Apple Inc. is facing another scrutiny from the Japanese antitrust regulator amid the tech giant's on-going feud with Fortnite's publisher, Epic Games, Inc. This is the latest probe the company is facing after the European Union launched its investigation in June.
Japan's antitrust regulator will be looking at Apple's practices and relation with developers after Epic Games' filing of the case against the iPhone maker's App Store rules has triggered another wave of scrutiny from the country's huge gaming market.
"I want from the bottom of my heart Epic to win," Tokyo-based mobile game developer Gumi Inc. founder and chairman Hironao Kunimitsu wrote on his Facebook page.
Epic's case against Apple for the latter's charging of 30% from the developer's revenue on App Store sales. However, the Japanese developer's concerns are deeply-rooted in Apple's inconsistent implementation of App Store guidelines, erratic content decisions, and communication gaps between developers.
Except in China, Apple and Google created a duopoly in the global mobile app market. However, game developers find the App Store more problematic than Google's Android Play Store. "Apple's app review is often ambiguous, subjective and irrational," PrimeTheory Inc. founder Makoto Shoji said.
Google has better communication and approval process. In contrast, App Store even launched an iOS Reject Rescue, a third-party service provided by PrimeTheory. The service helps developers navigate through Apple's approval process. "Apple's response to developers is often curt and boilerplate," said Shoji, although the developers are forced to be polite "like a servant asking the master what he wants next."
Epic sued both Apple and Google due to the excessive fees and their right to sell in-game products directly to players. However, the tech companies disputed those charges in court with Apple justifying the 30% cut based on its security provision, development support, and huge market advantage as it has billion of users.
Epic's hit mobile game Fortnite generated more than $1 billion annually from in-game purchases of virtual cosmetics and add-ons.
Apple remains Japan's powerful revenue driver
Japan is home to about 702,000 registered developers, catering to the most creative developer communities in the world. In a recent Apple-commissioned study, the App Store ecosystem in Japan has generated about $37 billion in sales and billings in 2019. These include $24 billion via physical goods and services, $11 billion in digital services and goods, and $2 billion from the in-app advertisement.
Also, iPhone brings in huge revenue for Japanese game creators such as the Square Enix Holdings Co., which 40% of its earnings came from smartphone games. The Japanese games studios are aware of the 30% revenue, which originated from Nintendo with its consoles cartridges in the 1980s. While most developers do not mind it, they seek for better service from Apple and other platforms.
Shoji noted that developers suffer because of Apple's untimely updating of the game, which sometimes takes for over a month. "While Apple will never admit it, I think there are times when they simply forget an item's in the review queue," he said. Shoji also added that the company may have intentionally ignored a developer as a sanction for "giving them the wrong attitude,"
Apps waiting for review sometimes take weeks to be approved. Meanwhile, a local games studio said it was forced to stop hosting seasonal in-game events because of Apple's late response to their update review request.
In defense, Apple said that it has respective review teams for two time zones. It also hired Japanese-speaking representatives who can help developers over the phone during business hours in Japan.
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Writtenby CJ Robles