With FreeFortnite Cup, Epic Continues Dragging Players Into Its Anti-Apple Crusade

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With FreeFortnite Cup, Epic Continues Dragging Players Into Its Anti-Apple Crusade

While Epic and Apple wage their corporate war over the App Store, there’s not a lot Fortnite players can do but wait and see. This weekend, Epic is bringing its fight into the game once more with the #FreeFortnite Cup, a tournament in which players can win a nefarious-looking apple skin and even other consoles to play the game on.

Last week, Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store after the developer released its own payment methods, flying in the face of Apple’s rules in an attempt to get it to change its store policies, which see Apple reap a 30% cut of App Store profits. The two companies are now engaged in a legal battle that could well end with mobile Fortnite players being unable to play the game once Season 4 launches on August 27. (Just in case they’d missed the memo, Epic began yesterday’s announcement of the FreeFortnite tournament by reminding players, “These are the final days of the entire Fortnite community’s ability to play together.”)

The FreeFortnite cup — named after the hashtag Epic has encouraged players to deploy against Apple on social media — takes place on August 23rd and is 12 Solos games for points and prizes. Anyone who scores 10 points will get the “Tart Tycoon” skin, a suited figure with an apple for a head whom we saw in Epic’s “Ninety Eighty-Fortnite” video. Players can also win a physical FreeFortnite hat. If you’re “one of the top 1,200 apple-eaters globally” you can win one of the many devices that will still be able to play Fortnite after Season 4 launches, including a gaming PC, Xbox, PS4, or Switch. “Just because you can’t play on iOS doesn’t mean there aren’t other awesome places to play Fortnite,” Epic writes, helpfully.

The Tart Tycoon skin, a frowning apple in a suit. (Screenshot: Epic Games) The Tart Tycoon skin, a frowning apple in a suit. (Screenshot: Epic Games)

“All of your friends. Awesome prizes. And one bad apple,” Epic continues, ending with, “To ALL of our Fortnite players: thank you for your support and for blazing the trail with us on cross-play across console, Mobile, PC and Mac. We look forward to the day when everyone can squad up with all their friends again.”

Once you finish cringing over how on-the-nose this all is, you have to admit it’s a strange turn from the company and its CEO Tim Sweeney. Back in February of this year (so, to be fair, also a million years ago), Sweeney decried (so-called) politics in games. “We as companies need to divorce ourselves from politics and say that that is for individuals to engage in and we as platforms should be neutral,” Sweeney said in his DICE keynote, later saying, “We need to create a very clear separation between church and state where our businesses are operating as neutral venues for entertainment.”

While the FreeFortnite Cup seems like it flies in the face of that recent opinion, I don’t think Epic sees its fight with Apple as political in the same way Sweeney meant in his keynote, in which he brought up the example of the backlash to restaurant Chick-fil-A for its regrettable record on LGBT rights. Epic has spun this as a cause that benefits everyone who plays or makes games for iOS, “neutral” in the way free-market capitalism considers itself neutral while, of course, being anything but.

There is a kind of neutrality here: Winning this case would in fact benefit players, indie developers, and yes, the heads of a big billionaire company, all of whom are different kinds of people with different kinds of beliefs, lifestyles, and needs. But bringing all this inside the game is recruiting Fortnite’s players into Epic’s cause, making the act of participating in the tournament a political one, whether players are actually on board for Epic’s fight or just want to win sweet loot.

A young Fortnite player could be forgiven for not realising what they’re getting into. As Rebekah Valentine recently wrote at GamesIndustry.biz, “Epic knows well that its video plays to an audience that doesn’t understand the nuance and complexity of the battle it’s about to fight — and frankly, has no reason to. That’s why its concluding message is boiled down so simply: Apple wants to take away your video games. We’re fighting back. Join us.”

