A Battle of Epic Proportions

Edition 22 - May 3rd to May 9th

Good morning gamers. Shoutout to Apple and Epic Games for providing us with enough newsworthy material to create newsletters for an entire year. Apart from the ongoing court battle, Call of Duty has confirmed a 2021 game, the Yakuza franchise has announced their next game release and the Esports industry continues to push towards live events.


Epic Games vs. Apple 

Epic Games is suing Apple for allegedly practicing anti-competitive policies in the operation of their iOS App Store. Epic believes that Apple holds a monopoly in the app store market, and that by charging a 30% commission on all digital sales, they’re essentially forcing developers to adopt their in-app payment system. After multiple social media bouts, the two powerhouses finally started court proceedings last week. 

What started this battle? Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store in response to Epic Games bypassing their terms and conditions. Epic offered players a discount on V-bucks (Fortnite’s in-game digital currency) with a redeemable link outside of any official App Store channels. This move effectively got around the 30% commission structure that Apple typically imposes on digital content sales. Epic Games then released a parody version of Apple’s “1984” commercial as a direct response to the removal of the game. 

Let the trial begin….. 

Why is Epic doing this? Epic believes that Apple should not be able to control where iOS device owners install apps from, and they want developers to have the option to use their own payment process. In more direct terms, Epic want’s mobile devices to have free choice software distribution which would open the door for competitors to publish their own stores on iOS devices. 

What does Apple think of all this? Apple rejects the idea that it holds any sort of monopoly. It classifies the App Store (from a gaming perspective) as a “game transaction platform” that competes with the likes of the Google Play Store, Steam, PlayStation, Xbox and any other digital distribution platform. They said that developers do not have to use their payment system to sell physical products, only digital content for games released through their App Store.

What else do we know? We’re still very early on in this case and despite some premature industry analyst opinions, you never know how the court will rule. In fact, this court case is a bench trial which means the judge alone will make the final decision. The other interesting aspect of this case is all the extra classified information that has become public knowledge by being entered into court. There’s too much to fully explain so here’s a recap,

  • Sony is the only platform holder that requires Epic to pay compensation for enabling crossplay features in Fortnite (PlayStation accounts for 47% of all Fortnite revenue).

  • Fortnite made Epic Games more than $9 billion in revenue over its first two years.

  • Apple said that Epic tried to negotiate a side deal prior to filling legal proceedings. 

  • Epic Games has spent more than $1 billion on exclusive games for the Epic Games Store. The store isn’t projected to be profitable until 2024.

  • Walmart was working on a cloud gaming service (and likely still is).

  • Lori Wright, Microsoft’s VP of Gaming, Media & Entertainment confirmed that Xbox hardware is sold at a loss, and that they don’t see the iPhone as a competitor. 

  • As of June 2020, Fortnite had 81 million active monthly users and the Epic Games Store has 45 million active monthly users. 

  • Epic spoke with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo to try and get their first party titles on the Epic Games Store. They offered Sony $200 million for 4-6 games. Xbox said it goes against their Game Pass offering and Phil Spencer occasionally meets with Gabe Newell (Valve President). Nintendo is a long shot.

What does this mean for Fortnite? We’re not sure yet. It may or may not make its way back to the iOS App Store but we did get a good look at some of the future content that Epic has planned. This includes a non-combat Party Royale arcade basketball mode with a LeBron James skin (potential for an NBA collaboration), and then an extensive list of characters that may show up as Fortnite skins such as Samus, Naruto, Katniss Everdeen, The Bride, Batman Looper, Snake Plissken, John McClane, Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga and The Rock. 


ACTIVISION - Call of Duty 2021 and Future IPs

In March, it was reported that Call of Duty 2021 would be called Call of Duty World War II Vanguard. This week, Activision confirmed that there will be a Call of Duty 2021 developed by Sledgehammer Games and built for next-generation consoles. 

