Epic Games Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Sweeney renewed his attack on Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google as the world’s dominant mobile duopoly before calling for a universal app store that works across all operating systems as the solution.
“What the world really needs now is a single store that works with all platforms,” Sweeney said in an interview in Seoul on Tuesday. “Right now software ownership is fragmented between the iOS App Store, the Android Google Play marketplace, different stores on Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch, and then Microsoft Store and the Mac App Store.” Epic is working with developers and service providers to create a system that would allow users “to buy software in one place, knowing that they’d have it on all devices and all platforms.”
Earlier in the day, Sweeney left no doubt about his disapproval of the smartphone software status quo in remarks at the Global Conference for Mobile Application Ecosystem Fairness in South Korea, home to the world’s first law requiring mobile platforms to give users a choice of payment handlers. His company’s battle royale game Fortnite has been the subject of a bitter legal dispute with Apple and Google over the revenue split of sales on their platforms.
“Apple locks a billion users into one store and payment processor,” he said. “Now Apple complies with oppressive foreign laws, which surveil users and deprive them of political rights. But Apple is ignoring laws passed by Korea’s democracy. Apple must be stopped.”
Google also earned a strong rebuke from Sweeney, who criticized its approach of charging fees on payments it doesn’t process as “crazy.” Praising Korea for leading the fight against monopolistic practices and including anti-retaliation provisions to protect developers in its legislation, the Epic Games founder said “I’m very proud to stand up against these monopolies with you. I’m proud to stand with you and say I’m a Korean.”
The Google Play Store service fee “has never been simply for payment processing,” Google spokesman Dan Jackson said in am emailed response. “It’s how we provide Android and Google Play for free and invest in the many distribution, development, and security services that support developers and consumers in South Korea and around the world.”
Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Epic has been locked in a legal fight with Apple and Google for over a year after it forced the issue of how they handle payments by releasing a version of Fortnite that included its own system to purchase in-game items. The game was removed from both the App Store and Play Store for breaching their rules, prompting Sweeney’s company to sue the two operators. Legal filings from Epic this week alleged Google set up an internal task force to confront the issue of Fortnite sidestepping the company’s app store and fees.
Apple and Google have consistently said that the fees they charge on purchases via their mobile marketplaces help provide security for users and a global audience for developers. Sweeney sees their exclusionary practices as anathema to the founding principles of the web, arguing that their “policies are so restrictive that if the worldwide web had been embedded after the smartphone, then Apple and Google would have blocked all web browsers from being released on their platforms.”
Epic Games operates its own Epic Games Store for PC gamers, which also charges a platform fee, albeit a lower one, and Sweeney doesn’t dispute Google and Apple’s right to profit from their work.
“There’s a store market, there’s a payments market, and there are many other related markets,” he said. “And it’s critical that antitrust enforcement not allow a monopolist in one market to use their control of that market to impose control over unrelated markets.”