Apple under fire for how it handles Roblox in DOJ antitrust probe

Posted:
in iOS edited December 2021
Apple's dealings with developers like Roblox are at the core of the Department of Justice's antitrust probe, with what was discovered in the App Store lawsuit with Epic Games resurfacing.




The U.S. government has been looking into Apple and other tech companies for potential antitrust violations, with many elements becoming a target to regulators. In the latest salvo, it seems that the Department of Justice has taken an interest in Roblox.

As part of Epic Games' legal activity against Apple in a bid to change App Store policies and to enable Epic to operate its own third-party app store, Roblox was raised as an app that seemed to be given preferential treatment from Apple. Its mention, and the reasons behind it, are apparently worth closer scrutiny by the government, according to The Information.

During the trial, Roblox was said by Epic to be given an effective free pass when it comes to existing in the App Store. Epic argued that since Roblox allowed users to create games and sell them within the app using in-game currency, it was practically acting as a limited app marketplace, going against Apple's rules over digital app storefronts.

Epic reasoned that since Roblox offers game-like experiences, it too should be allowed to open a game store.

Apple said that Roblox didn't violate App Store rules as "there's experiences within Roblox that from a point of review [Apple] would not look at as a game." Following that distinction, Roblox updated its website to remove the word "game" and rebrand it as an "experience."

The DoJ has apparently been looking into the matter, including asking Roblox about the difference between what constitutes a game and an experience, as well as Roblox's decision behind its change in website wording. Other developers have also been asked about the impact of Apple Arcade, as well as if they have experienced issues with App Store rules.

If the DoJ can prove that Apple is selective in its enforcement of its own rules in order to cause problems for potential rival companies, the findings may aid in supporting a broader antitrust case against Apple.

While Epic and Roblox has caught the DoJ's attention, they aren't the only ones to complain about Apple's application of its rules.

For example, in allowing the purchases of real-world goods and services but charging for digital ones, there is a disparity between apps. While Uber doesn't pay Apple when its app is used to pay for a ride, dating service operator Match does have to pay, with its $500 million annual outlay to Apple representing approximately 30% of the company's cost of operations.

There are also complaints from developers over how Apple's apps don't have to abide by rules about App Tracking Transparency while third-party apps do. Location tracking is also a problem for Tile, which says its users see security warnings that AirTags doesn't have to deal with.

Meanwhile, in China, Tencent's WeChat messaging app appears to be violating Apple's apps-within-apps rules, among other rule breaks. However, due to WeChat's size and popularity, it can get away with flouting Apple's rules, seemingly without penalty.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 9
    I'm confused, what's the diff with how Roblox and Fortnite were treated? Both have in-game currency that must be purchased via IAP so that Apple gets their 30% fee. I don't see how they were treated any differently.
    9secondkox2
  • Reply 2 of 9
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,858member
    I'm confused, what's the diff with how Roblox and Fortnite were treated? Both have in-game currency that must be purchased via IAP so that Apple gets their 30% fee. I don't see how they were treated any differently.
    I think it’s less about charging for in-game currency and more about creating an app which is really a storefront for in-game apps. Roblox provides templates but Epic wants to supply discreet apps.
    edited December 2021 rezwits9secondkox2
  • Reply 3 of 9
    This is so stupid. 

    Epic wants to create its own store and sell games. 

    Roblox is simply a game where people can also buy other people’s modifications of THAT SAME GAME. sheesh. 

    It’s in app content. Not an entirely new game. It’s using the same code base. Digital Tinker toys. 

    Completely different ballgame. 

    How people miss this (epic, DOJ) is unbelievable. 

    Of course Epic knows the difference. They just want to benefit from creating confusion. 

    Epic is actually trying to stifle innovation snd fun just so they can have their way. 

    I guess they’ll come after lego next. Or tinker toys. Because you can build stuff. Or Minecraft. 

    The DOJ is supposed to be run by smart people. And they can’t tell the difference. 

    One is an experience creating and enjoying app. Even if those experiences are games. 

    The other is an entire store that sells standalone games that aren’t map makers or experience creators. 

    In epics dream, they want to sell roblox instead of Apple. That’s the only difference. 
    edited December 2021 rezwitsaderutterwilliamlondonFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 4 of 9
    mcdave said:
    I'm confused, what's the diff with how Roblox and Fortnite were treated? Both have in-game currency that must be purchased via IAP so that Apple gets their 30% fee. I don't see how they were treated any differently.
    I think it’s less about charging for in-game currency and more about creating an app which is really a storefront for in-game apps. Roblox provides templates but Epic wants to supply discreet apps.
    Except Roblox is not about in-game apps - it is akin to Mario Maker, Tinker Toys, Lego, or Minecraft.  Mario Maker and Minecraft have called themselves "games" from day one.

