A couple of weeks before the Epic vs Apple trial kicked off, Epic added the Itch.io app to the Epic Games Store. It seemed like a move to show how inclusive and happy Epic were to host another storefront on their store, but now Apple have used this as ammunition against them. Last Friday, during the fifth day of the trial, Apple made it sound like the excellent indie-focused store is an evil demon app that sells games "so offensive" they couldn't possibly speak about them in court.
Epic added the Itch app to their store in April (along with a handful of other non-games apps like Spotify and internet browser Brave). Epic don't review the games that are put onto Itch.io because it's a third-party app, and, as Epic mentioned during the trial, Itch have their own moderation systems. That didn't seem to stop Apple from suggesting that Epic were at fault for allowing users to access "offensive and sexualised apps".
Here is an artist's rendition of the moment in court:
The main reason why Apple have now dragged Itch into the trial is because it strikes at the very core of what their big beef with Epic is about, namely: Apple won't host other app stores on their App Store. If they let a third-party app on their platform, who's to say what sort of degeneracy they'd be allowing on their dear iPhones? That said, if Apple's concerns are purely porn-related, I have some bad news for them about all those internet browsers their store offers.
You can read the full transcript of Apple's attorney grilling the Epic Games Store's general manager Steven Allison over on The Verge. It's both funny and painfully out of touch. A few more of my favourite quotes from Apple's attorney include:
- "The description of [Sisterly Lust] includes a list of fetishes which include many words that are not appropriate for us to speak in federal courts."
- "There are many games on Itch.io, I won’t even read the names out loud, but they are both offensive and sexualised."
- "I was just wondering, sir, if you support fully the offensive and sexualised content that is available there when people go to the Epic Games Store and download Itch.io."
As amusing (and concerning) as the statements are, the Judge ended up asking a few questions too. They were mostly so the Judge could get an idea of exactly how these "offensive" apps can be downloaded, but bringing Itch up in this context just feels like a bit of a low blow from Apple, not to mention very one-sided. In a courtroom full of people who don't know anything about Itch.io other than what they've just been told, it massively simplifies a platform that plays an important role in a wider industry.
In case you're equally unfamiliar with Itch.io, it's a great storefront for indie devs that allows them to quickly set up pages to sell their games. Developers can set prices, or let players pay what they want. Itch were also responsible for putting together the fantastic Racial Justice and Equality bundle last summer, which ended up raising over $8 million for organisations fighting racial injustice in America. Itch has lots of free games, too, and there are thousands of good things on there. Alice Bee recently did a round up of brilliantly-named Pico-8 games you can grab on Itch.
Itch also has a lot of adult games on it, too. And that isn't a bad thing. Itch has a large community of graphic novel artists who choose to put their NSFW content there because Itch's rules are more transparent and creator-friendly than other sites. It's not like this stuff is blasted all over the homepage either. The more saucy stuff is behind filters so you don't have to see it if you don't want to.
Despite Apple's interrogation about these "unspeakable" games, Allison did stick up for Itch, saying: "It's an incredible community for developers that we support fully."
Itch.io seems to be taking it all rather well, too. "Guys, Apple's lawyers just called. They said we need to turn off ALL the games," they tweeted. "Games Are Now ILLEGAL."
Latest from itchio Press Room: We are renaming our "Sensitive Content" filter to "Unspeakable Games"— itch.io (@itchio) May 7, 2021
The Epic vs Apple trial is about to go into its second week, so goodness knows what we'll hear next. Court documents have already leaked info about Walmart's foray into cloud gaming, as well as details on how Epic spend their money. Last week, Epic and Apple tried to define what a game was too. It's going to be a long one, folks.
If you're interested in seeing ongoing reporting of it all, I recommend checking out The Verge reporter Adi Robertson's big Twitter thread of live coverage.