Epic Games lobbies for a North Dakota bill that would force Apple and Google to allow alternative payment systems

    
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Considering Epic Games’ legal interest in seeing Apple and Google allow for alternative payment systems and app stores, this bit of news makes perfect sense: A bill introduced into North Dakota’s senate would ban Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store from mandating developers only use those app stores and their respective in-app payment systems, as well as ban those companies from retaliating against app devs who do so, and Epic is throwing its lobbying weight behind the bill.

According to reporting from The New York Times, draft legislation for the bill was handed to North Dakota Senator Kyle Davidson by Lacee Bjork Anderson, a lobbyist with Odney Public Affairs in Bismarck, who has said in an interview that she was hired by Epic Games as well as the Coalition for App Fairness whose members include Epic and other larger firms like Spotify and Match Group, the company behind online dating app services like Tinder, OKCupid, and Match. You know, the little guys.

Davidson has said that the intent of the bill is to “level the playing field for app developers in North Dakota and protect customers from devastating, monopolistic fees imposed by big tech companies.” The North Dakota senate is expected to vote on the bill this weekend.

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Roger Christie

Chuck from North Dakota regulating our high-tech industries! What could possibly go wrong??

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Arktouros

Tech companies have repeatedly shown they will just straight up drop business in areas with minority populations that want to create specialized laws that take direct aim at said companies. Seems like kinda a dangerous play because I can’t see that much revenue really coming from North Dakota for these kinds of companies.

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Bruno Brito

I think the only way to make them comply is if a big slice of the target market that they can’t ignore decide to go with those laws.

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Arktouros

I don’t think there’s any way to get companies like this to comply.

The reality is that massive companies like this will just adjust to the scenario presented. Like in Aus right now they’re trying to force Google to pay for every time they link a news article, oh and they can’t not link news articles. At what point does that just straight up become theft? Their response is considering pulling out of Aus entirely and I can’t blame them one bit.

Much the same I see Apple potentially pulling it’s apps entirely and going with in-house apps instead in a future model of things if it’s ruled they have to let other stores setup in their store without getting a cut. I don’t see that happening really because it’s frankly an insane position to take but if insanity ensues expect equally insane reactions.

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Bryan Correll

Like in Aus right now they’re trying to force Google to pay for every time they link a news article

How dare they send traffic to my site without paying me!

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traja

The way I understand the suggestion is that the app stores would have to operate more like Steam does. For example I don’t think that you have to use the Steam wallet system exclusively to buy Path of Exile microtransaction. Similarly you are not forced to install Patch of Exile through Steam. I suppose the main difference is that the mobile market is far more centered around in-app purchases.

Now for this to actually become something that leads to real change it will probably need to be on the scale of an EU wide directive. In that case the cost of pulling out entirely would be absurd.

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Arktouros

You don’t understand the scenario.

They already have the ability to do that. If you go buy Fortnite currency on their website you can use that currency in any version of Fortnite that you play. What you can’t currently do is buy Fortnite currency on your iPhone and then Epic not give a cut to Apple. This is saying Apple can’t force people to pay them a cut if they don’t want to.

So using your example it would be like Path of Exile demanding that Steam not take a cut of the money spent via the Steam Wallet because GGG has it’s own payment processing vendor they’d rather use instead.

Basically they’re telling Apple they have to allow Epic to put their own game store on the platform, nor can Apple “retaliate” for doing so and remove Epic off the platform. This is pretty much entirely unprecedented because it’s a government demanding a privately owned and operated business to do business with another company. Not just do business with another company, but do so at a loss to their company as they invest a huge amount of time/resources into developer tools, infrastructure to manage deployments, and other costs and are being told they can’t expect a return on it as other companies can bypass their payment system entirely.

EU is big for Apple’s business, but so is app development for various companies. Apple shutting down app development would be absolutely devastating to a large number of developers in EU countries. Apple ultimately would be fine, even if they take a tremendous loss, those other companies wouldn’t be because suddenly their products they produce suddenly have no where to operate on. It’s a dangerous game of chicken to play with these kinds of powerful companies.

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traja

If the idea indeed is to force Apple to allow circumventing their payment system within the appstore itself then yes, that is quite ridiculous. The only defensible action to me is forcing Apple to allow sideloading but that obviously isn’t what Epic is aiming for since they are targeting Google as well.

The EU has an advantage in this game of chicken though. Unlike Apple they don’t have to answer to shareholders. Losing access to an 18% market share of a region of 450 million is not something a CEO wants to be responsible for. Politicians on the other hand will be fine since it’s old people who vote and old people don’t develop apps.

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Schmidt.Capela

Funny thing, if I read the bill correctly, it could potentially affect consoles despite an attempt to exclude them, as well as Epic’s own store; it all depends on whether devices capable of running full-blown OSes (and that, at least in the case of the XBox, already allow devs to publish non-game, non-media apps on its official store) can still be considered to be special-purpose hardware.

I mean, I can literally boot my Switch into Ubuntu, complete with all the productivity software you would expect in a modern personal computer and with support for just about any USB and bluetooth peripheral you can think of. It’s a de-facto general purpose device, even if the manufacturer doesn’t sell it as one.

It would be funny if as a side-effect of that bill Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo were forced to allow third-party stores, as well as Epic being forced to allow games on the Epic store to support third party payment processors that don’t give Epic any cut of the proceedings whatsoever.

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zoward

Android allows sideloading, so this bill will likely affect them a lot less (possibly not at all) than it would Apple, who is fighting it tooth and nail.

agemyth 😩
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agemyth 😩

You know you’re the good guy when you’re hiring lobbyists to get 80 or 90 percent of a cut on transactions instead of 70 percent.

They probably paid that lobbyist more money than I make in a year to hand a few sheets of paper to a state senator.

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Bryan Correll

There aren’t any good guys in this fight.

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Sorenthaz

Yeah this is basically all about Epic trying to weasel their way out of paying Google/Apple cuts for using their storefronts.

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Utakata

Yep, they appear to be he anti-establishment. Once you start pulling back the curtain though, you’ll find they’ve really been part of the establishment all along.

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SmiteDoctor

I imagine a lot of App Companies are about to change their Corporate Addresses soon to North Dakota.

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zoward

As I understand it, the bill only applies to North Dakota customers. Apple’s concern would be that other states with larger populations will follow suit. The cynical part of me wonders if the point of the bill was to get rich lobbyists pouring money into the state legislature. Apparently it’s already working.

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Bryan Correll

My guess is that this is being used to set a precedent for future cases. The North Dakota market by itself is definitely not worth much effort. No offense to North Dakotans, there just aren’t very many of you.

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Jon Wax

Theres like 5 people in north Dakota and 2 of them are bears

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Wilhelm Arcturus

The interstate commerce clause is going to drop on that idea like a rock.

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McGuffn

I would think so too.

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wratts

That just gives the Federal government the authority to regulate. So long as the ND law isn’t in conflict with any Federal statute (I’m not aware that it would be), there’s no issue with States also having their own commerce laws