back to article A decade on, Apple and Google's 30% app store cut looks pretty cheesy

The Google-Fortnite spat will be being watched keenly in Brussels and DC, although we understand no formal complaint to the competition authorities has yet been made. The free-to-play "battle royale" third-person shooter has become a cultural phenomenon since it launched last year on PC and consoles – spawning dance crazes. …

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    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      30% of paid for content also covers the cost of Apple/Google distributing free content

      They wouldn't have to distribute free content if they allowed other people to do it (the famously permissive Apple) or didn't make it a scary "untrusted" process (the famously trustworthy Google).

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    profiting from consumer inertia

    profiting from consumer inertia is THE corner stone of business in general. As long as your "consumers" are not TOO pissed off, they'll stay stuck forever with your bank, supermarket, electricity supplier and ISP. People are lazy (and auto-renewal anchors their inertia, same as "opt-in by default"). Gotta shear them sheep, eh.

    1. DropBear Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: profiting from consumer inertia

      No, effective monopoly (either literal or just collusion among the few players to offer the same terms) is THE cornerstone of business in general - actual competition is well and truly dead, buried, rotted to dust and long forgotten in practically all but a very select few markets - essentially, everywhere where barriers to entry could be erected to any sort of meaningful height, which is almost everywhere. When the overwhelming majority of customers shop in supermarkets, you can't even "compete" on stupid-basic stuff like fruits or vegetables - you sell to a store chain for whatever it is they are offering (and kiss their feet for the privilege...) or don't sell at all. Everything else is much worse.

  2. LDS Silver badge

    No surprise...

    I've been saying for years that those high cuts would have not be acceptable by larger companies selling more expensive software. OK for cheap apps from small developers without the infrastructure to sell themselves, with little or no other expenses (i.e. promotion), those already using third party distribution channels, but not for the others who have it already, have larger structures to pay for and also have also other costs like support, promotion, etc.

    I think Google, Apple & C. are quite avid and blind - they should have offered better deals to companies selling applications which would have brought a lot of money anyway. Think the hate and outrage if Microsoft ever tried something like that on Windows - it's actually trying now, as it worked for the others - as usual, maybe too late...

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: No surprise...

      Google will at least let you install and trust other stores, most notably Amazon for film and music. It's also pushing "Progressive Web Apps", ie. it's perhaps more interested in the advertising revenues that what it makes from selling apps, though I'm sure it doesn't mind that.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only a decade?

    I think it was 2001 or 2002 when I looked at Handango and Jamster - both of whom took 30%, and more to the point took complete control of distribution - i.e. all they had to do was put your app below the fold of their web page, and you'd never sell anything - and I remember thinking at the time, "Seriously, what idiot developer is ever going to buy into this?"

    The internet gave me my answer.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: what idiot developer is ever going to buy into this?

      "The internet gave me my answer."

      And before that, Jamster gave the world... can I, should I...

      Sod it.. I'm not going to name the barstewards and their most famously succesful "product". Hanging's too good for them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: what idiot developer is ever going to buy into this?

        I won't name it, but someone wrote some lyrics for it.

        They went :-

        'Buy my ringtone

        Stupid f*cking ringtone

        Buy my ringtone

        Only three quid'

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Buy my ringtone Only three quid

          Wasn't it actually three quid (or more) **per text message** unless you cancelled your (undisclosed) subscription following the agreed and documented process whose details were on display?

          "On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”

          “That’s the display department.”

          “With a flashlight.”

          “Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”

          “So had the stairs.”

          “But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”

          “Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Frog.”

          RIP Mr Adams

          Good Riddance Jamba.

  4. SVV Silver badge

    Agree we need more app stores to improve competition

    It will need a big established company to be trustworthy though.

    Oracle?

    1. alexmcm

      Re: Agree we need more app stores to improve competition

      I hope that was a joke.

      Oracle will charge you per core, so good luck if you've got an octa-core phone, that'll be 240% thanks.

    2. CRConrad
      Joke

      "Big established company to be trustworthy ... Oracle?"

