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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.

Trump voices support for Saturday's pro-Capitol riots rally

Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Former President Trump on Thursday expressed solidarity with people facing prosecution in connection to the Capitol insurrection.

Why it matters: The statement was issued ahead of Saturday's rally to protest the treatment of Capitol rioters. Over 600 known federal defendants face charges related to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Clinton-linked lawyer indicted in investigation of FBI's Russia probe

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

A grand jury has returned an indictment against Michael Sussmann, a lawyer whose firm represented the 2016 Clinton campaign, for lying to the FBI about not representing "any client" when he presented them with allegations about a secret Trump Organization back-channel to a Russian bank.

Why it matters: It's the second criminal charge stemming from special counsel John Durham's review of possible misconduct by the intelligence community and prosecutors who investigated the 2016 Trump campaign's ties to Russia.