Tag Archives: Epic Games

A Recap Of Epic Games VS Google

The first day of the Epic Games vs. Google antitrust trial ended after both sides gave opening statements and two witnesses testified, VentureBeat reported.

According to VentureBeat, Epic’s lead attorney Gary Bornstein opened with a chart that showed the Google Play Store accounted for 90% of app installs in the year the lawsuit was filed, 2020, despite the fact that Google “will say” that the Samsung app store is installed on 60% of all Android smartphones. But Bornstein noted that a tiny sliver of the market share belongs to Samsung.

Bornstein argued that Google pays actual potential competitors not to compete and gives them money and other things of value. Bornstein says this is anti-competitive.

Epic also said it knows that Google will argue that it allows “sideloading” of apps as an alternative to using the Google Play Store. But Epic Games said Google through hoops in the way of users who were considering sideloading. Epic said that Google’s 30% fee for its app store operating profit amount to $12 billion a year and carry a 70% margin, compared to 24% in 2014.

Bornstein said that Google’s codename for shady deals was Project Hug, where Google allegedly paid developers such as Riot Games not to compete with the Google Play Store.

Bornstein also said that because many of Google’s alleged anticompetitive acts started in 2019, Google didn’t need those things to protect its fledgling app store. Rather, it merely intended to protect its monopoly. He also said that Google doesn’t have a monopoly on making app downloading secure, and that side-loaded apps didn’t represent a real security threat.

CNBC reported that Google is headed back to court for its second antitrust trial in two months, this time in defense of its Android Play Store.

According to CNBC, while Google continues to argue against monopoly claims brought by the Department of Justice and a bipartisan group of states in Washington, D.C., District Court, the company now has to simultaneously face off against Epic Games in a federal court in San Francisco.

The trial involving Epic, which began Monday, revolted around Google’s treatment of third-party developers, and will be closely watched by Apple, which operates the rival iPhone App Store. Both companies have been accused by developers of taking an unfair cut of revenue from in-app payments and for making it harder for app creators to communicate with their customers.

An Epic victory could force Google to make changes to Android, where it charges a 15% to 30% fee on digital goods and services purchases within the apps. It could allow Epic to get its store pre-installed on devices, potentially making it easier for users to bypass Google’s store to download games.

CNBC reported that at issue with the DOJ’s monopoly case, which went to trial in September, is whether Google violated the law through exclusive agreements with mobile phone manufacturers and browser makers to make its search engine the default for consumers. That case could determine whether Google is able to continue using its heft to keep its prime positioning on smartphones.

It seems to me that the Epic vs Google case is one that seems to keep ending up in courtroom battles. Eventually, we will know the outcome of this particular case. But that might not be the end of this battle.

Bandcamp Music Industry Darling Gutted By 50% Layoff

Bandcamp built a unique music business: profitable and good artists with a popular editorial arm. Now, half the employees at the Bay Area firm are losing their jobs, victims of a sudden corporate swap, SFGATE reported.

The Oakland-based company was purchased by Epic Games – makers of Fortnight and Gears of War – in early 2022. In September, just a year and a half later, Epic announced its plan to sell Bandcamp to Songtradr, a Santa Monica company that specializes in music licenses. Just 50% of Bandcamp’s employees got offers in the acquisition, Songtradr spokesperson Lindsay Nahmiache told SFGATE on Monday.

Of Bandcamp’s 118 employees, 58 did not receive offers, and 60 did, Nahmaiche said. One of Bandcamp’s remaining employees confirmed this Monday, saying that around 60 people are gone from the company Slack. SFGATE granted the employee anonymity in accordance with Hearst’s ethics policy. Bandcamp co-founder and former CEO Ethan Diamond’s Slack account is also now deactivated, according to a screenshot viewed by SFGATE.

The Verge reported that Epic Games bought the indie music platform back in 2022 for an undisclosed amount before selling it barely a year later.

Late last month, Epic Games laid off 16 percent of its workforce, or 830 employees, due to what CEO Tim Sweeney described as overspending. Epic also revealed that it would sell the Bandcamp business to California-based music licensing company Songtradr. In that announcement, Epic disclosed that an additional 250 people would be leaving Epic either through receiving offers from Songtradr or Epic’s divesture from its SuperAwesome ad business. Employees who did not receive offers from Songtradr were notified today and will be eligible for severance.

