In an interview with CNN Business, CEO of Epic Games, Tim Sweeney shared that internally called “Project Liberty”, his company “spent months” on planning and preparing for its fight against Apple. The feud between two big tech companies began in 2020, and it would take a while for it to be over.
On August 13, Project Liberty was sprung into action — a plan that sought to force the tech giants into response.
On August 13, Epic released a controversial update on the Fortnite app on iOS and Google Play, which allowed players to opt-out of the app stores payment methods and pay Epic directly for all in-app purchases. As Apple and Google charged a 30% commission rate for all in-app purchases via their marketplace, the update violated their rules and the game was consequently removed from both app stores. Immediately, after being banned from the app stores, Epic Games lawsuits against Apple and Google were filed and launched a social media campaign, mostly against Apple, called ‘Free Fortnite’. Now we know, that Epic’s reaction was pre-planned in advance.
Frustrated over 30% commission rate, Epic Games lawsuit against Apple seeks to break free from it
Speaking over a video call, Sweeney told CNN Business that his frustration with app stores 30% commission rate had been building for years, particularly with Apple.
“Epic’s frustration with Apple especially, and Google to some extent, had been building up for at least three years. Ever since Fortnite grew to have a large audience, we felt stifled by several things.”
Believing that a 30% share cut is against antitrust laws, he added that his fight with Apple and Google is to preserve the free market and not just the commission rate.
“I grew up in a time in which anybody could make software. This is my first computer, an Apple II,” said Sweeney, gesturing towards the iconic blocky, grey machine on the desk behind him. “You turn it on and it comes up with a programming language prompt,” he continued. “So I felt all along that open platforms are the key to free markets and the future of computing.”
With their jury trial scheduled for July, Sweeney said it is costing “lots and lots” of senior leadership time without telling the litigation fees. It is estimated the Fortnite’s ban from both app stores, App Store and Google Play, is affecting the game’s revenue. Having said that, Sweeney is willing to pay the price in the hope of a greater return, if he wins.
Fortnite users have spent about $1.2 billion globally on the game on iOS since its launch, according to mobile app tracker Sensor Tower.
“The point is if you really want to make a difference, you have to buck the system,” Sweeney said in response to the criticism. “I think there’s a lot we can learn from any of the past struggles in humanity and I think it’s perfectly healthy to apply struggles from vital causes in the history of the world to struggles over smaller issues like software platforms.”
Apple maintains that Epic’s troubles are of its own making and it was willing to welcome the game back after without the direct payment update. Their jury trial is months away and for now, the companies are tangled in preliminary hearings in which Epic was able to convince the judge to allow seven hours deposition of Apple CEO, Tim Cook, and other legal demands.