EPIC v APPLE: IS IT A GAME, OR IS IT AN EXPERIENCE?

For the last couple of weeks, the gaming world has been engrossed in the court battle of Epic Games v Apple.  

The case is pretty complex, but can be boiled down to two key questions:

  1. Is Apple running a monopoly with its App Store?
  2. Should Apple be allowed to take a 30% revenue cut of every App Store purchase?

What’s got us really talking is that both sides continue to argue as to what is and what isn’t a game and what is an experience.  

Roblox and Fortnite are no longer classified as a ‘game’, they are an ‘experience’.

Apple has a certification process to ensure that all of its apps are in compliance with its guidelines, they treat game platforms differently from apps, and historically have rejected game streaming services. 

Roblox, which has around 1.5 million children playing the free-to-play game, and allows users to spend a virtual currency within the player-created games, is a game within a game, and therefore goes against Apple’s policy of vetting all content.

On May 14th, during the Epic Games v Apple trial, all references to the word ‘game’ were removed from the Roblox platform.  The timing of this eludes that Apple might have scared one of the world’s biggest gaming companies into renaming what are quite obviously video games into not being video games.

Fortnite was taken down from the App Store for breaking the same policies.  Epic Games CEO, Tim Sweeney, “Fortnite is not a game, it is instead a metaverse, a phenomenon that transcends gaming”, according to The Verge.

So if Fortnite and Roblox are not ‘games’, then what is?

We spoke to some ‘Gamers’ to find out what they think constitutes a game and what is an experience.

Whilst the distinction may not be initially obvious, our gamers spoke about how games are made up of experiences and that the lines between ‘what is a game?’ and ‘what is an experience?’ are not always clear. 

When games go beyond technical skill and mechanics, this is when the idea of an experience comes more into view – i.e. the philosophical stance of Detroit: Become Human, and other story-driven games that focus less on gameplay and work more like interactive movies (i.e. Life Is Strange & Telltale Games) highlight the variety in what can be considered to be a game.

They also spoke about the social aspects of gaming – in many multiplayer games, these are obvious due to the co-operation (i.e. Overcooked, Moving Out) or involvement of in-game communication (i.e. Sea of Thieves, SMITE), but even amongst some typically considered single-player games, the opportunity for using these as social experiences, as opposed to pure games, is still prevalent (i.e. watching a friend play Beat Saber VR, or streaming a single-player game online whilst friends tune in and chat).

Apple marketing director, Trystan Kosmynka says “Roblox is not a game, it is content because (as we all know) games have a beginning and an end…(with) challenges in place.” 

Whilst our gamers do not disagree with this statement fully, the concept of the ‘end’ of a game seems to pose a few challenges in itself.  When is the end of the League of Legends? If you play Elder Scrolls Oblivion, are you ever truly expected to complete everything that there is to do in that world?  So maybe the concept of a game is not as simple to define as portrayed in Kosmynka’s statement.

Moderated by Steven.

Today the 2021 Epic Games v Apple trial will be concluded…who is the winner is still up for debate, but what we do know is that the loyal fan base of Epic Games will continue playing video games.

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If you would like to talk to us about Gaming research please get in contact with one of our gaming experts, Steven, Ellen, or Phil.

Some articles we found interesting:

Arstechnica

The Guardian

Games Industry Biz

Apple Insider

The Verge

Games mentioned in our focus group:

Detroit: Become Human

League of Legends

Beat Saber

Hades

Apex Legends

Oblivion

Elite

Scavengers

Crash Bandicoot

Demon Souls

Life is Strange

Elite: Dangerous

Sea of Thieves

Smite

Just Dance

Overcooked

Moving Out

Telltale Games

Persona 5 Royal