    "For example, in allowing the purchases of real-world goods and services but charging for digital ones, there is a disparity between apps."

    If purchases of real-world goods equates to charging for digital ones then what of loot boxes?  If they are "goods" then clearly we have illegal unregulated gambling all over the place.  It is like the DOJ has never heard of the concept of "unintended consequences".
    9secondkox2FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 5 of 9
    Yep, Roblox is just like Fortnite. They are both games, Roblox is a single application, effectively a customisable game - or a single game with lots of little mini-games. You could think of each Roblox mini-game or experience as a level in a traditional game.

    Remember epic were trying to argue Fortnite isn’t a game that it is more than that, they were trying to say Fortnite is just like Roblox - but Epic want to have their cake and eat it - they only say Fortnite is not a game when it suits their agenda.

    Ultimately Epic want to be allowed to create an app and put it in the app-store that links to many other independant apps (one for each game) that they sell and provide no revenue to Apple for. i.e. a store within a store. Roblox is not that - there is only one Roblox app and it doesn’t link out to or sell other game apps.
    maximara9secondkox2
  • Reply 6 of 9
    If you are buying in-game currency in Roblox with real money, you are doing it via Apple's payment system and Apple get the 30% cut.

    If Epic is willing to pay Apple 30% for all purchases in it's proposed mini-app store, then have at it.
  • Reply 7 of 9
    uraharaurahara Posts: 599member
    If you are buying in-game currency in Roblox with real money, you are doing it via Apple's payment system and Apple get the 30% cut.

    If Epic is willing to pay Apple 30% for all purchases in it's proposed mini-app store, then have at it.
    No. That’s the problem. You can go to their web site and buy there directly. This they won’t be paying Apple 30% cut. And the app puts a pop up about it. While it is against the policy. 
  • Reply 8 of 9
    urahara said:
    If you are buying in-game currency in Roblox with real money, you are doing it via Apple's payment system and Apple get the 30% cut.

    If Epic is willing to pay Apple 30% for all purchases in it's proposed mini-app store, then have at it.
    No. That’s the problem. You can go to their web site and buy there directly. This they won’t be paying Apple 30% cut. And the app puts a pop up about it. While it is against the policy. 
    Interestingly Roblox brings up the browser on a Mac (I just checked) than that is how you access their program so perches for Roblox are not technically in the App.  Regarding Epic, per the ruling they had to cough up 30% of the money the Mac/iOS version of Fortnite made a month after it was taken off the Apple store (The $6 million Epic had to pay for October as well as August).  This is where things get messy.  Apple's App Store is both for the Mac as well as iPad and iPhone.  

    The National Archives states "Title 48 was last amended 11/08/2021" has this very interesting line:

    "Tablet PCs, which may use touch-sensitive screens along with, or instead of, other input devices, are considered notebook computers."  The iPadOS is "a rebranded variant of iOS" and therefore can run iPhone programs.

    Ironically, since that was changed after the Epic vs Apple case was decided it has no bearing on that case but I suspect that one sentence could have major issues further down the line.

    edited December 2021
  • Reply 9 of 9
    flydogflydog Posts: 1,047member
    This is so stupid. 

    Epic wants to create its own store and sell games. 

    Roblox is simply a game where people can also buy other people’s modifications of THAT SAME GAME. sheesh. 

    It’s in app content. Not an entirely new game. It’s using the same code base. Digital Tinker toys. 

    Completely different ballgame. 

    How people miss this (epic, DOJ) is unbelievable. 

    Of course Epic knows the difference. They just want to benefit from creating confusion. 

    Epic is actually trying to stifle innovation snd fun just so they can have their way. 

    I guess they’ll come after lego next. Or tinker toys. Because you can build stuff. Or Minecraft. 

    The DOJ is supposed to be run by smart people. And they can’t tell the difference. 

    One is an experience creating and enjoying app. Even if those experiences are games. 

    The other is an entire store that sells standalone games that aren’t map makers or experience creators. 

    In epics dream, they want to sell roblox instead of Apple. That’s the only difference. 
    https://www.theschoolrun.com/what-is-a-paragraph

    williamlondon
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