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Epic's Fortnite beef with Apple and Google is just, but weaponising fans is irresponsible

Yesterday, Epic Games appeared to intentionally violate Apple and Google app store rules to get Fortnite removed so they could jump-start a protest. Sick of mobile stores taking a 30% cut of microtransactions, they added a payment option bypassing official systems – something both stores forbid. Epic surely knew this, and the fact that they had lawsuits and an embarrassing protest video ready to go sure makes it seems like they suspected Fortnite might get kicked out. Epic do have one of the few products large enough to make a splash so hey, good on ’em for making a stand. I wish they’d done it without trying to weaponise fans.

Epic introduced the new payment system as a way to get V-Bucks cheaper, which obviously was exciting to Fortnite players. Then once the game was removed from stores because of this, Epic launched lawsuits accusing Apple and Google of “monopolistic” and “anti-competitive” behaviour and screened a propaganda video in Fortnite’s in-game cinema.

“Join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming ‘1984’,” Epic’s video implores viewers. It lampoons an old Apple Mac ad which borrowed fascist imagery from George Orwell’s 1984 to present Apple as anti-conformist heroes. This was cringeworthy when Apple did it, and even more so here. Epic ask fans to “Join the fight against @AppStore on social media with #FreeFortnite”.

God, it’s ludicrous to present a financial squabble between multibillion-dollar megacorps as a battle against cruel oppressors in the year of our Molyneux 2020, a year which risks “becoming ‘1984’” because of actual fascism.

Look, Epic’s self-interest in smaller cuts is clear but it could also help a lot of other developers too. I support Epic using Fortnite as leverage. I’m glad they’re making the issue more widely known. And I’m glad they’re walking the walk with the Epic Games Store (even if the storefront and its client still suck). I really don’t think it’s responsible to encourage your fans to go after a company.

I don’t know how Epic can have seen recent years in this industry and still think it’s a nice idea to tell fans they’re righteous defenders in a “fight” to stop people taking their video games away. History has shown that can get real personal and real abusive real quick. While I’m sure Epic don’t want that to happen either, I wouldn’t be surprised if it did. It’s encouraging deeply unhealthy attitudes, and among an audience Epic must know includes many children. Even if this all remains civil and doesn’t pick out people at Apple to go after, it sets a dangerous example – and with a fight Epic seemingly started on purpose.

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Alice O'Connor

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When not writing news, Alice may be found in the sea.

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