KEY POINTS

  • Epic Games said it would permanently cut the prices of "Fortnite's" in-game currency and sidestep Apple and Google's 30% service fees
  • Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has been vocal about his disdain for Apple's practices regarding its digital marketplace
  • Epic Games launched the Epic Games Store under a similar pretext in 2018, offering game companies a larger share of revenue on PC compared to Steam

The multibillion-dollar video game industry is arguably the most dominant form of entertainment on the planet, and some of its biggest players are working to secure an even bigger slice of the pie.

The boom seen in the video game industry in the last 40 years has seen console makers go from selling fewer than 3 million consoles in the early 1980s to as many as 150 million this year. 

Enter Epic Games, best known for its highly successful battle royale “Fortnite.” The game became a massive sensation after its release in 2017 with more than 350 million registered players. It is available to play on every capable platform, from consoles to smartphones, and is among the most watched games on Twitch.

However, Epic is not shy about finding ways to capitalize financially on its game and has now put itself on a collision course with one of the tech industry’s biggest giants.

Epic announced Thursday V-Bucks, “Fortnite’s” in-game currency, would receive up to a 20% permanent discount. Epic also said players on iOS and Android devices would be able to pay Epic directly and avoid fees from their respective digital marketplaces.

“Currently, when using Apple and Google payment options, Apple and Google collect a 30% fee, and the up to 20% price drop does not apply,” Epic said in a press release. “If Apple or Google lower their fees on payments in the future, Epic will pass along the savings to you.”

Epic and CEO Tim Sweeney have regularly criticized Apple and Google for their practices. The harshest criticism has been reserved for the former, accusing Apple on Twitter of stifling competition and creating a lopsided system benefiting itself.

This is the same argument Sweeney has used to justify the creation of the Epic Games Store. The digital marketplace that launched in December 2018 represented the first major form of competition to Valve’s Steam, which was long regarded as the proverbial king of the digital PC gaming market. It was able to sway many developers away from Steam by promising a larger cut of a game’s profits.

At the time of launch, Valve received a 30% cut of a game’s revenue on Steam while Epic only asked for a 12% share. This led to multiple developers, such as Gearbox Software and Deep Silver, giving the Epic Games Store timed-exclusivity on PC at the time of a game’s release.

Initially, gamers were hostile to the idea of downloading another marketplace, but the attitude has since subsided.

However, while Steam and the Epic Games Store have been able to coexist, it remains to be seen how Apple will respond to Epic's latest maneuver. Some outlets, such as Recode, said the timing of this decision is not a coincidence, given Apple CEO Tim Cook’s appearance before the House Judiciary Committee on July 29.

Cook was one of four tech CEOs, along with Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Sundar Pichai, who addressed the committee regarding antitrust laws. All four CEOs assured the panel they have not stifled competition and their size is beneficial to the growth of smaller businesses.

This decision reflects an apparent willingness by Epic to bet on itself and the size of the “Fortnite” community outside of Apple devices.

battleroyale-fortnite-1158215 Fortnite Photo: Lance Pillay/pexels.com