If you were one of the millions of Fortnite players who played the game primarily through an iOS device then you have been affected by the ongoing feud between Fortnite and Apple. Now, multiple app developers have come forward with their own stories of struggling to work with Apple, and raises the question of whether or not Apple is good for the industry.
Apple removes Fortnite, Fortnite attempts to remove Apple
One of the paradoxes of corporate diplomacy and kowtowing is that oftentimes the situation can arise where nobody is happy with a set of circumstances, but nonetheless loudly professes their satisfaction so as not to anger the giants. It seems that the fight over Fortnite has given other app developers a chance to speak their own grievances against Apple, and brought to light Apple’s own business practices.
There is a tendency for people to call exploitative business practices, cheating, and the strongarming of opponents “smart business strategy,” as people consider anything which maximizes profits, even to the detriment of others, the sole goal of a business. While profiteering may be a goal of a business, it historically has not been the sole purpose of a business in America until very recently, roughly since the 1980s.
We must consider that corporate entities exist in a similar social construct as nations do, and that a hegemonic relationship in which one entity extracts profit from others will not be sustainable, and will foster immense ill-will within the corporate ecosystem.
While some may theorize that markets and corporate society can be self-correcting, that correction process is almost always more damaging than simply operating in a more sustainable manner.
Which is all a very long winded way to say that Apple’s current business practices, the operation of a near duopoly over mobile apps alongside Google, may be responsible for creating a less pleasant world, and a less just environment, in addition to stifling innovative developers.
How are developers being held back by Apple?
Fortnite may be the most high profile app to be pulled from app markets, but it wasn’t the first and likely won’t be the last. An article by Tatiana Walk-Morris for Vanity Fair revealed that the developer RescueTime had their app arbitrarily pulled from the app store. Apple gave the reason that RescueTime’s app was a privacy concern despite the app doing nothing more or less than what a multitude of other apps did.
RescueTime’s marketing manager, Jory MacKay, called it a “pick-and-choose” enforcement of the rules. The issue was further compounded by the fact that RescueTime apparently lacked the necessary resources to sue Apple, and so had to appeal through Apple’s own processes. In a way, this means asking the very company that wronged you to correct their mistake.
This is not a new practice, and not one that Apple created, but it is one of the myriad of ways that giant companies strongarm smaller ones. Even if Apple would be considered in the wrong, the amount of money needed to get a court to reach that conclusion is just too high for most companies, and people, to achieve. There is no justice, only money.
Fortnite feud as an outlet
Part of what makes the current Fortnite feud so useful for companies like RescueTime is that it gives them an outlet to make their stories known. For a small company that lacks the public persona and media presence of Apple, even putting effort towards spreading the word about Apple’s practices isn’t worth it.
It would be time and money wasted, as few would listen and many of those who do listen would dismiss the concern as “just how business is done.”
However, Fortnite is backed by Epic Games, a smaller company but a tech giant in their own right as well. Because Epic does have the resources, and the willpower, for a prolonged legal battle, smaller app developers who have been wronged can express themselves and show just how feudal the app markets have become.
It seems companies have no choice but to pay homage to the hegemon, Apple in this case, or else be barred from the market entirely. While the legal battle is not likely to go in Epic’s favor, the process will almost certainly expose the kinds of business practices prevalent in the field, and raise the discussion of how exactly we want to change it.
Whether this will result in Fortnite being brought back to the markets, or if Fortnite should end up barred from iOS devices for eternity, we won't know until it ends.Published 06 Oct 2020, 21:39 IST