Saturday, February 20, 2021

Apple Subpoenas Valve For Steam Data In Fight Against Epic Games

Apple is clearly not prepared to give an inch to Epic Games in its ongoing legal wrangle with the owner and creator of the Unreal Engine. To that end, the company took the fight, both to another level and unusual path; it reportedly subpoenaed Valve.

The subpoena, which was filed back in November 2020, demanded that Valve hand over a massive amount of data of the company’s Steam sales and operations that span several years. Now, there are some among you who are probably asking why Apple is bringing Valve into the dispute, especially since the Bellevue company has nothing to do with it.

Well, according to the subpoena, Apple’s lawyers argue that Valve’s documents would bring some relevancy to its case, in the context of Steam being the “dominant digital game distributor on the PC Platform”, as well as being a direct competitor to Epic Games.

For those of you who have been living under a rock, Apple’s legal woes with Epic Games began when the latter decided to go against the guidelines on Apple’s App Store and launch its Epic Direct Payment plan on Mobile Devices. In the case of Apple’s iOS, the plan effectively circumvents Apple’s payment platform, and thus enabled Epic Games to avoid paying the 30% cut that the App Store demands from transactions made through apps.

Needless to say, Apple wasn’t all too happy with Epic Games’ move and in response, it removed Fortnite from its App Store.

As to what Apple is requesting exactly, it boils to two “Requests”. Namely, a Request 2 and Request 32, both of which are incredulous, to say the least. Request 2 asks that Valve provide the following:

  • Total yearly sales of apps and in-app products.
  • Annual advertising revenues from Steam.
  • Annual sales of external products attributable to Steam.
  • Annual revenues from Steam.
  • Annual earnings (whether gross or net).

Then, as if those weren’t enough, Request 32 compounds Request 2 further with:

  • The name of each App on Steam.
  • The date range when the App was available on Steam.
  • The price of the App and any in-app product available on Steam.

To condense all of the above, Apple basically wants Valve to provide details of every game it has launched and sold on Steam, along with the amount of money the platform has made from said games in the set number of years.

Apple has said that the information requested wouldn’t raise the risk of “competitive harm”, but given the nature of the information, Valve very obviously and vehemently disagreed with the subpoena. Even going so far as to say that Apple’s request far from being “narrow”. On that note, Valve argues that it doesn’t keep the information that Apple wants, on the grounds that it doesn’t need it.

At the time of writing, neither Apple nor Valve has commented on the subpoena.

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