By Matt Slayter – PCC Education Program Manager
CURRENT EVENTS FOR BACK TO SCHOOL DISCUSSION
Epic Games, the creators of Fortnite, have waged an all-out war against Apple and what Epic claims are monopolistic business practices by the tech giant. This attack has had an immediate impact on how (and IF) iPhone users are able to play Fortnite, as well as far-reaching consequences for tech companies and e-commerce laws across the U.S.
As Fortnite’s millions of players return to school in physical and virtual classrooms all across the country, these simultaneous events present a perfect opportunity to leverage student interest, have engaging, meaningful conversations around topics such as media literacy and corporate ethics, and help introduce norms of discourse to get your school year off to a great start.
THE STORY THUS FAR
To get caught up on the truly unique legal battle, you can view an up-to-date summary of Epic’s high stakes gamble and the subsequent fallout here. Read our TL;DR summary below. Or, skip below to get straight to the classroom strategies!
- On Friday August 14th, Epic Games (worth $17.3 billion) updated their game, Fortnite. The update allowed users to make in-game purchases (such as new costumes for their character) that bypass Apple’s app store and the subsequent 30% cut that Apple takes from every purchase. According to Apple’s App Store policies, all app purchases and in-app purchases MUST go through Apple’s App Store. This move by Epic violates Apple’s App Store policies, and is largely seen as bait to put the following events into motion.
- Hours later, Apple (worth around $1 Trillion) took the bait and pulled Fortnite from the App Store citing policy violations. Those with the game already downloaded on their iPhones can continue to play, but new players cannot access the download from the App Store.
- Again, only moments after the game was pulled, Epic filed a prepared lawsuit against Apple citing illegal anti-competitive behavior. Epic argues that because of Apple, developers do not have any option that would avoid Apple’s 30% cut from digital purchases.
- Along with the lawsuit, Epic released a Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite, a video screened in game and widely available online, that parody’s Apple’s iconic 1984 commercial. In the video, they call Fortnite’s players to action with text that reads, “Epic Games has defied the App Store Monopoly. In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices. Join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming ‘1984’. #FreeFortnite”
- Fortnite is due to launch its latest update, Chapter 2, Season 4, on August 27th. This will update core components of the game. If Apple and Epic have not reached an agreement by this date, all iPhone users will be blocked from playing the game whatsoever.
- Apple has stated that on August 28th, it will pull Epic’s developer accounts from the App Store. This will have a detrimental impact on games made using Epic’s other major product: the Unreal Engine. This is a development tool used to create countless high-profile and independently published games, many of which are available on the App Store. Epic has filed a motion for injunction citing retaliation by Apple.
Whew. Exhausting. But fascinating, right? Two tech giants are currently at war with far-reaching ramifications for the rules and financial strategies for app developers nationwide, possibly leading to new standards for e-commerce.
LET’S TALK ABOUT THIS IN THE CLASSROOM
Even if students don’t play Fortnite, the public legal battle has varied elements and ripple effects that will spark the interests of many. Below are a few ways in which you can leverage the content for classroom discussion.
BEFORE DIVING IN: DISCUSSION NORMS
No matter whether your classroom is in-person or virtual, make sure students know your classroom’s norms for discourse. These are incredibly important to establish at the beginning of the year in order to foster a safe and comfortable environment, even if beliefs and points of view are challenged. Check out these expert tips below!
PRE-READING FOR STUDENTS
- Apple’s 1984 commercial, and an explanation of the context surrounding that iconic moment, including the commercial’s implied critique of IBM.
- Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite, a video produced by Epic parodying the iconic Apple 1984 commercial.
- For a more in-depth discussion, students can read the text of Epic’s Lawsuit. Of special interest is the type of language they use, particularly their appeal to emotions.
APPROACH 1: MEDIA LITERACY
One approach to the conversation could be about how we consume media, and how must be able to see past surface level attempts at advertising and communicating with their consumers.
- What are some similarities and differences between the two videos? What strategic callbacks and references did you notice?
- Do either of these videos appeal to you as a consumer? Why?
- What does the video specifically do to make you interested?
- Who is the video targeting, and why?
- What was Epic’s motive in releasing such a video?
- What does it mean that Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite was released mere hours after Fortnite was pulled from the App Store?
- What parts of the story are you still missing?
- Does the impact of the video change by being shown in-game?
- How old are Fortnite players? How might players of different ages interpret this message differently?
APPROACH 2: CORPORATE ETHICS
Buried underneath the virtual war front is a treasure trove of corporate ethics discussions on both Apple and Epic’s practices.
Additional Pre-Reading Materials:
- The Federal Trade Commission’s Guide To Antitrust Laws
- Children’s Products: An Overview of Advertising Laws and Regulations
- Opinion: Epic is Weaponizing Fortnite Fans Against Apple and Google
- Do you think Apple’s business practices are anti-trust or anti-competition? Why or why not?
- What impacts do you think Apple’s regulations have on App developers?
- How does this compare to Google’s regulations for Android phones, in which third party app stores are allowed?
- Who do you think Epic is appealing to with their lawsuit and video? Why did they target this audience?
- What do you think Epic is unfairly appealing to minors? Why or why not?
- What will be some of the far-reaching ramifications if Apple wins the lawsuit? What if Epic wins the lawsuit? How might this affect other businesses?
Healthy discussion is a vital part of any successful classroom, and incorporating student interest is a great way to build investment in the discussion itself, as well as the content and practices surrounding it. To all of our teacher friends, we hope this helps kick off an amazing school year, and we wish you luck in surmounting new and familiar obstacles.