Vague Patch Notes: Apple vs. Epic is not good vs. evil

The company is not your friend

    
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Vague Patch Notes: Apple vs. Epic is not good vs. evil

So Epic has really gone all-in on fighting against Apple here, huh? The company is using Fortnite as a wedge in hopes of bringing down some of Apple’s tech monopoly when it comes to its app store. And… on this point, yes, Epic is probably right. Apple is definitely not a good company, and it has some policies that should really be addressed and probably stopped. I don’t like Apple very much for a number of reasons, and this is several of them.

But Epic is… also not a good company. Let’s be real, it’s been trying to circumvent stores and the share of profits associated with them for some time despite making huge amounts of money with Fortnite, there’s loads to dislike about how that game has been managed and marketed, and the company is generally not a great outfit. Of course, saying that also brings people in who want to be mad because of the Epic games store, which means people who are defending Steam and Valve, and we’ve barely touched on Google’s similar Fortnite ban here either, and… oh, gosh, we’re going to need to have this conversation, huh?

Let me be clear about something: I absolutely agree that Apple’s way-too-tight control over its digital storefront should be adjusted. There are a ton of smaller indie developers that deserve higher profit margins than they’re going to be able to get. With the limitations involved in digital distribution, these storefronts hold a disproportionate amount of power, and that means that companies managing this stuff are often doing a bad job in various ways.

Apple isn’t alone in this; Steam (owned by Valve) has pretty egregious margins for developers, and it’s made worse by the fact that Steam appears to have wholly abdicated its responsibility to curate anything. Epic taking aim at Apple is entirely justified this, as it’s really an extension of how it’s already taken aim at Valve… and it helps, of course, that Epic is actually a lot smaller than Apple. The difference between their net worth is more than a trillion dollars. That’s not a typo.

Friends now.

So Epic does happen to be on the side of the angels in this particular conflict. But the danger there is to assume that this means Epic is the poor underdog sticking up for the maligned underdogs. In reality, it’s more like Epic is the ravenous, nasty beast that happens to be large enough to take on a different and much bigger ravenous, nasty beast, and in the margins good things will possibly happen for actual underdogs as a welcome side-effect.

Because let’s also be clear about something: The only reason Epic is willing to go to the mat on this right now is that the studio has a game big enough that it is pretty sure it can survive through the fight with Apple. None of Apple’s behavior is new. It’s just that the allure of money lost is finally greater than the risk of getting kicked off the Apple store (which, you know, actually happened).

If the Epic Game Store actually gets up to Steam levels of an installed base, I assure you that Epic will almost immediately start figuring out how it can roll out Valve-like levels of profit skimming and the like. The company might not roll it out right away, but the meetings figuring out how to do it will be taking place the very next day.

Both of these facts can be true at the same time. Epic is a profit-motivated nasty company with some awful business practices, but its actions have a reasonable chance of having deserved penalties for another profit-motivated nasty company with some awful business practices.

Does this mean we should be cheering Epic for that fact? Not really. If a tiger is about to eat you but it gets attacked and knocked off-balance by a lion, the lion isn’t suddenly your ally. The lion wants to eat you, too. You can be happy for the lion showing up, but you should probably leave without waiting to see how the literal cat fight shakes out.

But that’s just how things are shaking out with this particular situation, and on Massively OP in particular I’m probably preaching to the choir. It’s not a hard lift to convince people here that Apple and Epic can both be bad even if right now Epic is doing the right thing. It can be a lot harder to convince people that the same things are true of basically every large-scale company, including many of the MMO companies we cover here.

Mossy.

To use myself as an example, you all know I like Square-Enix, right? Trick question; I really don’t. I like a lot of the things that Square has been doing recently, don’t get me wrong. I’m generally a fan of the Final Fantasy franchise, I’m glad that the company has been pushing hard on making all of its titles available multi-platform and in present formats, and I have a great deal of admiration for a lot of the developers at work.

However, liking the general corporate philosophy doesn’t change the fact that this is still a company that is deriving profits from some lockbox-filled mobile titles that have some darn simple gameplay (War of the Visions broke my heart because it looks like Final Fantasy Tactics but lacks basically everything making that game compelling). Oh, and this is the same company behind Final Fantasy XV and Left Alive. It’s really nice that you’ve got a Final Fantasy Legend compilation coming out, but where’s that remaster of Vagrant Story or Bahamut Lagoon or Xenogears?

Square-Enix is a company. It might do things that I like and release games I enjoy, but that does not make it my friend. And I am under no obligation to defend it from criticism. There’s no need for me to stand up for it beyond correcting factual inaccuracy – and even that is generally not worth the effort.

