Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Despite Similar Platform Restrictions, Epic Games Is Not Suing the Makers of Game Consoles

Kyle Orland, Ars Technica:

Most if not all of the complaints Epic makes against Apple and Google seem to apply to Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo in the console space as well. All three console makers also take a 30-percent cut of all microtransaction sales on their platforms, for example.

This DLC fee represents a big chunk of those console makers’ revenues, too. “Add-on content” was a full 41 percent of Sony’s Game and Network revenue in the latest completed fiscal quarter. Microsoft saw a 39-percent increase in gaming revenue the quarter after Fortnite was released, too, coyly attributing the bump to “third-party title strength.” And the Switch saw similar post-Fortnite digital revenue increases after Nintendo announced that fully half of all Switch owners had downloaded Fortnite.

On mobile platforms, Epic is calling the same kind of 30-percent fee “exorbitant” and says it wants to offer a more direct payment solution so it can “pass along the savings to players.” On consoles, though, Epic happily introduced a permanent 20-percent discount on all microtransaction purchases, despite there being no sign that the console makers have changed their fee structure.

My mistake was thinking that Epic Games sued Apple and Google for rational reasons. That simply is not the case.

Orland also points to a two year old article by James Batchelor at GamesIndustry.biz, quoting Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney:

“The 30 per cent store tax is a high cost in a world where game developers’ 70 per cent must cover all the cost of developing, operating, and supporting their games,” he explains.

“There’s a rationale for this on console where there’s enormous investment in hardware, often sold below cost, and marketing campaigns in broad partnership with publishers. But on open platforms, 30 per cent is disproportionate to the cost of the services these stores perform, such as payment processing, download bandwidth, and customer service.”

Tim Sweeney on Twitter:

At the most basic level, we’re fighting for the freedom of people who bought smartphones to install apps from sources of their choosing, the freedom for creators of apps to distribute them as they choose, and the freedom of both groups to do business directly.

Why only smartphones; why not game consoles? If Sweeney truly believes in entirely open distribution of apps across platforms, why not start with the even more closed distribution systems from Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft?

Perhaps there is a difference between app distribution expectations on game consoles and smartphones. In my mind, it feels like there ought to be. But I am having a difficult time articulating why that ought to be so. Perhaps it is as simple as the smartphone being a convergence device, while a game console is intended primarily as a single-purpose appliance.