      Muahahahahahahahahaaah!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I own an Android and IOS product and never have paid a cent for an app, if I have to pay then I don't need it.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. idiotsavant

        Not sure about SwiftKey

        SwiftKey on iOS means giving it access to your contacts and your Gmail (so it can learn the way you type), then telling it your date of birth (so it can ensure it applies its "high standards" of data protection apparently), then it wants to send you notifications... Then once you go to enable it in the settings it encourages you to give "full access" which allows the app to transmit anything you typed and anything in your typing history back to the app owner.

        Thanks but no thanks.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Ken 16 Silver badge
        Windows

        Multiling O keyboard worked for me

  6. fishman

    Since Fortnight is dodging the Google tax...

    Does this mean that Android users are getting a 15%-25% discount now? If not, it end up the users get fleeced at the same rate, but the money is just flowing into different pockets.

    1. NBCanuck

      Re: Since Fortnight is dodging the Google tax...

      "Does this mean that Android users are getting a 15%-25% discount now? If not, it end up the users get fleeced at the same rate, but the money is just flowing into different pockets."

      - If I recall correctly, part of the agreement with Apple for selling something through its app store is that it cannot be sold anywhere else for less. So according to that, the game developer may make more profit, but CANNOT sell for less.

      1. hollymcr

        Re: Since Fortnight is dodging the Google tax...

        .. which is the real anti-competitive bit here.

        Do we, as consumers (or the EU, as our "champion"), really care whether the game developer can avoid paying the store tax if it can't pass it on to us, the consumer?

        Google have their faults but in this situation, Apple are the problem. Other app stores *are* available on Android, and they're not hard to install. If a third party app store could set up offering all your favourite games at 15% discount compared to Apple/Google by offering 20% lower fees to the publisher to do it, then *that* would introduce competition. However, that wouldn't currently be possible if you wanted to sell the game on iOS as well.

      2. CRConrad

        Potential loophole?

        They "aren't selling Fortnite for iOS" anywhere else...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Andrew Orlowski - How about a followup article?

    #1. The market isn't just Apple / Google. PC games on Steam are a major earner but Valve charge the same 30%. Plus cast a wider net and in the EU GOG also levy 30%. So all the games stores are mugging people! Well almost all, a nod to Itch.io and other smaller players that are less greedy! Smaller stores are gaining traction in tough economic times for Indies.

    #2. The media needs to give credit to Sweeney @ Epic for repeatedly highlighting the unfair 30%. This isn't some recent headline grabbing effort or protest especially targeting Google. Steam do zero filtering or screening of games anymore except for Malware. So, why not ask Sweeney if he'll open a competing Games Store and charge no more than say 12%-15%?

    https://www.pcgamesn.com/steam-revenue-cut-tim-sweeney

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: @Andrew Orlowski - How about a followup article?

      Also, maybe get Tom Robinson to explain where the money goes too.

      Back in the early days of iTunes, he made a big point of having his own stuff freely downloadable, and even occasionally publishing the well hidden details of where the money went from iTunes downloads.

      Then his stuff became available through iTunes and the free downloads (and articles about who got what from iTunes) stopped. Purely by coincidence, I imagine.

  8. Anonymaus Cowark

    amazon is charging 30 % too.

    did all companies agreed to have at least 30%?

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: amazon is charging 30 % too.

      This is effectively a cartel. The T&Cs probaly prohibit offering lower prices on other platforms/stores.

      1. David 164 Bronze badge

        Re: amazon is charging 30 % too.

        I doubt that, that would have certainly got everyone a slapdown by the EU Commission by now.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google and Apples problem may be

    the fact that as far as the great unwashed are concerned, they are tax-dodging corporations themselves. People might use them - they might have no choice. But they don't have to like them. I suspect that Trump (or his handlers) have cottoned onto this are are starting to play with it. Maybe Fortnite is simply a stalking horse.

  10. Sam Adams the Dog

    They still distribute the IOS version via the Apple store.

    "This means it doesn't pay the high, non-negotiable distribution fee Apple and Google both require."

