Apple has a strong case against Epic Games based on the trial so far since the latter has not been able to prove its accusations through its witness testimonies. Epic faces a difficult fight and seems either ill-prepared for the court battle, or has been spending time on issues that might not make a mark when it comes to the judge’s decision. However, even if Apple wins this court battle, it is highly likely that the company will have to make numerous changes to improve the situation for developers in the App Store due to the public scrutiny its policies have been facing.
Here’s how things might improve for developers even if Apple wins against Epic Games
Mark Gurman of Bloomberg, who has been covering Apple for a long time, writes that Epic has not been able to prove Apple’s monopolistic behavior in court so far. Their “testimonies from Epic’s side don’t appear to have moved the needle”, and this might prove helpful for Apple to win the court battle in the end. The burden of proof is on Epic and despite getting support from Nvidia and Microsoft, its case has not been strong enough to convince the judge.
One thing that has come out of all of this is that there are actual issues that Apple should fix for developers and improve the situation for them on its platform. Apple does not have much to lose if it fixes its mistakes and gives developers what they have been asking for. The first of this would be to allow cloud gaming apps on App Store, even though Apple cannot review all the games. Apple should treat them like a video streaming service.
The second important change would be to allow 15% commission rate to developers who earn more than $1 million. Apple already has policies in place where it reduces its commission to 15% after the first year, so why not just make it a standard. Gurman writes:
I also think Apple should consider making more developers eligible for the 15% App Store commission rate. Right now, the only developers who can pay less than 30% are those who generated no more than $1 million in revenue during the previous calendar year. It’s easy to imagine the company matching Google and allowing that discount for the first $1 million made in any calendar year for any developer, regardless of how much they made the year prior.
Gurman also writes, and we agree, that Apple should allow developers to tell their users about alternative payment methods, such as from their websites. This sort of transparency is in line with App Store’s policies so the arbitrary restriction does nothing but put Apple in a bad light. Due to the ease of use of App Store payments, many users would still opt to pay through the app or game, however, it will also make developers happy that they can educate their customers to opt for an alternative method of payments.
Lastly, I do think Apple and Epic could have solved their differences without a trial if Apple simply allowed Epic to advertise to their users that they could go to the Epic website to complete a VBucks purchase—as long as an option to purchase the items in the app remained. Epic would likely get a percentage of users buying from their website, while Apple would get to retain their payment system for consumers who want to use it. That’s a potential compromise I could see going a long way to keep the developer ecosystem happy.
Of course, there are concerns that the alternate method of payment on the website could be advertised as cheaper by developers in their apps, and that could potentially be an issue when it comes to revenue for Apple. However, the App Store terms can make it clear that apps can only notify or link users to their websites for payments. Many apps such as ride-sharing, food delivery, and online shopping already have payment methods that completely bypass Apple, so it would be fair to extend similar benefits to other developers, even if just to allow them to inform their users on how they can subscribe without the App Store.
Apple could gain a lot of goodwill from such changes and over the long term, the impact on its bottom line would be negligible. After all, it’s the developers that make the App Store a huge success.