Epic's Poke-the-Bear Strategy

Epic and Spotify sure seem to like to taunt Apple in front of the EU...
Apple reverses decision and approves Epic Games Store for iOS
Mere hours after reports circulated that Apple had declined to approve the Epic Games Store for iOS in the EU, the iPhone maker has changed course, allowing the app to proceed anyway.

In a bullet in Friday's newsletter, I noted that Apple and Epic were fighting, yet again, over some seemingly small UI elements in Epic's new homemade app store, which was delaying Apple from approving it. Epic raised the stink publicly, as they like to do, and sure enough, Apple approved the app store shortly thereafter.

In earlier reports, it was confirmed by Apple that Epic was mostly in compliance with EU-specific app review guidelines. The objectionable parts were a download button and related copy, which went against rules that forbid developers from making apps that can confuse consumers that elements in the apps were actually Apple-made items.

Epic had defended itself, insisting it used the same naming conventions employed across different platforms. Epic also said it followed standard conventions for buttons in iOS apps.

Apple has since told AppleInsider on Friday that it has approved Epic's marketplace app. It has also asked Epic to fix the buttons in a future submission of the app for review.

In effect, Apple is allowing the app to proceed with the questionable buttons since it's a relatively minor issue. Epic will still need to change them before it next submits the app for review.

In other words, Apple decided it either wasn't worth yet another headache/problem with the EU or decided it would show an effort of good faith, hoping Epic would do the same. Perhaps both. The only problem? Epic apparently has no interest in reciprocating and changing the UI elements that Apple would like to see tweaked. So presumably Apple will once again hold up the next iteration of their app store that Epic tries to push out there.

If this sounds familiar, it's similar to a situation in February between the two companies where it seemed like tensions were perhaps thawing and good faith moves were being put forward, only to have the two sides thrown right back into war. A battle which Apple had to pull back from after the EU perked up.

Not only is this all a pattern, it's seemingly a strategy. Epic and Apple's European foil Spotify have clearly decided they're going to continue to poke the bear over even the smallest issues. This would seem to be a way to continually rope Apple into these petty fights and thus keep the eye of the EU on them. Apple, in turn, gets drawn into these squabbles again and and again – in part probably because they do care about such details, but also in part out of principle – only to relent once they see the PR storm these companies are clearly brewing.

It's all so tiresome.

I've long thought Epic was playing a more cunning game then it appeared on the surface with their various lawsuits and disputes with Apple. Spotify, it seems, is doing something similar, though if they are, it's much less clever than Epic's maneuvers. It's basically all one big game of poke the bear.

While both companies have gotten some of what they wanted from regulators, they know that they're both in the position to keep the heat on Apple. This is particularly true in the EU, which seems hellbent on bending Apple to its will. But neither company is big enough to take on Apple head-on, so they poke and poke and poke, waiting for the bear to wake up and lash out with a giant roar. At which point the park ranger, the EU, comes over with a taser.

I'm still waiting for Bob Iger to step in to mediate. Disney and Epic are now partnering in a major way and Disney has a kind of "special relationship" with the bear in my above analogy. A sort of Boo-Boo to Yogi Bear.1

1 A property owned by Warner Bros. Discovery.