Epic's Latest Filing Says Apple Lied About Fortnite's Popularity Using 'Cherry-Picked' Stats

Illustration for article titled Epics Latest Filing Says Apple Lied About iFortnites /iPopularity Using Cherry-Picked Stats
Photo: Lionel Bonaventure (Getty Images)

There’s a new development in the high-profile game of chicken between Apple and Epic. The Fortnite developer’s latest legal filing claims that Apple “cherry-picked” Google data in its own legal filing earlier this week to support its narrative that Fortnite’s declining popularity is the impetus behind all this drama.

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Apple has repeatedly argued that Epic started the legal battle over Fortnite in its App Store as a publicity stunt because the game’s hype has started to flatline. In a filing Tuesday, it said that interest in Fortnite had fallen “by nearly 70%” between October 2019 and July 2020 according to Google Trends and that Epic’s lawsuit “appears to be part of a marketing campaign designed to reinvigorate interest in Fortnite.”

But Epic’s calling bullshit on those claims, citing its own user engagement data as proof that the Fortnite hype train is still chugging along just fine, thank you.

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“Over the period of time that Apple cherry-picked for its Google search volume comparison... the number of daily active users on Fortnite actually increased by more than 39%,” the company wrote in reply papers filed late Friday evening.

Not to mention that Apple’s decision to cite Google Trends, of all things, is already suspect to begin with. It measures the volume of searches for any given term, but even if people aren’t searching for Fortnite on Google as much as they used to be, that doesn’t prove a correlation between how many people are still playing or downloading the game. I’d put money on this being an Occam’s broom scenario: Apple just went with that statistic because it was the only one they found that proved their point.

As a recap, Apple booted Fortnite off its App Store in August after Epic’s theatrical attempt to circumvent its so-called “Apple Tax,” which requires that developers fork over 30% of revenue from in-app purchases for the privilege of having their app on iOS. The two have been playing a melodramatic game of tit-for-tat ever since. Epic immediately sued, of course, then Apple terminated its App Store developer account for iOS. After that, Epic vowed not to push the Aug. 27 Fortnite update to iOS or macOS in retaliation, and Apple launched a countersuit for compensatory and punitive damages, calling Epic’s actions a deliberate attempt to undermine its iOS ecosystem.

The drama is still playing out in court, with a full court hearing scheduled for Sept. 28. In the case’s first hearing in August, a judge ruled that Apple could kick Fortnite off its App Store but not Epic’s Unreal Engine. Epic has also asked the court to restore both Fortnite and its developer account in the App Store.

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It’s likely these two will continue to take jabs at one another throughout this legal drama, so you might as well settle in and grab some popcorn as these incendiary press releases keep flying.

Gizmodo weekend editor. Freelance games reporter. Full-time disaster bi.

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DISCUSSION

...so what? You still breached a contract you signed. No amount of bluster will change that. Epic will lose when it comes to Fortnite on Apple devices, though it may or may not inspire further antitrust suits that it may or may not benefit from. Everything beyond that is judicial and public relations theater.