Epic Games’ legal battle against Apple over App Store fees continues to drag on into ever weirder and more esoteric fronts. The latest development? Apple is actively trying to subpoena years of in-depth sales information from Valve about all of the games listed on Steam, in order to show that Epic has plenty of other places to ply its Fortnite wares.
“Apple and Valve have engaged in several meet and confers, but Valve has refused to produce information responsive to Requests 2 and 32,” reads a new joint discovery letter spotted by PC Gamer that was filed earlier this week. Request 2 includes complete annual data like sales, revenue, and other financial information from “total yearly sales of apps and in-app products.” Request 32 is a complete list of every app on Steam, the years it was available, and what it was priced at. You know, just a quick look at the life-blood of Valve’s business.
The root issue in the ongoing dispute between Epic and Apple is whether the latter has a monopoly-like position within the world of smartphone app distribution, and as a result is abusing that position to levy unfair and unreasonable commissions on all the apps sold through its platform. To try to prove that the App Store is not monolithic and Epic has other options, Apple wants to collect data from other competitors to show that the Fortnite maker can do just fine elsewhere.
“Valve admits that the information requested exists in some undisclosed, readily accessible format, but generically claims it won’t produce the information because it is confidential or too burdensome to gather in the manner Apple requested,”Apple’s side of the joint statement reads. Valve already did supply Apple with some information, but the iPhone manufacturer decided it was insufficient. It’s now calling on the court to compel the digital gaming storefront to comply, as it had done previously with Samsung.
“As this Court recognized with respect to Samsung, this information is ‘relevant to showing the extent of competition’ among digital distribution platforms available to distribute Fortnite, including the Apple App Store,” Apple argues. However, the Samsung Galaxy Store is nowhere near as big a marketplace as either the App Store or Steam.
For its part, Valve maintains that getting all this info to Apple would both be a lot of work, since unlike Samsung it’s a privately held company and doesn’t engage in the same detailed level of record keeping, and also that Steam has nothing to do with the larger pissing contest. “Somehow, in a dispute over mobile apps, a maker of PC games that does not compete in the mobile market or sell ‘apps’ is being portrayed as a key figure,” reads its portion. “It’s not.” (Valve seems to have forgotten that it released the auto-battler Dota Underlords last year on both iOS and Android).
I don’t necessarily buy this argument that Valve is just a side-player in these ongoing discussions about market monopolies, but it’s also extremely entertaining to watch the virtual hat seller get snippy with the ninth largest company in the world. We’ll see what the court ultimately decides.