Part of me understands where this impulse comes from. After all, if you get used to defending World of Warcraft from people who arbitrarily claim that it sucks, it’s a short hop and a skip to defending Blizzard from equally context-free accusations of being bad. And it’s not a long walk from there to defending the company when people bring up very tangible distinct actual problems it has, and oh look, now you’re doing the job that lawyers and PR staffers usually make huge amounts of money to do, only you’re doing it for free on a volunteer basis.

But the trick is to catch yourself when you start going down that route. Large companies are what they are. At the best, a big company is a predator you have a symbiotic relationship with, but that symbiotic relationship does not extend to a friendship or an establishment of virtue.

And that’s fine. You don’t need to be friends with these outfits. You don’t have to look at Epic as the good guy to see that the company is doing something good by fighting back against Apple. You just need to keep in mind that the good part there does not override everything else, and you need to avoid being lulled into a sense that either side is “the good guy” so much as “the bad guy whose goal is probably a net positive.”

If companies want more out of you, they should probably be paying you a salary.

Sometimes you know exactly what’s going on with the MMO genre, and sometimes all you have are Vague Patch Notes informing you that something, somewhere, has probably been changed. Senior Reporter Eliot Lefebvre enjoys analyzing these sorts of notes and also vague elements of the genre as a whole. The potency of this analysis may be adjusted under certain circumstances.

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Lateris

I thought Epic Games cited eight counts against Apple, including violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act ( It outlaws both formal cartels and attempts to monopolize any part of commerce in the United States) as well as California’s Cartright Act against unreasonable restraint of trade (The Cartwright Act prohibits any agreements among competitors to restrain trade, fix prices or production, or reduce competition).

kjempff
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kjempff

Well aren’t we de-railing the discussion by talking about which company is the more evil.

The point is if evil#1 wins over evil#2 then the outcome of that is GOOD for customers. Well it can be, depending on law technicalities, and how it all evolve and maybe (hopefully) escalate to political or antitrust issue.
And then it doesn’t matter that it was the battle of two evil companies with their own agendas that made the change happen.

However, if this actually ends up being a principle case that set precendence, so that other stores also have to loosen up on their monopoly status, then I am sure Epic will be comming out better than Apple.

Ceterum censeo Apple esse delendam

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Bruno Brito

I wonder what possible good outcome can come out of this.

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Diego Lindenmeyer

Epic is a cancer
Apple isnt saint

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firithnorm

For me, this goes back to when my Dad was making a choice between an Apple III & the original IBM PC (5 1/4 floppy drive, 64K RAM) and asked his teenage son for his opinion. I unequivocally went with IBM, which proved to be the right choice for this budding gamer. This is to say, I’ve been anti-Apple for roughly 40 years, even surviving the push from my old Apple Mac college roommate to convert (the one who went on to be Illustrator’s product manager, but I digress).

So, I’ve always really hated Apple. They’ve gone from being the David to IBM’s Goliath, to now being the Anti-Christ itself. But Epic is no savior in this story and will likely turn into a Judas as soon as the dust settles over this. One could say that Epic is taking a stand for all the “little guys” but we all know it’s about money-money-money. “I’m alright Jack keep your hands off of my stack.”

Carlo Lacsina
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Carlo Lacsina

“Won’t someone think of the children!!”

The sad part is that Epic really is painting themselves to be a Robin-Hood type for the impressionable, young fanbase. So while it’s pretty clear as day what’s going on here to us adults, sadly the kids see the events in a completely different light.

These are the kind of things that parents should probably talk to their kids about…

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geno6662000

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Schlag Sweetleaf

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sympathy for the devil.jpg
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mysecretid

Thank you, Schlag! :-)

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Schlag Sweetleaf

:-) two sides of the same coin,eh?

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Zero_1_Zerum

I’m always going to hate Epic because they brought console style exclusives to PC. I mean, Valve, EA and Ubisoft had games they published exclusive to their stores, but I don’t even like that. Keep that crap to the consoles. I hate that Epic bribed devs to put their games just on the Epic store.

And don’t get me started on Apple and their cult and their greedy stupidity, like getting rid of headphone jacks so people have to buy adapters for wired headphones.

This isn’t David vs Goliath, this is Goliath vs a bit smaller Goliath.

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Jeremy Barnes

“The company might not roll it out right away, but the meetings figuring out how to do it will be taking place the very next day.”

Those meetings are already taking place. They probably took place before they actually ‘built’ the store.

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Utakata

Sure. Never trust anything that it’s bottom line is to make a profit. That doesn’t mean you have to hate everything it does. It simply means be wary of it’s motivations even when doing something good or right. Because it’s not really your friend, it’s in it for it’s own self interests. Just sometimes those interests happen to align with yours and mine. /shrug