Epic Games’ battle with Apple and Google has spawned a spoof 1984 commercial, a hashtag, and even a surprising market for overpriced second-hand iPhones, all because of the 30% platform fee charged to developers hosting a game on Google Play or the App Store. A Bloomberg feature has charted the origins of that 30% fee all the way back to the Nintendo Entertainment System in the early 80s.
The NES became the first video game console to host third-party games, after Pac-Man‘s Namco Ltd. and Bomberman developer Hudson Soft Co approached Nintendo about distributing their games on its new platform.
The three companies agreed on a 10% licensing fee for appearing on Nintendo’s proprietary platform, but with Hudson Soft unable to manufacture its own cartridges, it paid Nintendo an additional 20% to manufacture the cartridges for its games as well.
While the 30% fee was created at that moment, it fluctuated over the years with the changing price of cartridge manufacturing, and later when discs became the primary method of distribution.
Though the way games are distributed has changed a lot since the 80s, the fee has stayed the same. Not only Apple and Google but also Nintendo, Sony, Valve, and Microsoft all charge the same 30% platform fee–and this isn’t the first time Epic’s CEO Tim Sweeney has taken a stand against what he sees as an outdated fee model. Sweeney’s Epic Games Store only takes a 12% cut from developers who list their games on its platform, compared to Steam’s 30%.
Bloomberg’s report suggests that the current fight between Epic and the two mobile giants could even lead to the creation of a new platform. While it’s been previously announced that the Epic Games Store would come to mobile, it’s still unknown what format this will take, or if it could dodge Apple and Google’s platform fees.
In the latest update on Epic’s legal battle, the judge has denied an appeal asking for Fortnite to be temporarily returned to the App Store, but granted another to prevent Apple from cutting off Unreal Engine developer accounts.
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