On Monday, a judge in the U.S. District Court of Northern California heard arguments about whether to grant Epic Games, the creator of the wildly popular video game Fortnite, a restraining order against Apple. Epic sought the order last week after Apple cut off its support for an Epic software development tool, Unreal Engine, an action that Tim Sweeney, chief executive of Epic, called an “existential threat” to Epic’s $17 billion business.
At root are the fees Apple and Google charge app developers to sell apps in their marketplaces — a 30 percent cut. This month, Epic started encouraging Fortnite’s mobile-app users to pay it directly, rather than through Apple or Google. That violated Apple’s and Google’s rules that they handle all such app payments so they can collect their commission.
In response, Apple banned Fortnite from its store; Google later did the same. Epic was ready. It rallied its fans around the hashtag #FreeFortnite and published a video satirizing Apple’s famous “1984” ad, which had portrayed Apple as the underdog. The parody included a villain wearing the same sunglasses as Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook.
In an interview last month, Mr. Sweeney said the stakes of the antitrust investigations into tech giants like Apple and Google were no smaller than the future of humanity. “Otherwise you have these corporations who control all commerce and all speech,” he said.
Mr. Sweeney said that he had discovered that the fees from the app stores meant that Apple and Google could sometimes make more money on a game than its creators.
“That’s totally unjust,” he said. “That shows the market is out of control.”