Timothy Dean Sweeney is a prestigious entrepreneur and software developer, founder and CEO of Epic Games , the creator of the cyber game Fortnite and the spectacular game engine Unreal Egine. Born in 1970 in Potomac (Maryland, USA), he is endowed with a spirit of technological innovation that is not a product of the Silicon Valley vision (origin of Apple, HP, Amazon or Netflix); nor from the technological impulse of Massachusetts (where MIT or Harvard is located and where Facebook was born), nor even from the technology and innovation pole of Seattle, where Microsoft originated.
His stubborn innovative thinking about technology in a new global digital era has been generated within the global video game industry , in which he participates from Epic’s headquarters in North Carolina. This ‘industry’ is currently the most prosperous in the world, as it was not affected by the dot-com debacle, nor by the global economic crisis of 2008.Tim Sweeney, the creator of ‘Fortnite’ challenges Apple
The cyber game industry is one of the most prosperous: 45% more gambling is played during the crisis
And there is something else. The Covid-19 pandemic , which is causing the almost total paralysis of companies and industries in the physical world, on the contrary, is serving to make the cybergames industry grow and prosper (during the crisis 45% is played plus).
Sweeney is the new type of technological innovator of the beginning of the third decade of the 21st century, in which both new methods and cultural and global contexts radically different from the previous ones emerge. A decisive factor is that of the current global participatory culture of gamers (participants in the world and culture of cybergames), which Henry Jenkins has already pointed out visionary in his 2006 book Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture . It is not just a context, but a culture very different from the one that originated the first technological successes. Even different from the altruistic vision that generated the ‘ Internet 1.0’or that Tim Berners-Lee embodied when he invented HTML 1.0 and the Web at CERN in 1993, now 27 years ago. That digital world did not have the virtual dimension of the current one: there were no social networks or connected smartphones.Tim Sweeney, the creator of ‘Fortnite’ challenges Apple
Epic tries to send Apple, and the global public opinion, three notices : one, that the apple company has ended up falling into what it accused IBM of 36 years ago! The monopoly of a technological Big Brother; two, that the culture of the global digital world has radically changed since then; and three, that Apple has ceased to be a benchmark at the forefront of technological innovation , because it has become a conservative company whose guide is no longer innovation, trapped by the economic pressures of its stock market valuation. A company that, Epic hints, has finally been infected by the digital monopolistic infection, as evidenced by the total inflexibility of regulations of its global Apple Store.
Tim Sweeney is a well-known advocate for open technology platforms and systems , and he’s convinced that GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple) are behaving as de facto global digital monopolies. The box of thunder has opened in August 2020, when Epic has initiated risky hostilities against the Cupertino giant, filed a legal claim in the US District Court, in response to the step taken by the ‘apple company ” to get from his store (and therefore from all the iPhone in the world), Fortnite, the App of Epic’s star game. This eliminates the possibility that your software can be installed through Apple’s closed digital ecosystem, over whose contents the company exercises full control.
And it is not just that the Fortnite app cannot be installed . Sweeney is also bothered by something grassroots: The Apple Store lifts a monopoly by creating a ‘bottleneck’ that restricts diversity, competition, and user freedom (as Stallman would say). In that sense, according to Sweeney, Apple has gone from being associated with being part of the forefront of technological innovation, to being more associated with ‘control’ and the digital monopoly.Tim Sweeney, the creator of ‘Fortnite’ challenges Apple
Epic alleges something surprising in its lawsuit: that its main reasons are not economic, but justice. In one of the paragraphs it literally reads: “Epic does not request monetary compensation from this court for the damages it has suffered. Nor does Epic seek favorable treatment for itself, ‘a single company.’ Instead, Epic requests injunctive relief for enable fair competition in these two key markets that directly affect hundreds of millions of consumers and tens of thousands, if not more, of third-party application developers. ”
Let’s not fool ourselves. Epic’s lawsuit, although it does not ask for financial compensation, actually has as a background the defense and control over its own digital means of payment based on the internal economy of its games, starting with Fortnite. That’s what section ii) of demand is really about: the huge “iOS In-App payment processing market”, and control over it. Why? Because the enormous power and huge revenue of Epic depend on it.
Battle for payments
So this ‘economic contest’, although it shows us a turn in digital culture, translates into a battle for control of the market of online digital payment service modes in software as a service (SaaS) products, which are They buy and install through virtual stores and that are a huge revenue stream for certain companies, today, much greater than those provided by their physical stores.
Obviously, each individual digital payment method is tied to a credit card. Let’s not forget, for example, that Google’s business is based on selling and trading with internet traffic and data – both from users and from the traffic itself – and with behavior , and even intentions – there is a new industry based on the ‘intentions’- of the users. Having control over payment methods in gigantic global virtual stores such as Apple Store, Google Play, Alibaba, Amazon or eBay, gives immense power and money.
All this can be disguised by saying that one lives from advertisements (Google) or software services, but it is much more important now to control the forms of payment and the data linked to them. Epic has therefore put the finger on the sore by legally telling Apple, and those who act like it, that they are ‘overcharging’ for internet-based services and acting in a clearly monopolistic way; and thus jeopardizing innovation and equal opportunities in the market.