Valve refuses Apple's demand for Epic game sales volumes in App Store legal battle

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Apple is demanding that Valve needs to produce documents pertaining to sales data in the PC gaming market — and Valve has refused the demand and requests relief from the "burden" that revealing the data will impose.

Valve is the company behind Steam, a game store on PC and Mac that distributes software. The Apple and Epic case have targeted the company as an entity relevant to Apple's defense, though Valve says otherwise.

A new court filing in the Apple vs Epic case outlines complaints from Apple and Valve as document requests are unsatisfactory to both parties. Apple has requested specific data pertaining to the sale and distribution of video games since 2015 and Valve says that providing the data is burdensome.

Apple's position

Apple's complaint relates to documents referred to as Request 2, Request 32, and Volume 5 Production. These documents are stated to be relevant to the case and are needed to show the competitive market that Epic participates in.

Request 2

Request 2 would show Valve's total yearly sales of apps and in-app products, annual advertising revenue from Steam, annual sales of external products attributable to Steam, annual revenues from Steam, and annual earnings from Steam. Apple requested this data in a specific format, though Valve says the format Apple requests would cause an undue burden on the company.

Apple says Request 2 is crucial for calculating the total size of the market for Epic's available digital distribution channels, which the Court finds highly relevant. Apple points out that Samsung was ordered to provide the same information and has done so.

Request 32

Request 32 asks for documents that show the name of each app on Steam, the date range said app was available, and the price of the app and in-app product. Apple says this information is necessary to determine the scope and breadth of the digital distribution marketplace.

Volume 5 Production

The Volume 5 Production is a historical document that shows sales data related to games sold on the Steam marketplace. Apple says that Valve provided the Volume 5 Production but with heavy redactions. The redactions appear to cover any information that would be potentially useful to the case.

Apple requested the documentation to observe how commissions are handled in the marketplace. Valve asserts that the information is sensitive and must be redacted.

Valve's position

Valve asserts that it does not make or sell phones, tablets, or games for mobile devices. Steam is a digital storefront that operates on PC platforms and does not sell Fortnite.

There are 30,000 games available on Steam with over 99% of those not made by Valve. Most of these games can be bought elsewhere, and Fortnite is not available due to Epic refusing to sell it on the Steam platform.

Valve's burden

Apple gave Valve a list of 436 games that are available across Steam and the Epic Game Store and demanded sales data outlined in Request 2. Valve says this information is technically available in some form across different systems, but compiling it would be a heavy burden.

Apple's Request 2 would require:

  • Identify all versions and items on Steam since 2015 for all 436 games
  • Determine the sales prices for each game version and item at specific times, which would require querying two separate databases
  • pull unit sales information from a third database and payment rules from yet another database
  • Query another database for games sold in packages
  • Query and separate out revenue share information to determine its revenues related to each sale

The filing describes this as an overwhelming amount of work for just a single version of an item. Apple's demands would require valve to repeat this process thousands of times.

While this data is readily available to public companies like Samsung, it is not for private companies like Valve. Valve claims that this type of data is not created nor maintained during the ordinary course of business.

The Steam store is only available on desktop platforms and is not present in the mobile marketplace, therefore Valve is not a part of the conversation, Valve says. Apple says that the relevant market is any video game sold, but the counter-argument is that Apple hasn't provided proper evidence that this is the case.

The court has repeatedly demanded Apple and Epic must mutually define the market for the case to proceed. Apple views the line as the entire gaming market given the similarity of App Store pricing to console game store pricing, and Valve's pricing — and Epic wants a narrower definition.

Valve argues that legal argument at the core of Apple versus Epic only pertains to mobile video games and apps, not desktop PC game distributors. Providing confidential sales and revenue information doesn't help Apple's case, according to Valve, and only provides data otherwise not available to competitors like Epic.

 

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