Epic Games' frustration with Apple three years in the making, says CEO

Fornite on iOS
Fornite on iOS (Image credit: Epic Games)

What you need to know

  • Tim Sweeney has told CNN that frustrations with Apple have been brewing at Epic Games for three years.
  • He discussed Apple, Epic, the market, and its upcoming lawsuit with the company.

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has said that its frustrations with Apple have been building up for some time, in an interview with CNN Business.

From the piece:

"Epic's frustration with Apple especially, and Google to some extent, had been building up for at least three years. Ever since Fortnite grew to have a large audience, we felt stifled by several things," Sweeney told CNN Business during a December interview.

Sweeney revealed that the company spent months "developing its battle plan to fight Apple", and that internally the project is codenamed 'Project Liberty', which included the massive lawsuits filed against Apple and Google, as well as the 'nineteen-eighty Fortnite' spoof video attacking Apple. Sweeney told CNN the fight is about much more than Apple and Google's 30% cut:

"I grew up in a time in which anybody could make software. This is my first computer, an Apple II," said Sweeney, gesturing towards the iconic blocky, grey machine on the desk behind him. "You turn it on and it comes up with a programming language prompt," he continued. "So I felt all along that open platforms are the key to free markets and the future of computing."

Sweeney stated that Epic Games is able to pursue Apple and Google to the extent it is because its a "highly independent company" not answerable to public markets. He also revealed that the fight would lose Epic Games money "for a year or more", something a publicly-owned company wouldn't be able to justify.

Whilst Sweeney didn't reveal how much Epic Games is spending on legal fees, he did say the war was costing "lots and lots" of senior leadership time.

The report notes how some developers have ditched plans to develop games using Epic's Unreal Engine over fears reprisal from Apple could result in products being banned from the store, Sweeney said many developers share "fear of retaliation by Apple" but that Epic would "fight on just the same".

Harkening back to controversial comments Sweeney made about Epic Games and likening its fight to the civil rights movement he stated; "The point is if you really want to make a difference, you have to buck the system... I think there's a lot we can learn from any of the past struggles in humanity and I think it's perfectly healthy to apply struggles from vital causes in the history of the world to struggles over smaller issues like software platforms."

Sweeney says he is fighting against a future where companies dominate markets:

For Epic Games and Sweeney, the risks are worthwhile. Sweeney fears a dystopian future where tech platforms are dominated by a few companies and the most successful apps are cloned by those companies to maximize profits. "[The companies] will just do that industry by industry and app category by app category until they've gobbled up everything that matters. And who will be left?" said Sweeney. "A million indie developers who collectively together make a small percentage of revenues on the app store because these businesses are too small to be attractive to steal."

The case against Apple is scheduled to go to trial in May, whilst Google is still seeking to have the case against it dismissed next week.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9