As much as I hate to admit it, Epic’s rather tone-deaf misreading of George Orwell’s 1984 trailer is doing exactly what it intended to. Don’t get me wrong, the movement that is building against Apple and its totalitarian distribution of apps across their store is good and one that should have happened ages ago.
I guess I just don’t like a “hero” that announces their own importance before actually getting to work. It’s like if Spider-Man stopped to take pictures with all of the onlookers before actually heading off to fight Vulture. It’s a little bit tasteless even if he does end up saving the day.
Following Epic Games’ announcement that they would be taking Apple, and then Google a few hours later, to court over the monopolistic governance of their online app stores, prompted by the banning of Fortnite‘s addition of a payment plan that went around Apple’s in-app payment methods, many others have begun to speak up against the issue. Perhaps one of the most noteworthy groups to take a stand is Digital Content Next, an organisation that represents some of the most high-profile publications in the world, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, wrote an open letter to Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, about opening negotiations around the company’s notoriously high commission of 30% on sales made through the App Store.
Now, it should be noted that when it comes to subscriptions to these news outlets’ content made through the App Store, Apple takes a 30% cut of the initial sale and then drops that to 15% if the users pay for a repeat subscription after a year. Still, that’s a substantial chunk of money.
“The terms of Apple’s unique marketplace greatly impact the ability to continue to invest in high-quality, trusted news and entertainment particularly in competition with other larger firms,” said the letter, signed by Digital Content Next’s CEO, Jason Kint. In an age where trusted sources of news are more important than ever, it does make sense that maybe they should be making a bit more cash off digital subscriptions to stay afloat.
The open letter also calls into question the somewhat shady practice of only one store on the App Store being exempt from the full 30% “Apple Tax” and that company is, to no one’s surprise, Amazon. Emails between Apple executive Eddy Cue and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, released during the antitrust hearings of both companies, shows how Apple waves half their commission for Amazon Prime Video subscriptions which, I gotta say, seems pretty sketchy given the amount of money they’d pull in from Amazon alone.
In his letter, Kint very politely asks how Digital Content Next can qualify for this seemingly exclusive deal and contends that they should also be offered a similar reduction in costs. Rather cheeky but a good question nonetheless.
That’s just the start of the furore. Epic Games has given other tech companies such as Match Group, who owns music streaming app Spotify and dating app Tinder, a platform to air their grievances. Even Facebook is complaining about the Apple Tax which is weird, because when you imagine “evil corporations” you’re most likely to see Apple and Facebook holding hands in a grim, money-grabbing initiative.