Call of Duty 2021 will have a full reveal soon. The game will feature a campaign, multiplayer and other co-op modes; it is set to release in the Fall. The previous Call of Duty games developed by Sledgehammer include: Black Ops Cold War, WWII, Advanced Warfare and Modern Warfare 3. 

Warzone Integration will be happening with Call of Duty 2021. Less than a month after migrating players to Verdansk ‘84, players now have another update to look forward to in 2021. Warzone fans should expect the integration to be similar to last year where players will be able to use the weapons from Call of Duty 2021 in Warzone. 

The Template has been created for Activision. According to CEO Bobby Kotick, they’d like to use Call of Duty as a template for their proven IPs and their new IPs in order to grow the player bases. However, Kotick did not elaborate on the point at which people speculated that future free-to-play games for other franchises will focus on paid character cosmetics.


UBISOFT - Lost Judgment

Yakuza, the Japanese video game franchise, created, owned and published by Sega produces games of the following genres: action-adventure, open world, turn-based strategy and RPG. 

In 2018, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio published Judgment, an action-adventure game for the PlayStation 4. Last week, SEGA officially announced Lost Judgment, the sequel to the 2018 Judgment game set to release worldwide on September 24, 2021. The game will be available for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One.

Takayuki Yagami’s story continues in Tokyo and Yokohama, where gamers can experience a living city that will change from day to night. Yagami’s abilities will be upgraded so players can experience different types of ways to be stealthy while they search for clues. According to Polygon, the game will stick to being a fighting crime drama that explores the story of the city and the people in it from a different point of view. 

Yakuza is now a turn-based RPG according to producers Toshihiro Nagoshi and Kazuki Hosokawa as reported by IGN. The future Yakuza games will follow in the footsteps of Yakuza: Like a Dragon but players can still get their fix of action games by way of the Judgment series.


ESPORTS CORNER 

The League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational is the second most important LoL tournament and the first LAN back since the pandemic related lockdowns began. The event started last Thursday in Iceland and viewership peaked at 1.14 million concurrent worldwide viewers during the match between reigning world champs Damwon Gaming and Cloud9. In addition to the ongoing event, Riot Games announced that they will be hosting the 2021 LoL World Championships in Shenzhen, China starting on November 6th. The event will be an offline tournament held in the Universiade Sports Centre with a goal of bringing a “top-tier entertainment experience not yet seen in esports history”.

OveractiveMedia and Red Bull Esports have partnered to launch the Red Bull Gaming Studio, a venue within OveractiveMedia’s new headquarters that will host various gaming tournaments, artist performances and live events. The new $500 million, 15,000 square foot headquarters located in Toronto is expected to be fully unveiled in the coming days but it will serve as the home for Call of Duty League team the Toronto Ultra and Overwatch League Team the Toronto Defiant. The partnership also includes some product integration and custom content, as well as support for future Red Bull gaming events. 

Documents submitted to the court indicate that Epic Games overestimated their potential Fortnite esports revenues by more than $154 million in 2019. The Fortnite World cup was a record-setting esports tournament awarding $30 million in total prize money. The event was held at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City for 19,000 live spectators. More than 2.3 million people tuned in during the 3-day event which made the Fortnite World Cup the most successful esports event outside of China. The 2020 edition was canceled due to the uncertainty of the global pandemic and the 2021 event is still up in the air. The last official comments by Epic Games was in December 2020 where they stated that they had no plans to host any in-person events in 2021.


Gaming Roundup

  • The Nintendo Switch has sold close to 85 million units worldwide according to Nintendo’s financial results. 

  • Gamescom 2021 will be a free, all-digital event kicking off on August 25th. The Opening Night Live will be hosted by Geoff Keighley. 

  • Nintendo announced Game Builder Garage, a new game that will teach you how to make your own games right from “the minds at Nintendo”. 

  • A League of Legends animated series called ‘Arcane” is coming to Netflix this fall. 

  • E3 2021 adds Square Enix, SEGA, Bandai Namco, XSEED Games/Marvelous USA, Gearbox and Freedom Games to its list of participating publishers.


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