In an email to The Verge, Songtradr confirmed that 50 percent of Bandcamp employees have been extended offers to join Songtradr and reaffirmed from a previous statement the company’s commitment to keeping the Bandcamp experience the same.

TechCrunch reported the venerable digital music marketplace was acquired by Epic last year, but clearly the Fortnite maker wasn’t quite sure what to do with the company, and late last month resold it to music licensing platform Songtradr as part of a wave of cost-cutting.

According to TechCrunch, it was known from the start that layoffs would happen, and indeed, Epic and Songtradr were fairly straightforward about their necessity as part of the deal – technically the employees were laid off by Epic ahead of the formal acquisition, though it was Songtradr that decided who would and would not be hired.

Songtradr explained in a statement: “Over the past few years the operating costs of Bandcamp have significantly increased. It required some adjustments to ensure a sustainable and healthy company that can serve its community of artists and fans. After a comprehensive evaluation, including the importantance of roles for smooth business operations and preexisting functions at Songtradr, 50% of Bandcamp employees have accepted offers to join Songtradr.”

Personally, I’m sad that Bandcamp is now under new ownership. I’m hoping that things won’t drastically change under Songtradr, and that I will still be able to buy music, and support the artists who created that music, from Bandcamp. Songtradr needs to be extremely careful about the choices it makes with its new acquisition.

Epic Games To Update Unreal Pricing For Devs Outside Game Industry

A week after laying off almost 900 employees, Epic Games announced that it’s increasing the price to use Unreal Engine – not just for the game development community, Game Developer reported.

The news came from Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney himself in a presentation at Unreal Fest 2023. In a video captured by Fortnite Creative developer Immature (and spotted by Game World Observer), Sweeney explains that developers using Unreal Engine in the film, TV, automotive, and other industries can expect to start paying a per-seat licensing fee.

He claimed that the pricing model will not be “unusually expensive or unusually inexpensive,” and that its pricing structure will be similar to subscription services like Maya of Photoshop. Sweeney said he wanted to announce these changes now in the name of “transparency”.

GeekWire reported that the recent round of layoffs at Epic Games impacted its office in Bellevue, Wash., with 39 employees affected, according to a new filing with the Washington state Employment Security Department (ESD).

According to GeekWire, Epic, headquartered in Raleigh N.C., is arguably best-known as the developer behind the popular shooter Fortnite. It’s also the creator of an eponymous digital storefront for PC games and the publisher of the Unreal Engine, a high-end toolkit for game development and 3D modeling.

“For a while now, we’ve been spending way more money than we earn,” Sweeney wrote. “Investing in the next evolution of Epic and growing Fortnite as a metaverse-inspired ecosystem for creators. I had long been optimistic that we could power through this transition without layoffs, but in retrospect, I see that this was unrealistic.

GeekWire reported that affected employees, per Sweeney’s memo, have received a severance package that includes career transition services and six months’ base pay and healthcare.

Engadget also reported that Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney says the company is adjusting Unreal Engine pricing for non-gaming developers in fields like film / TV and automotive.

“We haven’t officially announced this, but in the interest of transparency, we want to put it out there,” Sweeney said in an presentation from Unreal Fest 2023. The CEO did not mention the specific pricing but said Epic’s licensing model would resemble those of tools like Maya and Photoshop.

According to Engadget, Sweeney sounded (understandably) determined to differentiate Epic’s price hike from Unity’s. The latter stirred the ire of countless developers as it announced a per-install pricing model that many smaller developers claimed would put them out of business. Unity ended up walking back many of the plan’s most contentious changes.

The Verge reported that in posts on X, Sweeney clarified that educators and students will be able to continue to use Unreal Engine for free, and there will be a minimum revenue threshold for indie filmmakers and others whose commercial projects earn below a certain amount – though Sweeney didn’t specify what that threshold would be.

It sounds to me like CEO Tim Sweeney believes that his company is failing, and decided to solve that problem with layoffs. I’m hoping that the workers who were laid off will apply to other gaming companies, and get hired quickly.

Epic Games Introduced Cabined Accounts For Kids

Epic Games posted information (on December 7) titled: “Introducing Cabined Accounts: A New Way for Kids to Join the Metaverse”. The goal appears to be to help keep kids safe when they are playing video games from Epic Games. Here are some key points from that post:

Announcing Cabined Accounts

Today we are announcing Cabined Accounts, a new type of Epic account that will provide a tailored experience that is safe and inclusive for younger players. We believe that creating a rich experience within the same overall game or products is the best way to empower younger players to meaningfully participate without compromising on safety or privacy.

