Epic & Apple Dance

Epic Games Store Coming to iOS This Year in the EU
Link to: https://store.epicgames.com/en-US/news/epic-games-store-2023-year-in-review

John Gruber on the news that Epic will, in fact, build their own app store to launch on iOS (in the EU) in 2024:

This is the first serious announcement of an iOS EU app marketplace I’ve seen, and a seeming refutation of the notion that “no one” would accept Apple’s proposed terms.

This is seemingly a surprise, since the initial reaction from the main counterparties across the board (well, after the too-quick instant takes applauding Apple's moves) from Spotify to Meta to yes, Epic – "hot garbage", anyone? – seemed to be that Apple's proposals were a non-starter. So what changed?

One thing could be that this is simply Epic reading the room/tea leaves. That they believe Apple outmaneuvered the EU with these changes and the body will have to accept their proposal. At least for now.

I have a hard time seeing that since while legally Apple may be in the clear with their proposed changes, the EU is a body that can just change those laws as they see fit. Hence, the DMA! And I'm guessing Apple's proposed changes just piss off many in that body even more (we'll know for sure next month) – at the very least, you can be sure that some grandstanders will use this as an excuse to grandstand.

Instead, what if this is the start of a gradual thawing of relations between Epic and Apple? Epic founder Tim Sweeney noted Apple's "good faith move" in granting their developer account (in the EU – presumably the US developer account remains suspended). And so Epic responded by saying they're going to do what Apple is allowing for here,1 creating a new app store (to reside within the App Store) in the EU.2

One more thing: I'm still intrigued by the notion that Disney, and Bob Iger in particular, may be helping with this relationship behind the scenes. Disney, of course, just invested $1.5B into Epic and now owns roughly 7% of the company. In return, Epic will make some sort of new metaverse/game product with Disney IP. Guess who will want such a product? Four groups come to mind:

  • Disney
  • Epic
  • Apple
  • Players

All sides are aligned on that. But in order to make it work, the middle two will have to kiss and make up. It's a slow dance. But they're dancing...

1 I've been saying for years now that I believe Sweeney may be playing a more savvy game here than he lets on in his statements. And it's entirely possibly this is another phase of that. By suggesting Epic is going to go along with Apple's proposed changes, it opens a few more doors here beyond the straight "no" from the others. Including, of course, the ability to say "we tried, but couldn't make it work" to the EU later, perhaps extending the battle and making the EU revisit the DMA and/or Apple's proposal yet again. Anyway, just thinking outloud here beyond the obvious...

2 Or, to Occam's razor it: Epic is one of the few companies that can perhaps actually afford to make such a third-party app store work, and has the scale and clout to do so. And if they were to make it work, they could presumably wrangle a lot of support amongst other developers -- certainly with other game developers... They may indeed be able to make this make business sense either directly, or indirectly.