👉 The Epic Conspiracy (w/ Christian Handley)

What happened on Tech Twitter last week - August 9 - 15

Yo! ✌️ I’m Brett! I am a Product Manager and former Cognitive Science researcher. Social Studies is a semi-weekly newsletter for people building great products for humans. It includes recaps of what happened on Tech Twitter every week plus deep analysis using frameworks from Psychology, Economics, and the other Social Sciences.

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❤️ This week’s top story was written by my good friend Christian Handley!


✨ TLDR

🔨 Apple and Google dropped the hammer - Epic enabled their own payments processor in Fortnite. Apple and Google responded by suspending that app.

😏 Epic was planning it all along - Fortnite retaliated with a couple antitrust lawsuits and a marketing campaign timed perfectly with Google and Apple antitrust hearings.

🤔 Apple’s value has been diminishing - Apple has been taking 30% tax on revenue from developers for 12 years. But they’re delivering substantially less value these days.

🦮 Underdogs usually become abusers eventually - “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” as they say.


🔨 Apple and Google dropped the hammer on Epic

Epic Games added a feature in the iOS and Android versions of Fortnite that allowed them collect revenue on digital goods directly through their own payment processing service instead of Apple’s. As an added incentive, they gave users a permanent 20% discount on the V-Bucks (digital currency) they could purchase. 

As a result, Apple removed the app from their store. Google shortly followed suit.

😏 Epic was planning it all along

Epic responded swiftly with antitrust lawsuits against Google and Apple plus a full ad campaign parodying Apple’s famous 1984 Big Brother ad.

How were they able to respond so quickly with fully formed legal  briefings, an in-game event, and meticulously worded press releases within a couple days?

Could this all have been planned to take advantage of the current antitrust proceedings against Big Tech in order to get better terms on their app store agreement?

*Puts on tin foil hat*

Yes.

Epic also conspicuously left the consoles out of this whole discussion, despite the fact that the vast majority of their existing users are on these closed platforms. This feels like further evidence that this was a premeditated move.

🤔 Apple’s value has been diminishing

Apple has been taking 30% tax on revenue from developers for 12 years. Has Apple been providing developers that much value consistently all this time?

Nope.

And that’s why Epic (and Hey) has been outspoken lately.

At the launch of the App Store in 2008, there were only 500 apps. Apple’s 30% revenue cut and $99/year developer fee really did go a long way. There weren’t many other products to help developers with payments, discovery, and all the other things that Apple did.

Things have changed.

With 2.2 million apps in the App Store, developers are on their own when it comes to growth. At the same time, the explosion in developer tools and other products over the years has also made developers less dependent on Apple’s infrastructure and services.

This is the backdrop of Apple’s developer relations. Diminished value-add. Increased rent seeking.

🦮 Underdogs usually become abusers eventually

YouTuber Jim Sterling had a great take (via Daring Fireball):

Screw the lot of them. Yes, Apple and Google need taking down from their high towers. Yes, Epic Games has a point as it sues to keep Fortnite on mobile devices. But absolutely all of them are as bad as each other.

It’s the natural order of things for underdogs to become abusers. As it was said, “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Apple’s original ad was attacking IBM for its abuses and now Epic is using the same ad to attack Apple.

$17B Epic has a long way to go before it reaches $2T Apple’s scale. That said, it’s not inconceivable that we’d see another ad in the future blaming Epic.

📚 Further reading


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✌️ Thanks

Shout out again to Christian Handley for helping pull this week’s story together!