Cabined Accounts will begin rolling out in Fortnite, Rocket League, and Fall Guys today.

Here’s How It Works

All players globally will be asked to provide their date of birth at log in. If someone indicates they are under 13 or their country’s age of digital consent, whichever is higher, their account will be a Cabined Account and they will be asked to provide a parent or guardian’s email address to begin the parental consent process. While waiting for consent, players will still be able to play Fortnite, Rocket League, or Fall Guys with full access to previously purchased or earned content in-game, but in a tailored Cabined Account environment where certain features, such as chat and purchasing, are disabled.

Parent Verification

The player’s parent or guardian will receive an email letting them know about their child’s Epic account. Following links in the email, parents can review information about Epic’s privacy practices, provide consent for additional features, set up Parental Controls, and will be asked to verify they are an adult via SuperAwesome’s Kids Web Services.

Engadget reported that several other features are disabled in cabined accounts, including any purchases with money, free text chat, making trades in Rocket League, buying or downloading Epic Games Store titles not owned by Epic, custom display names and SMS-based two-factor authentication.

According to Engadget, without parental consent, younger players will not be able to link their Epic account to services such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitch. Developers with cabined accounts will also be prevented from accessing some Unreal Engine features. Epic will lift the restrictions when a parent or guardian provides consent or the player turns 13 or their region’s age of digital consent.

After a parent or guardian has verified a cabined account, they can set up parental controls. Among other things, they’ll be able to approve friend requests on the younger player’s account, grant access to voice and text chat and track their offspring’s Fortnite play any time.

Overall, Cabined Accounts sound like a good way to keep kids safe online while they are playing video games. Parents have the opportunity to allow their kids to have a cabined account and can use parental controls to limit what their child can do while playing a game.

Epic Claims Google Paid $360M To Stop Activision From Launching App Store

Activision Blizzard and Riot Games at one point told Google they might launch their own mobile app stores, according to new documents filed in Epic’s antitrust lawsuit against the search giant. The details came to light as part of allegations about major deals signed with the two companies. The Verge reported that Google allegedly agreed to pay Activision about $360 million over three years and Riot about $30 million for a one-year deal.

According to The Verge, in one document Google exec Karen Aviram Beatty is reported back from a conversation with Activision Blizzard’s now-CFO Admin Zerza one month before the two companies signed the huge deal.

“If this deal falls through [Zerza] claims that they will launch their own mobile distribution platform (partnering with another “major mobile company” – presume Epic), double down with Amazon / Twitch (or MSFT) for Cloud / eSports [sic], and pull away from Stadia,” Beatty wrote.

Also according to The Verge: While Zerza may have just been doing hardline negotiating Activision has not yet launched its own app store on mobile, so it seems the company was happy with how the deal eventually turned out.

The Verge also reported about another document from an unnamed witness who may have been involved with “Project Hug,” Google’s program designed to incentivize and support Play Store developers. In the deposition, the witness says that Riot Games told Google it was considering launching a competing Android app store. Later, the witness says that “Riot and Activision Blizzard King were the ones that were the most direct with us” about considering starting their own app stores.

Engadget reported that the financial details of Project Hug – later known as the Apps and Games Velocity Program – are at the center of the ongoing antitrust lawsuit between Epic Games and Google. In 2020, the studio alleged Google had spent millions of dollars in incentives to keep big app developers on the Play Store.

According to Engadget, this week, a newly unreacted version of Epic’s complaint was made public, providing previously unknown details about the scope of the Apps and Games Velocity Program.

According to court documents, Engadget reported, Google also signed deals with Nintendo, Ubisoft, and Riot games. In the case of Riot, Google paid about $30 million to “stop” the League of Legends studio from pushing forward with its own “in-house ‘app store’ efforts,” Epic alleges.

“Programs like Project Hug provide incentives for developers to give benefits and early access to Google Play users who they release new or updated content; it does not prevent developers from creating competing app stores, as Epic falsely alleges,” a Google spokesperson told Engadget. “In fact, the program is proof that Google Play competes fairly with numerous rivals for developers, who have a number of choices for distributing their apps and digital content.”

To me, this feels like yet another round of lawsuits in which Google and Epic try to fight each other in court about something that they probably could have worked out together. This situation also explains why Activision Blizzard King doesn’t have much of a mobile game platform, outside of Candy Crush and Diablo Immortal.

