Sunday, September 19, 2021

Apple demands sales data for hundreds of Steam games as part of its legal battle with Epic

What just happened? Apple is still locked in a heated legal battle with Epic Games regarding the former’s App Store fees and alleged monopolistic business practices, but now, Apple is dragging a third party into the fray. According to a new legal filing, Apple wants Valve to provide it with comprehensive sales data on 436 Steam games.

The request is a rather bizarre one. Apple seems to be implying that, because Epic could theoretically publish its games on Steam, it should have access to non-public sales data on hundreds of third-party games for use in its legal battle.

Valve, for its part, completely disagrees with Apple’s opinion. In its “position” statement, Valve refuses to produce the documents Apple requests (or, at least, most of them) and provides paragraph after paragraph of reasons why.

One of Valve’s more amusing refutations follows below:

Apple claims the information it demands is uniquely obtainable from Valve, yet much of what Apple seeks is sales and pricing information for third party games. That information belongs to the third party developers of those games, not Valve. But instead of seeking it from those developers—and being required to establish substantial need to obtain their information—Apple takes a shortcut by subpoenaing Valve.

In other words, Valve is accusing Apple of being lazy, but in the most polite and legally-justifiable way it can.

On a more serious note, Valve says the amount of effort that would be required to produce the documents Apple requests would be “overwhelming.” For every single product (and product variant) the phonemaker wants information on, Valve would need to access multiple databases to collect and collate sales data. Since Valve does not create or keep this information as part of its “ordinary course of business,” the company argues that it’s an overly-burdensome request.

Valve is a private company, and as such, is not subject to the same investor-focused regulatory filing requirements that a public firm would be. It’s not too hard to believe that it doesn’t normally retain the documents Apple requests; at least, not in an easily-accessible format.

While we’re not taking a specific side here, it does seem like Apple’s demands are a bit much, particularly if you consider the fact that Valve has nothing to do with Apple or the iOS app market.

All we can do now is wait and see how the court feels about the situation. Whatever happens, we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop, so stay tuned.

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