks a month per service, across a host of different services.
And games — and apps in general — are just next on the list.
Apple already has Arcade, which is a noble service and a huge gift to indie, eclectic, and artisanal game developers. For my money it’s one of the best things Apple’s done with their money. But it’s really a carefully curated and funded collection of native apps made available across Apple’s platform.
It’s like… The BBC and Canadian Film Board sections on OG iTunes.
Streaming game services are going to be triple AAA franchises on demand. Like Netflix or Disney+ on iOS.
In simpler times I could see Apple just making a commercial. Picture it. Two kids in the back of a car, driving across the country, going through a cellular dead zone, the streaming kid hitting his Android phone based AF as his stream dies, while the Apple Arcade kid just flexes his downloaded game on his iPhone. And keeps right on playing.
And another ad highlighting zero latency, full native power on the iPhone vs. high latency, buffering, and stammering on the Android stream.
In simpler times I’d say, Apple should do Apple and let the best solution win.
But unless I’m reading this very, very wrong, technology and time have already shown us how this ends. We’ve seen it with news, with music, with video…
And we’re going to see it with streaming and subscriptions gaming services. Plural. On iOS.
And not just because it’s the right thing to do or what I think Apple should do, though it is an I do, but because I think Apple already knows both those things.
They have blind spots and focus can become tunnel vision. And apps and games have complexities and deep cultural value and meaning in this industry, but Apple’s a profoundly canny company and, again, unless I’m very, very wrong, this is very, very inevitable.
Apple will evolve from Arcade into their own streaming service, much like they evolved from iTunes to Apple Music and TV+.
They’ll compete with exclusives and quality content, just like they compete against Netflix and Spotify today.
And have Xbox streaming — sorry, Microsoft Xbox Game Pass Ultimate — and every other game streaming service to compete with, just like they have every other video and music streaming service to compete with now, today.
Maybe even with the ability to integrate into Siri Search and up-next like those types of streams do today.
I don’t know if that means we’ll see some movement in two weeks or two months or even two years, or what other deals are in the works behind the scenes, but in the end, I think it’ll be obvious that’s where the puck is going to be… for pretty much all content types, pretty much everywhere.
And Apple’s going to not just want to be there but have to be there.