Apple Inc. seeking Valve’s data about game sales could set a precedent: Court needs data to address iOS commission in EPIC Games lawsuit

Apple Inc Valve Steam
Apple Inc. tapping into Valve’s Steam game sales data to prove a point against EPIC Games. Pic credit: StockSnap/Pixabay

Apple Inc. has successfully subpoenaed Valve for its game sale data. A California magistrate judge has effectively ordered Valve to hand over financial data on hundreds of games sold through Steam.

Valve will now hand over yearly sales and pricing data on 436 games. The data pertains to games that Valve offers on both its PC game distribution platform, Steam, and the EPIC Games Store.

Why is a California magistrate judge asking Valve to hand over its sales data as part of the Apple vs. Epic Games antitrust case?

During an ongoing dispute with Fortnite developer Epic Games, Apple has successfully argued that its policies pertaining to earning commission from every game listed on Apple App Store are correct.

EPIC Games has argued that if it is allowed to have its own store on iOS for iPhones, then prices for apps will decrease. Apple Inc. is arguing when EPIC Games created an App Store for PCs, the price of apps on PCs did not decrease.

Apple Inc. has successfully argued it needs additional information from third-party platforms on what happened to prices and sales on PCs. Needless to add, Valve, and its platform Steam is one of the most prominent and popular PC game distribution platforms.

The court has had to weigh the burden it will impose on the third party as compared to the relevance and necessity of the case. In this case, the judge decided that what Apple asked for made sense.

According to the report on the issue, Judge Hixson told Valve’s lawyers during a virtual hearing yesterday: “It’s my understanding, for lack of a better word, Apple has salted the earth with subpoenas, so don’t worry, it’s not just you.”

Incidentally, the same court has also asked Samsung to hand over sales data on its Galaxy app store as part of the ongoing dispute. Needless to add, Apple Inc. has successfully forced multiple companies to reveal confidential data about app sales and commission.

Is Apple Inc. trying to set a precedent while defending its 30 percent commission?

Apple clearly wants to prove that Value too never changed its commission and that games did not get cheaper when EPIC Games opened up its own virtual storefront. The iPhone maker might be able to also prove how EPIC may have harmed Steam customers by pulling a game into an exclusive deal. EPIC Games has pulled the game Anno 1800 into an exclusive deal even when the title had millions of pre-orders from Steam subscribers.

Incidentally, Valve has to shell out data from 2017 to the present. Apple Inc. had set sights on data from 2015. In other words, instead of data on all 30,000 games on the Steam store, Valve has to provide information on 436 games.

At the heart of the subpoena is the heated battle between EPIC Games and Apple Inc. The Fortnite maker has claimed that Apple Inc. locks developers into its ecosystem, and forces them to pay a “30 percent tax” for in-app purchases. Apple is out to prove that the ‌App Store‌ as a distribution platform for software is no different than others.

It is certainly concerning to see a third party with no connection to the case will now have to provide sensitive and confidential data. However, neither EPIC Games nor Apple Inc. should actually see the data.

According to the existing law, there should be a protective order in place. This means only an outside counsel will be able to see the data and offer an opinion.

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