Play Fortnite For Free With Xbox Cloud Gaming

Catherine Gluckstein, Vice President and Head of Product, Xbox Cloud Gaming posted a blog titled: “Play Fortnite on iOS, iPadOs, Android Phones and Tablets, and Windows PC with Xbox Cloud Gaming for Free”. To me, this sounds like a great way to make Fortnite accessible to players who have disabilities by allowing them to play Fortnite on the platform of their choice.

“As part of our mission to bring the joy and community of gaming to players wherever they are and to make gaming more accessible to people around the world, I’m excited to announce that we’ve partnered with Epic Games to make Fortnite available on supported browser-enabled devices for free with Xbox Cloud Gaming (beta) in 26 countries”, Catherine Gluckstein wrote.

If you love Fortnite you only need two things to play in cloud-supported markets:

  • A Microsoft account
  • An iOS, iPadOS, Android phone or tablet, or Windows PC with internet access.

With no installation or memberships required, all you need to do is go to Xbox.com/play on your web browser and sign-in with your Microsoft Account to party-up with friends or earn your next Victory Royale in Fortnite. Players have the option of playing Fortnite with native touch controls or a supported controller, and it is easy to jump into Fortnite with Xbox Cloud Gaming.

This is the first free-to-play title that has been added to the cloud gaming catalog. Microsoft looks forward to bringing more free-to-play games people love in the future. This means there will be more games in the cloud gaming catalog – and we just have to wait and see which ones get added.

CNET reported that Microsoft struck a deal with Epic Games to offer Epic’s hit title Fortnite for free through Xbox Cloud Gaming. The move will effectively let people play Fortnite in a way similar to how they stream videos from companies like Netflix, regardless of how beefy their gaming device is.

CNET posted a statement from Microsoft. “This is just the beginning for us — we’re going to learn, implement feedback, and in time look to bring even more free-to-play titles to players through the cloud”. According to CNET, Microsoft’s Xbox team said it believes streaming will be a key way for people to play but has also tempered expectations for how quickly it will catch on.

For me, there is a lot to like about Microsoft’s decisions. First, it offers accessibility in gaming, where people with disabilities can play Fortnite (and, eventually, other games) on the system of their choice. Some will prefer Windows PC, while others may feel more physically comfortable to play on a phone or tablet. And secondly, the free-to-play games make it much easier for people on a tight budget to play Fortnite with their friends.

Fortnite Raised $144 Million for Ukraine Relief

There were several gaming companies who chose to prevent people in Russia from playing their games. Two gaming companies went the other direction, and created fundraisers to help people who are in Ukraine. Personally, I think raising money as a form of support is a good way to provide help to those in need.

The Verge reported that Fortnite raised a total of $144 million for Ukraine relief efforts in two weeks. The game raised $36 million on its first day alone.

The Fortnite Twitter account @FortniteGame tweeted: “Our deepest thanks to everyone who joined us in supporting humanitarian relief efforts for people affectedly the war in Ukraine. Together with the Fortnite community and @Xbox, we raised $144 million USD for @DirectRelief, @UNICEF, @WFP, @Refugees and @WCKitchen.”

Direct Relief has a mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay. The UNICEF Twitter account’s bio reads: “As war escalates in #Ukraine, UNICEF is on the ground reaching children with water, health and education services. Here’s how you can help.” @WFP is The United Nations’ World Food Programme. @Refugees is the United Nations’ refugee agency. @WCKitchen is the World Central Kitchen. It was founded by Chef Jose Anders, who goes to the frontlines in times of crisis to provide meals to people.

Engadget reported that the Fortnite campaign aligned with the start of Fortnite’s latest season, meaning that many players were buying V-Bucks to unlock the latest Battle Pass and scoop up new in-game items. Epic and Xbox donated their cuts of gifted Battle Passes, Fortnite Crew subscriptions and gift cards redeemed during that time to relief efforts as well.

Riot Games (maker of League of Legends) also held a fundraiser to help people in Ukraine. @RiotGames tweeted: Thanks to the efforts of our amazing players, we’ve raised $5.4 million total in funds to support humanitarian efforts in Eastern Europe”.

The tweet was the start of a thread which provided further explanation. Riot Games tweeted that $1.8 million will be going to the International Medical Corps. Another $1.8 million will be going to Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders. And another $1.8 million will be going to the International Committee of the Red Cross.