Considering that Apple’s attempted blockage of the Unreal Engine as a whole because Epic wanted more money from their in-app purchases for a single game did seem a bit extreme, one might wonder how much this would actually impact the likes of Apple if it did go through. To take this into consideration, I looked into how many games on average actually do get a port on any Apple platform, knowing that Unreal Engine doesn’t seem to be a popular choice for mobile, alongside not many games tending to get MacOS versions alongside Windows ones. Since it’s difficult to gather a fully comprehensive list, given the vast number of indie stuff that’s probably not being tracked by anybody, I decided to grab a list from Wikipedia about “notable” games using the Unreal Engine, narrowing it down to those initially released between 2014 to 2019 also using Unreal Engine 4 specifically, also attempting to trim out any games that didn’t actually release and any that didn’t have a version on any kind of PC or mobile platform. The complete integrity of this data may be in question, but it seems to paint a picture regardless.
On the list, there are a select few mobile-exclusive games, which is why Windows isn’t at 100% of this count, but the gap between Windows and MacOS is far wider than the one between Android and iOS. Going purely by platform coverage, if Unreal was banned from Apple development, Android would have a much bigger advantage over iOS for the number of games that do use the engine, but games in this list released on MacOS as well as Windows are only just over 14% of the Windows total number.
For whatever reason, Rocket League wasn’t on this likely somewhat outdated list, but I know that uses Unreal, and it did have formerly working versions for both MacOS and Linux. They claimed not enough players used those platforms for it to matter anymore before dropping them. It seems to be more of a feedback loop, that is the lack of support for platforms outside of Windows on PC means those wanting to play games will likely pick Windows over MacOS or Linux, which keeps the gaming userbase for those platforms smaller and unappealing to most publishers that will continue to only stick with Windows.
Personally I would like to see more of a push for Linux gaming, given the possibly strange directions Windows and MacOS could go soon enough, making things somehow more user unfriendly than Linux is by default. The difference is that the case for difficulty would be what the company wants you to do versus a lot of technical know-how. The average user on the most up-to-date version of Windows or MacOS already has to deal with the workaround to run programs that aren’t officially “signed” by whatever authority. Intended as a safety mechanism, it’s one that’s ineffective if it has to be bypassed to run legitimate software almost all of the time, for at least the first time, meaning developed habits render the protection layer obsolete on the chance that the program actually does contain a virus. While it’s likely just trying to emulate the Linux executable flag system, it does also open up the possibility for vendor lock-in if the system is made more difficult to bypass by the user, depending on how much the major platforms want to risk yet another antitrust lawsuit.
Considering iOS, it is certainly a closed system if it requires hacking to sideload anything, and I would like to see more ability to create iOS apps without requiring Apple hardware to do so, or be able to install them without having to hack or use Apple’s store. Given the number of apps installed through the Google Play Store for Android devices, Apple wouldn’t be missing out on much given that most apps would still go through the App Store for sake of exposure, but they’d possibly lose that “pristine” look they want to maintain by having control over everything.
Still, even if iOS is a closed system, Epic did intentionally violate terms of service in order to bypass transaction fees, which are supposedly used to maintain the infrastructure of the store anyway, and they knew the type of fight they wanted to fight. It is definitely not a noble cause to fight to get more money from microtransactions, and Epic’s own case seems flimsy due to that being the core reason for everything. However, when a whole service is blocked due to the nature of the platform’s terms, while functionally similar services are allowed through, that is antitrust, and there are fully legitimate cases against Apple.
Comparing Microsoft’s xCloud versus the likes of Netflix, where both are streaming services, one is more game-focused and somehow falls under more restrictions. Netflix still functions on iOS while collecting subscription fees elsewhere, while xCloud isn’t going to be allowed at all. In this case, it’s the consideration that a service is accessible in places other than iOS, and therefore subscriptions could be collected outside of iOS. Plus, Apple claims that somehow every single game on xCloud would need to be submitted for certification separately, something that’s definitely not happening with each program on Netflix, including any interactive ones. This would be a case of special treatment, where Netflix even has a grandfather clause for anyone who was previously subscribed through the App Store to continue doing so.
When it comes to special treatments and exceptions, the legitimacy of the fight extends to whether such an exception is accepted and the lawsuits drop soon after. I would imagine Epic would consider a special treatment, seeing as they apparently did try for one, though unlikely one where they get 100% of the money would come up. Maybe they’d accept 88% as they tend to throw that argument around for everything else. I wouldn’t say that Microsoft wouldn’t take one either, but it still remains to be seen. iOS development is just that much more difficult due to all the requirements, as Apple wants to claim to have standards over the bootleg and virus-filled Google Play Store by comparison, but there are still definitely bootlegs around on iOS.