    Not. They still distribute the IOS version through the Apple store, perhaps because that's the only way you can distribute and IOS app.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh the irony. An article concerned about market duopoly from the guy who thinks that Net Neutrality is something that's unfair to those poor wickle ISPs.

    And suggesting that Samsung do something about it? Oh my. Samsung's the same kind of crap-shoveling oligopolist, just not good enough at it to compete with the others.

  12. dankell

    Back in the day, when I was looking at the iOS app store the 30% looked like a good deal

    As an independent it provided me with a content delivery system, that reached all my potential customers, and I didn't need to worry about anything other than writing my App, knocking together a simple html only website for some promotion and a bank account.

    And I would have avoided any upfront costs as it would all be paid for as the "cut" from my apps.

    For me where it falls apart is that Apple have been crap at protecting developers from knock-offs and copycats, and some of the development restrictions are, shall we say opaque.

    I can see why a large company like Epic, which have their own channels to deliver, bill, etc. should feel that the 30% is much less value.

  13. adnim Silver badge

    Late post...

    It stinks of greed and silent collaboration.

    I support these companies via my contractual obligations, I am not yet financially secure enough to choose my employer.

    However, I personally avoid Apple (easy) Google (harder) Microsoft (easy).

    The choice is yours.... Who you encourage, who you support.

  14. karlkarl

    It is embarrasing that we need "one of them big fancy companies like Epic" to show us idiots the way.

    App stores have been digitally raping humanity for so many years now and yet developers and consumers have willingly bent over. They might as well keep on doing so.

    Myself? As a consumer I still just grab mobile software from the Pirate Bay. A much more user friendly experience.

    As a developer... I refuse to make phone apps quite frankly lol.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Myself? As a consumer I still just grab mobile software from the Pirate Bay. A much more user friendly experience.

      And you wonder why your phone runs really hot and the battery life is close to zero? That would be the bitcoin mining malware owning your £500 phone. Or did you download the phone from TPB as well?

    2. alexmcm

      " I still just grab mobile software from the Pirate Bay. A much more user friendly experience."

      I don't like with app stores taking 30%, but seriously, what is user friendly about downloading it from piratebay?

      -Get torrent or magnet ink

      -Download unverified software.

      -Unpack software.

      -Scan software.

      -Sideload software to phone.

      - Install software

      Or with an app store

      - Tap Install

      - Tap Open

      I think they do win the user friendly argument. That doesn't mean it's worth 30%.

  15. David 164 Bronze badge

    Because Google and Apple want a fair playing field. Blockbusters apps already got every advantage going over smaller rivals they don't need a cheaper deal from Apple or Google to survive or increase their advantage over small rivals.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      "Because Google and Apple want a fair playing field"

      I don't think they care one bit about whether or not there's a fair playing field for developers. They want to maximize their own profit, nothing more.

  16. JohnFen Silver badge

    Exposure?

    "Small developers may need the Google Play Store for exposure"

    If they do, they're pretty much hosed from the get-go. The amount of exposure you get from just being in the Play Store is minimal -- if you want actual exposure, you still have to engage in your own marketing.

    1. doublelayer

      Re: Exposure?

      Not really. Of course, google play won't help with exposure, but it will help keep people who already know about the app from drifting away. When you say in your advertising to go to the google appstore and search a phrase, people know what that means. If you tell them to go to a website, no matter how clear you are on that site as to how to download the APK file and install it, fewer of them will. That's why the google store can effectively constrain developers to using it, even though sideloading is possible. The same would be true, for example, if you told them that the app could be found in FDroid or another relatively unknown store. The non-technical, for most apps, the main customer base, won't get you, and you'll lose their business.

  17. DrRobert

    I wouldn't care if they charged 99% . Perhaps fewer people would be turning themselves into drooling retards by playing video games then..

    win-win

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Perhaps fewer people would be turning themselves into drooling retards by playing video games

      Do you also consider those who listen to music to be gibbering loons? Those who watch TV knuckle-dragging cro-magnons? Maybe those who go to the cinema are slavering zombies?

