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An 11-year-old gamer plays Fortnite in South Pasadena, California, last April. Photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

The company behind the wildly popular video game franchise Fortnite, which is suing Apple over alleged anti-competitive practices, hired its first lobbyists this month to “monitor” antitrust issues in Washington.

Why it matters: Epic Games’ case against Apple has potentially huge legal and financial stakes. The company’s decision to enlist K Street veterans with connections on both sides of the aisle indicates it is tuning into D.C., where both parties have railed against anti-competitive practices in the tech industry.

What’s new: Lobbying disclosure records filed Wednesday show Epic has brought on two firms, each geared toward one side of the political aisle.

  • Epic retained Subject Matter and three of its lobbyists, including co-founder Steve Elmendorf, a high-dollar Democratic fundraiser.
  • Also working with Epic is the Gibson Group and its eponymous principal, Joseph Gibson. He formerly served as the top attorney for Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee.
  • Both firms said in registration filings they would “monitor antitrust issues in the technology industry” on Epic’s behalf.

Background: Those issues are at the center of Epic’s high-stakes legal fight with Apple.

  • The gaming company accuses Apple of charging exorbitant fees for developers that are forced to sell their games through its app store.
  • Apple booted Fortnite from the App Store last year, saying Epic attempted to circumvent its fee structure.
  • Epic “is simply seeking fair access and competition that will benefit all consumers,” Tera Randell, the company’s vice president of communications, told AppleInsider last week.

Between the lines: Epic’s decision to enlist lobbyists underscores the cross-partisan appeal of antitrust fights in Washington.

  • Republicans have railed against tech companies like Twitter and Facebook, claiming they use monopoly power to silence prominent conservatives.
  • President Biden is considering installing a White House antitrust “czar” to coordinate efforts to take on anti-competitive business practices.

The bottom line: Video games don’t always get the attention that other popular media forms do. But Fortnite alone brought in $1.8 billion in revenue for Epic in 2019.

  • Its legal battle with Apple — the world’s most valuable company — could have far-reaching consequences for the industry.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Updated Jan 27, 2021 - Technology

Apple's quarterly sales top $100 billion for first time

Credit: Apple

Spurred by strong sales of the latest iPhones, Apple reported it took in a record $111 billion in revenue for the three months ended Dec. 31, as the company crushed expectations.

Why it matters: The move showed even a pandemic didn't dull demand for Apple's latest smartphones.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
6 mins ago - Economy & Business

Warren Buffett resigns from Gates Foundation board

Buffett and Bill Gates in 2015. Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — the second-largest philanthropy in the world — is now governed by just two trustees, after Warren Buffett announced on Wednesday that he had resigned his position there.

Why it matters: The two remaining trustees, Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates, are going through a divorce.

Updated 26 mins ago - World

Russia says it fired warning shots at British destroyer in Black Sea

The HMS Defender in the port of Odessa on Ukraine's Black Sea coast on June 18. Photo: Konstantin Sazonchik\TASS via Getty Images

Russia's defense ministry claimed Wednesday that a Russian warship and fighter jet fired "warning" shots at the British Royal Navy’s HMS Defender destroyer for encroaching on waters near Crimea in the Black Sea.

The latest: The U.K.'s ministry of defense disputed that any warning shots were fired, saying in a statement, "We believe the Russians were undertaking a gunnery exercise in the Black Sea and provided the maritime community with prior-warning of their activity."