What you need to know
- Apple's trial against Epic Games will begin next week.
- One key witness, Facebook's VP of gaming, is no longer set to testify.
- It is unclear why Vivek Sharma was removed from Epic's list of witnesses, but Apple had previously sought to have Sharma ousted from the case.
Facebook's VP of gaming, Vivek Sharma, who is an outspoken critic of Apple's App Store, is no longer set to testify at the Epic Games vs Apple trial due to begin next week.
As first reported by Bloomberg:
Facebook Inc.'s top gaming executive is no longer testifying on behalf of Epic Games Inc. in the upcoming trial with Apple Inc. over developer fees, according to court filings. Vivek Sharma, Facebook's vice president of gaming, was scheduled to testify on behalf of the Fortnite maker in the trial beginning in early May before Epic dropped him this week from its list of witnesses.
Epic Games filed its tentative updated trial witness list to the court on April 26, with Apple submitting its own revised list on the same day.
A quick scan of the document confirms Sharma is no longer listed as a witness for Epic. In Epic's original witness list, filed on March 26th, Sharma was listed as a third-party witness who was expected to testify remotely on app distribution, Apple's restrictions on iOS app distribution, Apple's App Store review process, and Facebook's interaction with Apple.
Facebook and Sharma openly clashed with Apple last year over Facebook's Instant Games Platform. From an August report:
This isn't the first time that Facebook has run into App Store issues, either. "Even on the main Facebook app and Messenger, we've been forced to bury Instant Games for years on iOS," explains Facebook Gaming chief Vivek Sharma in a statement to The Verge. "This is shared pain across the games industry, which ultimately hurts players and devs and severely hamstrings innovation on mobile for other types of formats, like cloud gaming."
Sharma made the statements after Facebook submitted its Facebook Gaming app to the App Store, only for it to be rejected multiple times. Eventually, the game was accepted but Facebook had to remove all of the games from the app to get it through App Review, somewhat defeating the point of the app.
Earlier this month Apple sought to have Sharma removed from the case as a witness for Epic alongside Microsoft's Lori Wright and Benjamin Simon of Yoga Buddhi Co.. Apple claimed in court filings Epic had breached court rules by disclosing these witnesses as company entities not as individuals, but the judge disagreed and denied the motion. It is not clear whether Sharma will no longer testify because of these concerns raised, or for some other reason.
Both Facebook and Epic Games declined to comment.