May 11, 2021 - Technology

Epic’s strategy to get sympathy in its battle against Apple

A card that says "epic games" embedded in a flower bouquet

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

“Fortnite” maker Epic Games prepared for intense public skepticism in its battle against Apple, internal documents from the Epic-Apple trial reveal.

The big picture: Epic assumed players would be upset if its fight with Apple and Google got the game booted from iPhone and Android (and it did).

  • An internal comms document shows it predicted that the eventual blocking of the games would stoke negative feelings, especially among the 55% of iOS players who never paid for items and wouldn’t see a benefit from Epic’s fight.
  • “Our company is too successful to be sympathetic about,” Epic head of marketing Matt Weissinger wrote in notes taken or updated on May 15, 2020. “It’s a rich company versus a rich company.”

Epic also predicted a negative reaction from the tech press.

  • “When it is large company vs. large company, these writers will defer to Google and Apple and defend them,” Weissinger noted.

Epic’s solution included building a coalition of allied developers, which cost at least $300,000 to set up, according to Weissinger’s court testimony yesterday.

  • It would also start the “FreeFortnite” campaign, making a trailer that mocked a seminal 1984 Apple computer to rally support.

The bottom line: It’s unclear how much any of this worked. The “Fortnite” marketing machinery has rolled on without iOS players being able to use the game.

  • As for the press, most coverage of Epic v. Apple of late has been about the trial — and its 19 Epic lawyers versus Apple’s 42 — not any largely forgotten coalition of developers.

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