Epic Games' metaverse argument that Fortnite is more than a video game fell flat in Apple case

Fortnite, as it turns out, is not more than a video game in the eyes of the courts.


Friday wasn't a particualrly good day for either Apple or Epic Games, as a judge's ruling left both parties feeling sour for different reasons. For Epic Games, the judge ruled that the publisher was in breach of its contract with Apple by implementing an alternative payment system in the iOS version of Fortnite. Epic's various arguments were to no avail, specifically the one that Fortnite was a "metaverse" that put it above video game classification.

Here's part of the ruling from Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers (via IGN):

"The Court need not reach a conclusive definition of a video game or game because by all accounts, Fortnite itself is both externally and internally considered a video game. Epic Games markets Fortnite to the public as a video game, and further promotes events within Fortnite at video game related events. Although Fortnite contains creative and social content beyond that of its competitive shooting game modes, there is no evidence or opinion in the record that a video game like Fortnite is considered by its parts (i.e., the modes within the game) instead of in its totality.

"By both Mr. Sweeney and Mr. Weissinger’s own descriptions, the metaverse, as an actual product, is very new and remains in its infancy. At this time, the general market does not appear to recognize the metaverse and its corresponding game modes in Fortnite as anything separate and apart from the video game market. The Court need not further define the outer boundaries of the definition of video games for purposes of this dispute."

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney had attempted to argue that Fortnite's different game modes, including Fortnite Creative and the various Fortnite Party Royale events, meant the game could not be strictly defined as a video game.

"I think game involves some sort of win or loss or a score progression, on whether it is an individual or social group of competitors," Sweeney said. "With a game you're trying to build up to some outcome that you achieve, as opposed to an open-ended experience like building a Fortnite Creative island or writing a Microsoft Word document. There is no score keeping mechanic and you are never done or you never win."

As seen in the ruling, Judge Gonzalez Rogers balked at this notion. In the eyes of the courts, Fortnite is a video game and this idea that it is something greater is just not true. What exactly is a video game? Well, the court isn't sure of that, either.

Epic's future on the iOS platform is currently unknown following Friday's ruling. Furthermore, Epic is now on the hook for at least $3.5 million USD for its contract breach. Just based on that, one would think Apple would be celebrating, but the court also ruled against Apple forcing payments via the App Store, which means alternate payment methods must be allowed going forward. There's no word on whether Apple will appeal this decision.

Today was a big day for Apple vs. Epic Games. We've been covering all the major news from today's ruling, so be sure to take a look around Shacknews and catch up with today's biggest stories.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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