The next battlefield for control of the App Store is … North Dakota. That’s where there’s a bill, currently going through the state’s senate, that would forbid digital storefronts, like Apple’s or Google’s stores, from distributing apps or forcing payments exclusively through their systems. And it should come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed the news over the past few months that Epic Games is one of the bill’s primary backers backers.
More specifically, the bill is sponsored by the “Coalition for App Fairness,” which claims that it “represents all innovators — from startups to small developers and indie studios to popular apps.” Its members include over 40 companies, including Epic Games, Spotify, ProtonMail, and Basecamp. Their stated goal is “to create a level playing field for app businesses and give people freedom of choice on their devices.”
If all of this sounds familiar, it should. Epic’s been making nearly the exact same claims regarding a “level playing field” and “fighting for the little guy” (to a ludicrous degree) since its spat with Apple and Google kicked off last year. This time, it’s actually got some more companies to sign onto its manifesto, to give the appearance that it actually isn’t just about making more money from Fortnite.
Make no mistake, though, that Epic is still leading the charge. The New York Times reported that the state senator who drafted the bill was “given the draft legislation by Lacee Bjork Anderson, a lobbyist … hired by Epic Games, the maker of the popular game Fortnite.”
Obviously, even if this bill passes, it would only affect digital storefronts operating in North Dakota. Epic is likely hoping that, if it does pass, the company will be able to introduce similar legislation in other states or even possibly take the case to a national level. Apple and Epic currently have a court date scheduled for May.
UPDATE: Gamasutra reports that the bill went to a vote today and failed, with 36 votes against versus just 11 in favor.