February 28, 2024

Supreme Court Denies Epic Games v. Apple Appeals, Signalling Shifts in App Store Dynamics

The United States Supreme Court has brought down the gavel on the antitrust lawsuit between gaming giant Epic Games and tech titan Apple. The high-stakes legal battle, known as Epic Games v. Apple, centred around Apple’s app store practices, and its repercussions have sent ripples through the gaming community.

As detailed by Reuters, the Supreme Court, in a recent release of pending and rejected cases, confirmed that it would not entertain the appeals from either party involved—Apple or Epic Games. Notably, the justices refrained from providing any explicit reasons for their decision to forego the hearing.

Epic Games’ founder and CEO, Tim Sweeney, took to the digital arena, expressing disappointment with the outcome on X/Twitter. “The Supreme Court denied both sides’ appeals of the Epic v. Apple antitrust case,” lamented Sweeney. “The court battle to open iOS to competing stores and payments is lost in the United States. A sad outcome for all developers.”

The epic saga kicked off in 2020 when Epic Games strategically introduced a direct-pay system into its immensely popular free-to-play game, Fortnite. This audacious move resulted in reduced V-Bucks prices, but it also triggered Apple (and Google) to wield the ban hammer on Fortnite and Epic Games, citing a breach of app store policies on payment methods. This prompted Epic to retaliate with a lawsuit, arguing that both Apple and Google were violating antitrust laws. In turn, both tech giants countersued Epic.

In a pivotal moment in 2021, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that Apple did not qualify as a monopoly. Fast forward two years, and the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals largely upheld the lower court’s decision. While Apple may be claiming victory, the legal landscape did acknowledge Apple’s participation in anti-competitive practices, particularly in restricting developers from disclosing alternative payment methods to App Store users.

While the United States legal battleground seems to have favoured Apple, across the pond, the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) looms large. The DMA, set to take effect on March 7, may compel Apple to open its walled garden to alternative app stores on iPhones. Despite Apple’s efforts to contest this development, the looming DMA presents a formidable challenge to the Cupertino-based tech giant.

As the curtain falls on the legal showdown in the United States, the ramifications of this legal duel continue to reverberate, shaping the future landscape of app stores, gaming ecosystems, and the ongoing struggle between tech behemoths and developers.