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Epic CEO Tim Sweeney grilled on platform agreements, V-Bucks

Credit: AppleInsider

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Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney on Monday testified in the Epic Games v. Apple case, laying out and defending his reasoning behind Epic's suit against Apple.

Two of the major points of contention for Epic in its beef with Apple are the restriction on third-party app stores and Apple's 30% cut of app and in-app purchases.

"Epic didn't initially take a critical view of Apple's policies," Sweeney said. "It took a very long time for me to come to the realization of all the negative impacts of Apple's policy.

In his testimony, the Epic Games chief executive called "Fortnite" a "phenomenon that transcends gaming." He also described the battle royale game as a "metaverse" that includes social experiences and other virtual features.

When asked about whether there was a difference between Apple's 30% of app purchases and similar commissions paid to console makers, Sweeney said there's a "general bargain" in the gaming industry. Consoles sell at a loss and need game developers, while Apple sells the iPhone at a profit.

During the cross-examination, Sweeney was also asked about the "special deal" that Epic Games wanted from Apple. He characterized that inquiry as Epic Games wanting to come to an agreement with Apple, not a request for special treatment.

On the hot fix that ultimately resulted in "Fortnite's" removal from the App Store, Sweeney said he "wanted the world to see that Apple exercises total control over the availability of all software on iOS."

Sweeney was also grilled on V-Bucks, the in-game currency of "Fortnite." Apple's lawyer asked about the marginal cost of a V-Buck. Sweeney said there wasn't any costs to produce them.

At one point during the testimony, Apple's lawyer put up a chart showing the polices of other companies like Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. That includes taking a 30% commission, prohibiting the side-loading of apps, and requiring the use of a first-party payment system. During another portion of questioning, Sweeney says Epic Games continues to sell V-Bucks on those platforms because it agrees with the business models of those companies.

Sweeney also confirmed Epic charged developers a 60% fee when it distributed other games on its platform in the 1990s.

Apple's lawyers also asked why Sweeney didn't voice concerns when Epic Games originally signed a contact with the Cupertino company. Sweeney answered by saying he didn't try to renegotiate.

The Epic Games CEO also said he actually wasn't "completely certain" that Apple would actually remove "Fortnite" from the App Store after the implementation of the direct payment system. But he "hoped Apple would reconsider its policies."