As Valentine notes, this is a dumbing down of a complex issue designed to inflame the frightening fury of angry gamers and aim it at Epic’s rivals. With this latest step of the FortniteCup, Epic spins its player-against-player battle royale competition into a team fight against a corporate enemy, here even personified by the in-game character of the Tart Tycoon. The tournament announcement leans heavily on the primary issue most Fortnite players will care about: Your game might go away. And here’s Epic, which fired those first shots, playing the good guy by bringing you not only a fun tournament, but a chance to win a workaround to the problem its decision arguably caused you. The announcement gets at none of those complexities, simply spinning the line the company thinks will resonate most with its audience to further its own ends.

Everything About This Sucks

I woke up this morning to the news that Epic Games, a plucky corporate underdog worth $US17 ($24) ($US24 ($34)) billion, was trying to enlist the world’s help in taking on Apple’s “anti-competitive” practices. And my skin wanted to crawl right off my body.

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Epic is, of course, not a person. Neither is Apple. Both companies are comprised of people, from CEOs at the top with axes to grind and pockets to line to the thousands of people who work at these companies and have their own beliefs and stakes in the fight. These people know what they’re doing when they portray the ability to play Fortnite as a moral cause, when they dress it all up in the Tart Tycoon and a hashtag, when they adorn it with scarcity-mongering and a ticking clock. It’s calculated, and it’s clever, which isn’t the same as being bad, but isn’t completely honest either. The people at Epic know this isn’t some good-versus-evil video game story, but they’re selling it to Fortnite players as one anyway.

Comments

  • Ugh, in a world of pandemics, mass unemployment and race riots, simping for billion dollar companies as they cry about their ability to rentseek and peddle gambling directly to kids is pretty fucking gross.

    • Using the word ‘simp’ confirms you are learning challenged and negates anything else that is said no matter how legitimate it may be.

      • That’s a bad take, though not historically your worst take.
        “Simp” is simp-ly part of the cultural vernacular. You can rail against it all you like, but it’s here to stay for at least a few years.

        • ^^ – language evolves, much like yeet came into general vernacular, so has simp.

          Also, if we are going to talk about being cognitively challenged, you should look at yourself, discounting an entire argument because of your objection to the use of a word, falling straight into an ad hominem fallacy.

  • Tim Sweeney is mentally ill and isn’t fit to be the manager of a Donut King.

    People defend the 30% because it’s the ‘standard’, but just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean it isn’t aggressive, places like Etsy/Ebay take only 5-10% as the standard for comparison. That being said Epic makes hundreds of millions from the game and there is no reason for them to start this fight other than greed, even if it works and it does help others that will never have been Epic’s or it’s piece of shit CEO’s intention.

    • I don’t know if any one outside of Apple and Google and Valve defend the 30%, but
      “Epic makes hundreds of millions from the game and there is no reason for them to start this fight other than greed, even if it works and it does help others that will never have been Epic’s or it’s piece of shit CEO’s intention.”
      You’re absolutely on the money there.

    • Why should the fact that Epic makes hundreds of millions from a hugely successful game mean that they should just go quiet about giving away nearly a third of their income to a blood sucking third party that provides nothing even close to value in exchange.

      At least Epic makes a game, and sells it. All Apple is doing is skimming off 30% as a standover tactic, and you’re seriously more or less okay with that?

        • I’m not taking either side, they both suck, but Apple don’t charge 30% because they need it to keep the lights on they charge 30% because they built a platform specifically to enable them to abuse everyone else involved. There might be some slight lip service paid to the quality of the platform when meeting with high level clients but I doubt even Apple pretends platform maintenance is where the number comes from.

          I don’t expect them to cut developers a great deal out of the goodness of their heart, but their pricing actively sabotages people who work on their platform. 30% doesn’t sound too bad. $3 out of every $10 spent. However that doesn’t add up to $7 in the developers pocket. By the time everything is said and done with fees and taxes it’s not out of the question that it could land at $4 or lower. If you’re turning over Epic levels of transactions it’s not too bad but for most people it can cripple any hope of growth.

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