Epic And Apple Trial Wraps Up: But What Is The Likeliest Outcome?
Apple and Epic's hearings reached an end on May 24, after a lengthy three-week testimony. The final day's closing arguments shed a lot of light on the mobile gaming industry, with over three hours of sworn Apple and Epic testimonies being revealed.
This court case has been eye-opening for the world of mobile gaming, as private emails, conversations, and documents from both Epic and Apple have been revealed in the courtroom. These documents showcase just how much the mobile market was earning for both companies, all while shedding light on other key players in the industry.
Both companies had to present massive amounts of evidence to the court, which helped them in their respective defences. Figureheads Tim Cook of Apple and Tim Sweeney of Epic Games were brought to the forefront of the trial. They provided key testimonies and insight into the mobile gaming and app markets.
Tim Sweeney and Epic Games were arguing that Apple's App Store was monopolistic. They argued that Apple gave special treatment to companies and applications it favoured, imposing harsh restrictions on the average App Store developer. Epic Games' legal team brought countless internal Apple emails and communications to the forefront of the trial, including an email chain from Apple Fellow Phil Schiller.
Schiller and the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs participated in back and forth conversations regarding the development of the iPhone and App Store. These conversations served as a foundation for Apple's business model, which is why Epic Games' attorneys focused on them to such an extent.
Emails from 2012 also surfaced during this trial. Apple had been touting their impressive App Review process throughout the hearings, which Epic Games' legal team did not agree with. Thus, they brought some previously-unseen emails into the forefront. In these emails, Schiller screenshotted numerous scam or knock-off applications; titles that had made it to the top of the trending apps menu. These knockoff apps end up costing Apple hundreds of billions of dollars.
Epic brought up this evidence to show that Apple's App Store does not adequately quality-control their content, as they are more focused on making a profit off of developers. They also brought up the issue of Netflix's treatment on the App Store.
Apple employees tried their best to convince Netflix to continue using their In-App Purchase (IAP) system for transactions. A series of emails and even a lengthy presentation were dedicated to keeping Netflix happy with Apple's services. While Netflix eventually decided to split from the Apple IAP, this information is still relevant. Epic Games used this evidence to argue that some apps are favoured by Apple executives and given special treatment.
After this evidence was presented, Apple's executives took the stage to defend their company's actions. Vice President of the App Store Matt Fischer took to the stage to testify on behalf of Apple. He stated that there was some internal debate over Hulu. The video streaming company had made a significant change to their billing, as they had switched from Hulu billing methods and App Store billing.
According to Fischer, Hulu was able to do this because they were a whitelisted application, which gave them special status amongst other App Store products. Whitelisted applications have access to a special API that allows subscriptions to be cancelled or refunded. Hulu was able to make changes in this API, which gave it the ability to make changes to its billing method.
Epic Games took particular notice of this occurrence, as it was an instance of developer favouritism in the App Store. Scenarios such as this and the Netflix situation came to the forefront of this case. This trial marked the first time that this information had come to light in the public market. Both Apple and Epic Games fans had not heard most of this information until it was revealed within the past few weeks.
The trial brought a lot of evidence to light, which the judge now must weigh to come to a final decision. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez-Rogers has over 4,500 pages of evidence and hundreds of hours of sworn testimonies to go over. This is a momentous task, so this will take her at least a few weeks to go over.
At first, the internet believed that August 13 was the date the information would be revealed. It turns out this was a slight nod from Judge Rogers about the start of the trial. Judge Rogers had been referring to the date that the controversy had begun, August 13. This date was when Epic Games bypassed Apple's IAP and been subsequently punished for this action.
Throughout the case, Judge Rogers has gone back and forth on her perception of both companies. At the beginning of the trial, Judge Rogers seemed to side with Apple, as she felt as if Epic Games had more nefarious purposes for the lawsuit. She seemed hesitant in Epic Games' motives, as she felt that a verdict against Apple would take them from a multi-million dollar corporation to a multi-trillion dollar one.
However, the past few days of the trial have been extraordinarily revealing about Apple's hold on the mobile market. Apple's favouritism and App Store inequity have been brought to the forefront of the trial.
Judge Rogers has not shown Epic much grace, despite her doubts about Apple's motives. Judge Rogers has grilled Epic Games many times. At one point during the trial, she stated that she didn't know "where [Epic Games] expect[s] this to go."
From the beginning, it seemed as if Judge Rogers had favoured Apple. She seemed sceptical of the reason for the lawsuit in the first place, stating during the initial hearing that Epic Games should have found another platform to sell on if they didn't like Apple.
The past few days have been very critical for the trial, with the final day being devoted to 90-minute testimonies from key players in both companies. These final testimonies are imperative for the court case and may shape the Judge's perception of the trial as a whole. She still seems sceptical of both companies, particularly Epic Games, so many people are having a hard time getting a read on her verdict.
The Judge's scepticism of both companies has made the general public uncertain of where the trial is expected to go. Some people believe Epic Games will come out victorious, whereas others believe that the judge will favour Apple.
Whatever the decision may be, the internet definitely won't be the same after the trial. Epic Games has started a movement against unfair App Store policies, with the Coalition for App Fairness growing considerably in size since the trial began. Many gamers and developers alike are now aware of the unfair practices that have been normalised in the digital market, with many beginning to take steps to remedy them.
Until the trial wraps up, the general public won't have an idea of who will walk out of the courtroom victorious. While the court seems to favour Apple, Epic Games has certainly made an impact on the gaming community at large. This impact has served as a springboard for further discussion in the community, and it won't be forgotten any time soon.
Images via Epic Games