While Sweeney didn’t talk about this much during his company’s infamous lawsuit against Apple, documents that surfaced during the preliminary stages of the case made it pretty clear that this was what Epic was setting out to do from the very start.
For instance, several weeks before filing its lawsuits against Apple and Google over the removal of Fortnite, Sweeney made a staggeringly audacious request that Apple allow “a competing Epic Games Store app” to have the same “equal access to underlying operating system features” as Apple’s own App Store.
Sweeney had to have known that Apple was going to laugh that one right off the table. While, of course, Apple responded with a formal six-page letter, it’s not hard to imagine that Tim Cook, Phil Schiller, and the rest of the gang must have been wondering what exactly Sweeney was on to even think of making such a request.
Of course, as Apple later found out, Sweeney was just trying to set the stage for Epic’s eventual lawsuit. After also politely asking for Apple to make an exception to its rules about in-app payment processing, Epic basically went ahead and broke the rules anyway, with predictable results and a lawsuit that was already typed up and ready to go.
Unfortunately for Sweeney, the courts were none too impressed with Epic’s stunt, effectively telling Epic that it couldn’t try to claim irreparable harm from Apple for what was essentially a self-inflicted wound. When the dust finally settled, the judge found in favour of Epic on only one relatively minor point from the entire case. However, Epic also got slapped pretty hard for breaching its contract with Apple.
‘A Single Store’
Both parties are appealing, of course, but in the meantime, Sweeney has gone on tour to promote his real agenda: “a single store that works with all platforms.”
According to Bloomberg, Sweeney was in South Korea this week, where he spoke at the Global Conference for Mobile Application Ecosystem Fairness, telling attendees that “Apple must be stopped” due to its failure to fully comply with the new App Store payment laws passed by the South Korean government.
Apple locks a billion users into one store and payment processor. 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.
However, while Sweeney praised Korea for leading the fight against so-called monopolistic practices by Apple and Google, it looks like he’s actually vying to build his own monopoly, suggesting that his company is the way forward for all platforms and developers.
What the world really needs now is a single store that works with all platforms. 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.
This isn’t just a theoretical concept on Sweeney’s part, as he also adds that Epic is already 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.”
Sweeney’s solution sounds idyllic on the surface, particularly since it addresses Apple’s claims that opening up the app store ecosystem would create a “flea market” app economy and solve the issues of cross-platform lock-in. However, taken at face value, his comments about a “single store” suggest that he’s simply looking to replace a duopoly with his own monopoly.
This naturally runs counter to much of what Sweeney said during the Epic-vs-Apple case, where he was clearly trying to position Epic as the little David standing for all small developers and consumers against the evil Goliath of Apple.
While Apple may be a multi-trillion dollar company, Epic Games is still very much a multi-billion company. Sweeney is at the helm of that and has to answer to investors. So it’s no surprise that his real goal isn’t just to dismantle Apple’s and Google’s empires but to build his own out of the ashes of those.
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