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Gaming Roundup – Epic Legal Battles

Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!

This week, Apple and Epic go head to head in a messy court case, plus the latest…release?

Epic vs Apple

The trial of Epic vs. Apple is underway, with Epic taking the iPhone developer to court over restrictions within the App Store and iOS infrastructure. Much of this emerged after Epic implemented a workaround payment system within Fortnite on mobile, and Apple responded by removing the game from their platform, prompting this lawsuit.

The trial is currently underway, and some of the initial arguments emerging from the case are doing little to paint either party in a good light, and a few other secrets of the games industry are emerging along the way.

First of all, let’s look at what’s emerged about Epic in the process. For a start, their “developer-focused” image presented by their PR messaging around this case falls apart when placed under oath. A document presented as part of the trial, which shows how little profit the Epic Games Store brings in, details how much developers received to have their games placed in the free games programme on the platform. And it’s wildly inconsistent.

While the numbers change little between games on how many users download the free games (because, hey, who’s likely to turn down free games, right?) the price paid is all over the place. For example, while indie darlings Fez and Celeste both saw around 2.5m downloads, Polytron received $75,000 for the former game while Extremely OK Games received 10x that. This means Fez received around 70c for each download while Celeste got $12 per download. Which doesn’t seem particularly fair.

Epic also managed to trip up while making their arguments about Apple’s payment restrictions when the judge asked, pointedly, why Epic is so determined to push impulse buying into Fortnite, a game played largely by minors. Epic’s lawyer did not answer this query, and merely clarified they were pushing for “customer convenience” which may not be a wise decision when legislation against in-game purchases is on its way in numerous countries. Particularly when Fortnite seems to be bringing in most of Epic’s finances ($9bn across two years vs. $108mn across all other games in the same period).

The trial also revealed that Epic had severe issues with fraud prior to 2019, and CEO Tim Sweeney had to send a personal apology to Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot over how widespread the problem was. This problem has since been fixed but it’s bizarre that it was even a problem in the first place.

Apple’s practices have also been called into question, with a Microsoft representative adding to Epic’s case with their specific woes regarding the App Store. Famously, xCloud is not available on the App Store as Apple required Microsoft to put every game added to Game Pass through their certification process. Even the judge seemed confused by this, as they raised the point that Netflix doesn’t require the same process for movies, and the services aren’t significantly different. Nvidia were also present to aid Epic’s case, as they have experience similar issues with their GeForce Now service on iOS.

Microsoft’s presence at the trial also highlighted a significant difference between the 30% cut that Apple takes on its store, and the 30% cut taken on console architecture. As the company recently slashed its cut on the Microsoft Store on Windows 10, their rep stated the reason they haven’t implemented this on Xbox consoles is because they don’t make a profit, and the 30% cut makes up for the loss on hardware that Xbox typically generates (although this argument holds up less well for PlayStation and Nintendo systems because that hardware typically does turn a profit). The Xbox consoles are also specific-use devices, unlike PCs which are more general.

Whether or not you agree that consoles should take a higher cut because they’re specific devices, it’s easy to see Epic and the MS Store slash their cut and argue that if it’s possible on PC, it should also be possible on a different general-purpose device – a smartphone. Which does make Apple’s closed system a problem, especially compared to Android devices where Google Play is typically not the only storefront, as I can confirm with a Samsung Store on my phone that I never use but can’t remove. It also does make the argument that perhaps Steam should reduce their cut too, although this wasn’t explicitly brought up in the trial.

In essence, both Epic and Apple are shady in their own ways, with Xbox and Nvidia somehow managing to look like the sensible ones in all of this.

PlayStation also manage to look pretty shady despite not even being there, as in the midst of Epic revealing their most successful platform for Fortnite is PlayStation (with iOS being around only 7%), they also revealed why so few games have implemented crossplay with Sony’s platforms – Sony charge for it.

Sony typically ask for compensation for any potential loss of revenue that could occur from a primarily PlayStation player, say, buying up V-Bucks on their phone and transferring them to the PlayStation version. It’s not a great argument, and one that will possibly compound Sony’s recent PR woes.

The case continues for two weeks, and no doubt we’ll see more deep inner dealings of the industry come to light. While the case is largely two rich corporations sniping at each other over who deserves to earn more money, the potential for greater transparency within the industry might make all this worth it.

And now, after all that, here’s Mat with the esports news!

ESL Announce Valorant UK and Irish Tournament

Hey friends! ESL UK are back with another announcement – this time a one-off UK & Ireland Valorant tournament, under the ESL Premiership banner.

The Valorant UK&I Skirmish will include open qualifiers and an eight-team round robin group stage, which will see two groups compete to qualify for position in the playoffs. It marks the first instance of organised Valorant play for the local ESL UK office and has Intel confirmed as headline sponsor.

Open qualifiers take place on Monday 31st May and Tuesday 1st June, signups are live right now here and here. Qualified teams will then start their bracket run on Saturday 26th June with qualified team duking it out for the £10,000 prize pool.

Throughout the Premiership and Valorant UK&I Skirmish, the Intel #PREMVP will highlight exceptional play for individual players. Fans will also be able to listen in to players during their matches with the Intel Team Comms.

Valorant is rising in the ranks of the esports scene and, like always, it’s good to see inward investment in grassroots tournaments from ESL UK. The Valorant UK&I Skirmish broadcast kicks off on Monday 7th June on the ESLValorant Twitch channel.

Team GB to participate in NBA 2k21 Esports Tournament

British Esports and British Basketball have formed a team of NBA 2k21 esports players to represent Great Britain on the global stage in the upcoming FIBA Esports Open III, taking place across three different weekends throughout April and May.

For the first time, the North & Central America and Europe Conferences will consist of two tournament divisions: Current Generation (PS4) and Next Generation (PS5) – with team GB participating in the in the latter tournament for the European Conference.

Each team will consist of seven players: five on the court and two reserves.

The GB team will be led by British professional NBA 2K esports player, Harry ‘HazzaUK’ Hurst, who plays for DUX Gaming. HazzaUK will captain the British side and has helped to select the players. You can find the full roster of players here.

It’s a big competition with over 60 national teams taking part in eight regional conferences over three weekends. You can watch Team GB this weekend (7th – 9th May) in group 3 alongside Italy and Belgium. There’s the full tournament schedule here.

The conferences can be viewed across FIBA’s Facebook, Twitch and YouTube channels. Group stage games will be shown on Facebook and YouTube and commentated by remote casters, while all playoff games will be fully produced from FIBA’s virtual studio in Latvia.

Well, that’s it for this week – catch me on Monday over on our GB twitter for more esports and general nonsense! Back over to you Leigh!

New Releases

New Releases

So.

Funny story.

Prior to this week, my release list had six games on it.

As I write this, that list has been reduced significantly.

Nothing is out this week. Everything got delayed. Some games to the end of the month, some way into next year. And that makes this a very hard section to write as a result.

Well okay, there is one thing, but you’re probably already aware of it…

Game of the Week

By process of elimination, leaving it the default option (and because I do like the series, to be fair) Game of the Week this week is Resident Evil Village, or Resident Evil VIII(age).

Already attracting attention due to its Tall Vampire Lady antagonist, RE8 looks set to be a blend of RE7’s first-person, close-quarters horror and RE4’s dingy European village setting. With werewolves. And sexy vampire women.

Reviews are generally pretty good, although complaints about the lack of zombies and its relatively short length imply those making the complaints have never played a RE game beyond the halfway point before. It looks like more of Capcom’s particular brand of slightly campy horror is present and should be a game worth checking out.

And that’s all for this week! See you again soon with more from the world of gaming!

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