Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney on Tuesday said that a single universal app store is a potential solution toward breaking the dominance Apple, Google and other tech titans have over software distribution, according to a report from Bloomberg.
"What the world really needs now is a single store that works with all platforms," Sweeney told Bloomberg in an interview in Seoul. "Right now software ownership is fragmented between the iOS App Store, the Android Google Play marketplace, different stores on Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch, and then Microsoft Store and the Mac App Store."
Sweeney said Epic, with its PC game store and other software distribution efforts, is trying to create a single platform where customers can "buy software in one place, knowing that they'd have it on all devices and all platforms." Epic remains locked in legal battles with Apple and Google over the removal of Fortnite from the App Store and Google Play last year.
Sweeney's comments came just after his participation in the Global Conference for Mobile Application Ecosystem Fairness in South Korea, which passed a landmark app store bill in August requiring software marketplaces to allow for alternative in-app payment options that would bypass fees like the App Store's 30% cut. Both Apple and Google lobbied heavily against the legislation, and both have to various degrees fought compliance with it. While Google has proposed charging developers a lower fee to use alternative payment systems, Apple has effectively said it does not need to comply with the law.
"Apple locks a billion users into one store and payment processor," Sweeney said. "Now Apple complies with oppressive foreign laws, which surveil users and deprive them of political rights. But Apple is ignoring laws passed by Korea's democracy. Apple must be stopped."
Google in a statement defended its decision to keep high fees in place. The commission "has never been simply for payment processing," Google spokesman Dan Jackson told Bloomberg. "It's how we provide Android and Google Play for free and invest in the many distribution, development, and security services that support developers and consumers in South Korea and around the world."
Earlier this month, Google outlined a proposal saying app developers distributing software in South Korea could pay around 26% instead of 30%, while certain content categories such as e-books could be eligible for fees as low as 6%. Google said around 97% of Android developers don't sell digital content and are not subject to the commission, while those that do sell digital content are eligible for a reduced commission of 15% if they make less than $1 million per year in revenue. (Game developers like Epic make up the bulk of revenue on Apple and Google's app stores, and the biggest games are making billions per year.)
Apple, on the other hand, does not seem intent on complying at all despite an October deadline for proposing compliance plans. "Frankly, we are not satisfied... Apple's claim that it's already complying is nonsensical," said South Korean lawmaker Jo Seoung-lae, who was instrumental in passing the amendment requiring alternative payment systems, according to Reuters. "Excessive fees take away developers' chances for innovation... Parliament is to be closely informed as the government drafts detailed regulations to make sure there is accountability."