Apple would like Valve to hand over lots of information about how much money they make. Valve would prefer not. This is my two sentence summary of a joint discovery letter filed yesterday, as part of Apple’s ongoing legal skirmish with Epic Games over Fortnite and Apple app store fees.
What do Valve have to do with that fight between Apple and Epic? Not much, say Valve.
Epic and Apple have been preparing to battle each other in court since last August, when Epic added a payment method to Fortnite on iOS that bypassed Apple’s normal 30% cut of all sales on their service. Apple immediately removed Fortnite from the app store; Epic immediately released an ironic animated short and filed suit; and the two companies have been gearing up for court and sniping at one another ever since.
As part of those preparations, Apple would like Valve to share information about their business. Apple are aiming to demonstrate “the total size of the market for Epic’s available digital distribution channels,” and argues that data for Steam – as a digital distribution channel for games like Fortnite (but not Fortnite) – is essential in that quest. The discovery letter says that Apple and Valve have spoken over the phone a number of times and that Valve have been helpful, but there are two specific requests that Valve are refusing to answer. These are Request 2 and Request 32.
Request 2, Apple argues, “is very narrow.” Specifically, it states that Apple want Valve to provide “(a) total yearly sales of apps and in-app products; (b) annual advertising revenues from Steam; (c) annual sales of external products attributable to Steam; (d) annual revenues from Steam; and (e) annual earnings (whether gross or net) from Steam.”
Request 32 asks for documents “sufficient to show: (a) the name of each App on Steam; (b) the date range when the App was available on Steam; and (c) the price of the App and any in-app product available on Steam.”
“Valve has chosen to stay private in part to avoid the burden of the public company disclosure”
Valve, for their part, say that “Apple’s demands would impose an extraordinary burden on Valve to query, process and combine a massive amount of to create the documents Apple seeks — materials that Valve does not create or keep in the ordinary course of business — and with little or no value, as Valve does not compete in the mobile app market at issue.”
Apple apparently initially wanted information on “all 30,000+ games on Steam over ten years,” but reduced that to “436 games over six years,” but Valve argue that this merely “makes an impossible task slightly less impossible.”
There is another dispute over the “Volume 5 production”, the contents of which were provided by Valve to Apple in a partially redacted form. Apple want it unredacted and argue that if “competitive sensitivity is the real issue” in not providing an unredacted version, then the court’s “protective order” concerning materials supplied for the case should already take care of that.
Valve do say that competition is part of their concern. “Valve has chosen to stay private in part to avoid the burden of the public company disclosure and reporting requirements that companies like Samsung or Google are subject to. Valve does not disclose its sales and revenue information and projections, and Valve derives a significant value and edge from the confidentiality of such information, including by keeping it out of the hands of companies like Epic who also sell PC games.”
The case between Apple and Epic is expected to go to trial this summer.