      Or perhaps, your arrogant disdain for the ways in which others choose to entertain themselves in their own time just frames you as a small-minded idiot.

      FWIW, the global games market is worth well over $100bn annually, compared to the movie industry, worth somewhere shy of £40bn p/a. That's a lot of "drooling retards", isn't it?

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        ...just to add to that, there have actually been several high-quality studies that show that, far from turning players into 'drooling retards', video games can improve coordination, reaction times, and stave off dementia.

        For instance, https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758%2Fs13423-015-0912-6, and https://www.alzheimers.net/9-28-15-video-games-for-brain-health/

      2. CRConrad
        Holmes

        Drooling retards

        A " Loyal Commenter" writes:

        Do you also consider those who listen to music to be gibbering loons?
        No, not gibbering loons — mindless drones. Worse, people who are doing their best to make themselves mindless drones.

        Come now, have you really not realised that people who walk around with earplugs in all day, constantly drizzling their brains in muzak, are doing that so as not to have to listen to their own thoughts (or lack thereof)?

        Those who watch TV knuckle-dragging cro-magnons?
        Depends. Is that something, say, narrated by Simon Schama they're watching? Or "Reality" TV...?

        Maybe those who go to the cinema are slavering zombies?
        No, just sheep eager to be shorn.

        Or perhaps, your arrogant disdain for the ways in which others choose to entertain themselves in their own time just frames you as a small-minded idiot.
        Perhaps. Or perhaps not.

        FWIW, the global games market is worth well over $100bn annually, compared to the movie industry, worth somewhere shy of £40bn p/a.
        "argumentum ad lots of money"?

        That's a lot of "drooling retards", isn't it?
        Yes, indeed, that's a lot.

        Why, you thought "argumentum ad lots of people" is any better than "argumentum ad lots of money"? It isn't. Sturgeon's law, you know.

  18. skwdenyer

    Bigger oixture

    I’ll admit I’m pretty staggered at the blinkers in this thread.

    As much as anything, that 30% pays for OS development.

    I’m an Apple user. I’m very happy with the deal I have - buy a phone every couple of years, get free OS updates and security fixes, access to an App Store that “just works” in delivering me free and paid content, etc.

    And I really like the fact that every software developer gets the same chance of me downloading their app from the same store.

    As others have said, 30% is not huge in mark-up terms. There’s this obsession with the idea that the internet is cheap - it is not, but it is flexible.

    Fortnite’s developers don’t like that their successful app should be so encumbered. Of course not - successful companies always like to “pull up the drawbridge” when they’ve made it.

    The *next* successful app can just as easily come from a small startup under the current model. Which is yet another reason why I like it.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Bigger oixture

      As much as anything, that 30% pays for OS development.

      At around £1k a pop, I would have thought that the mile-wide margins on the latest iShiny cover the development costs of the incremental OS updates, and more.

  19. Richtea

    Amazon

    > In a functioning marketplace, surely that would have encouraged third parties like Amazon to enter the market. In short, why is that 30 per cent still 30 per cent?

    Amazon App Store:

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000644603

    It also takes 30%. Who would have guessed.

    The one disruptive bit they did do well was Amazon Underground, where popular paid apps were free, in exchange for Amazon popping up adverts of their choice. We made some significant income from that, but they've now pulled the Underground feature from recent devices.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Really simple

    They don't need to change anything until they stop making x amount of money.

    And as is show by this article you do't have to use them, IF you want to provide your own storefront.

    Many people surely don't want to or indeed can't do that themselves or want the extra ease for their customers etc so take the hit.

    It's all a business decision on many levels but in the end it's up to you whether you want to take the hit or go it alone or go somewhere else like Steam, no idea about any cut there,

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its great to see a worldwide company like Google and Apple being able to slap a huge percentage on developers to advertise and use its services. Lets hope that Google and Apple aint hypocritical when it touts those services in countries and abides with their TAX laws in the same way they expect others to abide by theirs. All i can see is Fortnite is playing the exact same game to avoid higher taxes.

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