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In Korea, Epic Games CEO Sweeney calls Google 'crazy' and says 'Apple must be stopped'

Zachery Eanes, The News & Observer on

Published in Science & Technology News

Earlier this year, South Korea became the first country to pass a law that could potentially force Apple and Google to add third-party payment options within their app stores, a move that would allow developers to bypass the companies’ 30% fee on in-app purchases.

That immediately made the country an ally of Cary-based Epic Games, the video game developer that has taken both tech giants to court in an effort to break up their strict rules within app stores.

This week, Epic’s CEO, Tim Sweeney, used Korea as a stage to continue his attack against Apple and Google, saying at a conference there that “Apple must be stopped.”

Sweeney’s broadside against Apple and Google came on friendly turf. His comments were made at the Global Conference for Mobile Application Ecosystem Fairness in South Korea, an event organized by the Epic Games-supported Coalition for App Fairness.

Sweeney praised the new law passed by Korea, at one point saying, “I’m very proud to stand up against these monopolies with you. I’m proud to stand with you and say, I’m a Korean.”

But he had stronger words for the iPhone and Android developers, calling Google “crazy” for the payments fees it charges and Apple wrong for complying with “oppressive foreign laws” while “ignoring laws passed by Korea’s democracy.” Sweeney was likely referencing deals Apple has made with the Chinese government to store personal data of China residents on computer servers operated by a state-owned Chinese firm, The New York Times previously reported.

“Apple is simply ignoring Korean law. Apple locks a billion users into one store and payment processor,” Sweeney said at the conference, according to a video of the event posted online. “Now, Apple complies with oppressive foreign laws, which surveil users and deprive them of political rights. But Apple is ignoring laws passed by Korea’s democracy. Apple must be stopped.”

Apple has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Dan Jackson, a spokesperson for Google, said Google’s fees have never been just about payment processing. “It’s how we provide Android and Google Play for free and invest in the many distribution, development, and security services that support developers and consumers in South Korea and around the world,” he said in an email.

Sweeney, though, said Apple and Google present a clear roadblock to creating what Sweeney and many others, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, are calling the “metaverse,” a virtual social platform where people can conduct business and interact socially via online avatars.

 

“Over the coming decades, the metaverse has the potential to become a multitrillion-dollar part of the world economy — open to all companies around the world as equals,” Sweeney said. “Apple and Google policies ban other companies from creating the metaverse so that they can dominate it themselves and tax it. We must not allow these two companies to control our digital lives.”

Sweeney has said that Apple and Google’s app store rules would become a roadblock to any sort of commerce that could happen within a theoretical metaverse. After the conference in Korea, Sweeney told a Bloomberg reporter that there needs to be a universal app store that works across multiple operating systems. He said Epic is working with partners on a potential store that would let users buy software on one store and then use it on multiple platforms.

“What the world really needs now is a single store that works with all platforms,” Sweeney told Bloomberg. “Right now software ownership is fragmented between the iOS App Store, the Android Google Play marketplace, different stores on Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch, and then Microsoft Store and the Mac App Store.”

For more than a year, Sweeney has been in court battling Apple and Google over how they run their app stores. Epic’s popular game Fornite was kicked off both stores after Epic inserted an update into the game to get around Apple and Google’s 30% fee on in-app purchases. That immediately led to twin antitrust lawsuits against Apple and Google’s app store rules.

A judge ruled earlier this year that Apple no longer can block developers from adding links to alternative payment systems within apps, but stopped short of labeling Apple a monopolist. Apple is appealing that ruling, but the judge’s decision is going into effect next month.

The lawsuit with Google is moving slower, but should go on trial next year.

The ramped-up tension between Epic and the two tech giants comes as Apple and Google prepare to expand their presence on Epic’s home turf in the Triangle.

Both Google and Apple have plans to hire thousands of employees in the coming years, as they build new offices in downtown Durham and Research Triangle Park.

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