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Japanese FTC to Increase Scrutiny of App Store Regarding Complaints From Game Developers

Takashi Mochizuki, reporting for Bloomberg:*

Japan’s antitrust regulator said it will step up attention to the iPhone maker’s practices in the wake of the high-stakes legal clash. And in rare cases, prominent executives are beginning to speak out after staying silent out of fear of reprisal.

“I want from the bottom of my heart Epic to win,” Hironao Kunimitsu, founder and chairman of Tokyo-based mobile game maker Gumi Inc., wrote on his Facebook page. […]

Epic, though, is in it for the money. These Japanese developers aren’t upset about the 70/30 split — they just want good developer relations support from Apple, and for the App Store rules to be predictable and consistent:

The Japanese games industry is familiar with the 30% revenue share, since it originated with Nintendo Co. console cartridges back in the 1980s. Most developers don’t mind it, but they want to see better service, especially from Apple.

Developers complain that titles waiting for App Store review sometimes take weeks to be cleared. One local games studio said it gave up hosting seasonal in-game events, which can be a big revenue accelerator, because Apple didn’t respond to their update review request for more than a month.

“While Apple will never admit it, I think there are times when they simply forget an item’s in the review queue or they intentionally keep it untouched as a sanction to a developer giving them the wrong attitude,” said Shoji. […]

Japanese firms also say the company flip flops at times on its interpretation of appropriate content and changes policies without advanced notice. Several game studios reported having characters that were approved on the interpretation they were dressed in swimsuits, then later rejected on the judgment that they were in underwear and thus sexualized. One developer who had implemented an in-game system that Apple approved, later saw the same code rejected by the App Store operator in a subsequent game.

It’s not even about putting the 70/30 split aside — the issues are related. For a 30 percent cut of all revenue passing through the App Store, and mandatory use of Apple’s payment processing, none of these complaints should exist. It’s perfectly reasonable to demand better service from a platform that charges high fees.

What I read here is that these Japanese developers expect to feel respected by Apple, and they don’t.

* Bloomberg, of course, is the publication that published “The Big Hack” in October 2018 — a sensational story alleging that data centers of Apple, Amazon, and dozens of other companies were compromised by China’s intelligence services. The story presented no confirmable evidence at all, was vehemently denied by all companies involved, has not been confirmed by a single other publication (despite much effort to do so), and has been largely discredited by one of Bloomberg’s own sources. By all appearances “The Big Hack” was complete bullshit. Yet Bloomberg has issued no correction or retraction, and seemingly hopes we’ll all just forget about it. I say we do not just forget about it. Bloomberg’s institutional credibility is severely damaged, and everything they publish should be treated with skepticism until they retract the story or provide evidence that it was true.

Friday, 4 September 2020