Every now and then, we, the unwashed masses, are treated to a showdown between a bully, and an underdog. These David and Goliath match-ups are raw, invigorating, and inspiring–nothing short of biblical, really–they play into the notion that an individual can rise up and topple the regime, that someone can shatter the status quo and disrupt the paradigm. Fortnite versus Apple is not one of these showdowns.
Between the ongoing pandemic, impending US election, and widespread racial tension, 2020 has been an interesting year to say the least. With everything going on, standing up for a corporation should rank near the bottom on your list of “things worthwhile enough to warrant my interaction”. But since Epic Games has gone out of its way to convince you that they need your support, I’m taking it upon myself to convince you, gentle reader, that they don’t deserve it.
Cash is King
I really want to drive this point home, because it’s important you understand the financial strata that these companies occupy. In 2018, Epic Games committed to giving away 100 million dollars in Fortnite prize money. In 2019, Apple had a confirmed revenue of 260 billion dollars (that’s more than the GDP of Greece). Regardless of any other rhetoric that might get subsequently explored or commented on you can be sure all of this is just about the money. It’s not about “defying a monopoly” and it’s not about steering gaming away from some kind of Orwellian dystopia, it’s just about the money.
This was the title of last week’s stream: 17 uninterrupted hours of corporate propaganda. Credit due, Epic Games has crafted a poignant redux of Apple’s own decades’ old advert. A lone worm wriggling out of a talking apple that is seen commanding an audience of default skins from on high–it’s clever, but not that clever. 1984 (the novel) is about nationalism and surveillance; Epic Games is about charging you for other people’s dance moves and corporate sponsored collaborations.
A History of “Heroics”
Epic Games’ rhetoric generally hinges on you seeing them as the good guys–standing up against the unbridled greed of Apple and “big tech” (a category which I think we can comfortably place Epic within).
Over the years Epic Games and CEO Tim Sweeney have been conspicuously vocal when it comes to digital storefronts and software monopolies. When they entered into a mud flinging fight with Steam last year, Epic started haphazardly forking out lots of cash to acquire a slew of exclusives for their storefront while criticizing the competition’s lack of oversight with regard to their monopoly. During this time, many were labelling the Epic Games Store as ‘Chinese spyware’ (a claim likely brought on due to the fact that Epic Games is owned in part by Tencent). Before that, back in 2016, Sweeney claimed that Windows 10 would push updates with the goal of making Steam worse over time. It could be that Sweeney and Epic Games are just really, really, really, really cool dudes–and they just want the best for all us proles. I, however, think it’s far more likely that this is just about clawing as much money into their coffers as virtually possible.
What Should We Take Away From This?
Certainly not a sense of obligation in support of either of these corporations that are arguing about sums of money that you’re never likely to see even after working a lifetime. I guess one thing worth thinking about might be that Twitch allowed 17 uninterrupted hours of corporate propaganda to play on their platform. Or maybe why Epic Games, a company that hates monopolies, seems kinda sorta hellbent on becoming one.
Image Source: Fortnite via Too Far Gone