MOP’s Lawful Neutral columnist Andy burst into the office yesterday, gleefully rubbing his hands together and asking whether we were ready for the trial of the century. I might be a exaggerating a bit there, but not a whole lot, as the deluge of headlines across the industry show the mainstream games media is already obsessively covering the Epic v. Apple trial.
Readers will recall that last summer, Epic and Apple (and to a lesser extent, Google) fell out when Epic Games attempted to insert its own competing payment option into Fortnite in a blatant attempt to circumvent Apple’s exorbitant surcharges, which of course Apple responded to by banning Fortnite. Epic Games began to wage an anti-trust and anti-monopoly campaign in both the courts and the press, and Apple responded to that in kind too. Andy’s summed it all up here if you want the more detailed recap, but the long and short of it is that the two companies have been trading barbs and accusations for the better part of a year now, but now they’ve got to do a lot more than that to win this lawsuit.
So what have we learned, a day into the drama?
As part of the festivities, Epic posted a financial presentation, giving the industry a rare glimpse into the finances of what is generally a privately held company. Fortnite pulled in over $9B in 2018 and 2019 and almost $3B last year. At its peak in 2018, Fortnite counted over 66M monthly actives to boot. All of its other games put together (including Rocket League) totaled only $108M in revenue over the 2018-2019 period, while Unreal Engine brought in $124M and $97M in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
We got a peek into the Epic Games Store too, as Epic admitted how much it’s been paying to give away all those games it uses as a lure for getting people into the EGS ecosystem: $11.6M total, with Batman Arkham, Subnautica, and Funcom’s Mutant Year Zero coming out the best. Of course, given how many billions Fortnite’s generated even in its off years, it makes the EGS store bribes seem cheap by comparison.
Sony hasn’t come out well in the proceedings; Epic submitted documents that show Sony dragged its feet on cross-platform play for everything, including Fortnite – until there was money on the table for Sony, which Epic ultimately agreed to. Epic’s Tim Sweeney says that among platforms, only Sony demanded compensation for crossplay.
And apparently, the trial itself kicked off with a conference call where listeners discovered they could call in and make noise, so this being the internet, they started screaming things like “Free Fortnite” until a clerk muted them. Good grief.