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Epic Vs Apple is Revealing The Gaming Industry’s Dark Side

Art is rarely art for art’s sake, especially in any popular industry. Men in suits will always be sat behind the scenes, deciding what art is the “right art” – and for right art read “profitable and inoffensive”.

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Make a splash, but make sure it’s the right splash. Fresh, but not too fresh. In other words, business as usual.

But the Epic Vs Apple trial has given us an unusually intimate look behind the scenes at how some of these companies think. And while little of it is surprising, it’s a reminder of something we frequently forget: these companies are not our friends.

What’s In It For PlayStation? – The Epic Email

Gamers should expect to be able to play with their friends wherever they are in third party games. This doesn’t seem like a controversial ask, but apparently it is.

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In a leaked email, Gio Corsi spoke about cross-play in Fortnite.

““Cross-platform play is not a slam dunk no matter the size of the title,” he wrote “As you know, many companies are exploring this idea and not a single one can explain how cross-console play improves the PlayStation business.”

The result of this conversation? If revenue from Sony’s proportion of microtransactions drops too far below the proportion of PlayStation players, Epic has to top up their earnings.

How fragile does a company have to be to be concerned that someone might buy their overpriced costumes on iOS instead of PlayStation, then have the nerve to use what they bought in a third party game on their PS4?

A multi-billion dollar company – an industry leader no less – would rather inconvenience some of the biggest spenders on their platform than allow Epic to flip a switch and enable cross-play.

Again, this is no surprise, and it’s no attack on Gio who was just doing his job. But it’s a conversation we were never supposed to see and doesn’t paint Sony in a good light.

Epic’s response – “I can’t think of a scenario where Epic doesn’t get what we want” – is equally damning.

xCloud and Apple

Today, Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers of California’s Northern District asked about Microsoft’s streaming service and why Apple has made it difficult to get it working on iPhones.

Adi Robertson, of the Verge, reports: ‘The judge steps in and says she’s confused by why Apple would require a separate app for every game. “I can use Netflix with a native app and I can see lots of different movies or TV shows or whatever. Is it that you didn’t want to use a subscription model?”

“No, we wanted to use the Netflix model,” Wright says, explaining Gamepass subscription to the judge.

“[Apple] allows Netflix to do what Netflix does, but it does not allow us to do what Netflix does. And it required making a separate application for every gaming title that has to be individually downloaded and put onto your phone.”

The long and short of it is this: Apple isn’t interested in a rival in the gaming space coming in an trying to take their toys. In a slightly different timeline, this is like Microsoft demanding Steam pay royalties on every game sold because of Windows. And Microsoft probably would have done it too if they could get away with it.

The top level childishness of the biggest companies in the world should be cause for concern. But for some, it’s just “good business sense”.

Epic Vs Apple – Conclusion

And that’s the problem. What these and other examples have proven is that players are secondary to profit. Yes, yes, I know. Point out the obvious. But there’s a world difference between knowing it and knowing it.

It’s possible to make a profit and not screw over your loyal fans. It’s possible to be a hard-hearted corporation and not pretend to be – excuse me – for the players.

But it’s this hypocritical mid-ground that sticks in the throat. They live and die on pretending their customers are important to them. Then they fight tooth and nail to protect the tiniest profit in a place no sane person would ever care to look. That’s even at the expense of everything else.

Of course, there’s nothing we can do about it, and there’s plenty of us that would die to defend a company’s right to nickel and dime us every which way. But it’s a rare reminder that the man behind the curtain may not be as benevolent as he’d like us to think.

 

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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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