Another big tech battle exploded. A big one—Epic Games vs Apple and Google. But how will this reshape the future of app distribution? Let’s find that out.
The Epic Case has been making headlines for more than a year now. At the heart of the legal battle is the power Apple and Google wield over the app industry. Epic has claimed that both companies engaged in unlawfully anti-competitive practices on app distribution and in-app purchasing systems.
A verdict with no clear winners
After several hearings and countersuits, Apple’s trial judge ruled that there wasn’t any unfair monopoly. She ordered Epic to pay damages for violating its developer agreement.
However, she also instructed Apple to remove its anti-steering rules, noting that there was no evidence that the 30% cut was justified.
The judge later took a swipe at Apple, suggesting it should not rest easy, as it stood “near the precipice of substantial market power, or monopoly power, with its substantial market share,” while considering methods that would sit better with developers.
So what does this verdict actually mean?
Developers can funnel iOS users out of the App Store to other payment methods, allowing them to advertise better deals. This cuts Apple out of some commissions and increasing their own profit margins.
The judge’s decision moves in the direction of openness—but not far enough.
Alright… But what about Google?
On October 11th, Google filed a countersuit on Epic’s original lawsuit. They suit argues that Epic Games was “unjustly enriched” before adding its own payment system to spark litigation purposefully. The court will decide if Epic Games breached its contract as it did with Apple.
Though the case is not over, Google has already started easing up on its fees. Of course, only after Apple did so first. The industry pressure is loud and clear.
Did Epic bite off more than it could chew?
The rebellious act of Fortnite is much bigger than merely proving the real demand for sideloading.
Aron Solomon, the Chief Legal Analyst of EsquireDigital, states: “Even if Epic loses (which they will if it was indeed a breach), they win because they’re fighting for more choices for gamers. That in itself could be the ultimate win.”
On the other hand, Epic is fighting two giants that control the market, in addition to losing more than $25 million in monthly revenue. The App Store represents Epic’s biggest source of revenue, and the removal of Fortnite can have a big impact on the company’s future.
Time to go all in on app distribution
Apple’s verdict can open a path for tremendous profit increases for developers, serving as a way to establish closer relationships with players and customers too.
Not all users are going to click on these new options, but it seems that we will have more meaningful competition in mobile app transactions.
And this is not only about the US. South Korea made history by passing the world’s first law requiring Apple and Google to allow alternative payment systems for in-app purchases. China banned Google Play and is dominated by alternative app stores, with more than 80% of Chinese consumers using Android.
Any game published exclusively on Google Play is cutting itself off from 40% of global app revenue. And iOS isn’t always a safe bet either. Few people use Apple phones in India, for example, a country with 430 million mobile gamers.
Alternative stores are a key access point to massive global audiences, and allow app developers to explore wider global opportunities.
Think globally. Act accordingly.
“Alternative” is Becoming the New Normal
Sooner or later, the app store market will be blown wide open.
With increasingly hard-fought battles over payments infrastructure, alternative app stores are well-placed to differentiate themselves by offering developers favorable rates and app distribution systems.
As stated by Catappult’s COO Álvaro Pinto:
“With the current lawsuits against Google and Apple and all the pressure from app developers the market will definitely be more open in the near future. This is good for everybody: consumers, developers, alternative stores and app distribution channels. Developers need to adapt and invest more in their own distribution and alternative channels. This has to be a management priority by defining new strategies and make sure all development, business development, marketing and acquisition efforts converge and are focused in pursuing new opportunities.”
Publishing in multiple countries and on various platforms can be a challenge in terms of licensing and technical integrations.
Get ahead. Self distribute
But, with the right app distribution platform such as Catappult, you can access hundreds of millions of players, low marketing costs, a worldwide distribution system with one single APK and a better revenue share than the dominant platforms.
Last but not least, with so many apps on Apple and Google, that means discoverability for small and medium publishers is becoming hopeless. While we know that reach is important, visibility is key.
Going beyond Epic
For a long time, these major app stores held absolute power over developers and consumers. However, with names like Epic, Spotify and governments worldwide opposing them publicly, the time has come to rethink the app store model.
With the lawsuits piling up, and developers and consumers’ awareness of the major app stores’ practices, we’re paving the way towards an alternative independent app distribution world.
The best time to start was yesterday. The next best time is now.
Join the revolution. Join Catappult.