Welcome to another week of Get Your Game On! In this month’s variety hour, we’re taking a comprehensive look at the Epic vs. Apple/Google legal situation, witnessing Twitch doing… what Twitch does, and getting frustrated with people forgetting MMOs (and all their associated baggage) have existed for decades. Also some other stuff!
Note that the section about the Metaverse and MMOs discusses sexual assault.
Epic Win!!!!!1 Against Google (sorry)
On December 11, a California federal jury unanimously voted that Google’s Play Store monopolizes digital purchases on Android devices by forcing all transactions through Google’s own Play Store payment processor. Epic sued Google after the search engine giant delisted Fortnite for allowing players to buy in-game currency directly from Epic—bypassing the Play Store payment processing. As of this writing, it has not yet been announced exactly what changes Google will have to make to the Play Store and/or what fines they will be required to pay. Google has stated that they plan to appeal the California court’s decision.
Victory over Google! After 4 weeks of detailed court testimony, the California jury found against the Google Play monopoly on all counts. The Court’s work on remedies will start in January. Thanks for everyone’s support and faith! Free Fortnite! https://t.co/ITm4YBHCus
— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) December 12, 2023
The Epic vs. Google verdict is counter to a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals verdict in the Epic vs. Apple case. Epic lost that battle: the 9th Circuit judges determined that requiring users to download all apps via the App Store does not constitute a monopoly (or monopolistic policy), but that Apple will need to adjust App Store policy to allow apps to link out to third-party microtransaction processing. Apple has since asked the US Supreme Court to review the decision, hoping to get the policy change order thrown out.
Eagle-eyed readers—or anyone who’s ever held an iPhone—may notice that these verdicts seem bizarrely reversed: Android phones are famously much more friendly to third party apps and general customizability than the black box, iron-clad lockdown of iPhones. The key to the difference may lie in the structure of each court case: Epic vs. Google was decided by a jury (a practice Google tried to bypass), but Epic vs. Apple was decided by a judge. I will let the reader determine what that says about our legal system (hint: it’s not great).
In other Google suit news, Google has agreed to pay $700 million in fees and allow “greater competition” in the Play app. This arrangement is a settlement in a suit by the state of Utah against Google; Utah was joined by all 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Fascinatingly, the settlement itself was reached in September, but the terms—the fee and the changes to the store—were kept confidential until the Epic vs. Google decision was reached.
Nudity Is Allowed on Twitch but Only Sometimes, Maybe?
On December 14th, Twitch announced that fully exposed tits and ass (and genitals!) would be allowed on the platform as long as the streams were labeled with the correct Content Classification Labels. Two days later, they bailed; then, on January 3rd, Twitch executed an additional confusing little pirouette in its nudity-or-not dance: Twitch now claims that cleavage is “unrestricted,” but underboob (or “underbust“) is not. Nor is ass, or bulge, et cetera.
Twitch’s policies regarding nudity have always been confusing, but the one-two step of allowing and then disallowing content adds an additional level of precarity for streamers, particularly those for whom Twitch constitutes a large part of their income. A stream that was legal one day may become illegal the next, jeopardizing VODs or Partnership status. This added precarity can be particularly harmful for sex workers, who already work in a tremendously uncertain and frequently unprotected landscape.
The Metaverse: New Name, Same Shit
Content warning for sexual assault.
In horrifying and unpleasant news, UK police have begun the “first ever investigation into sexual assault in the metaverse.” The offenders allegedly approached a teenage girl in VR, touching her avatar with theirs. According to PC Gamer, police spokespeople have emphasized the criminality of the act, as well as the trauma experienced by the teen.
There are aspects of this story that are novel: the presence of VR adds fresh horror to the experience, and the involvement of the police—and the appearance that the police are at least pretending to take it seriously—is brand new for video game sexual offenses. Unfortunately, the case of virtual sexual assault is hardly a new one. I grew up on the internet, and while I was lucky enough to have the very specific kind of social anxiety that kept me from posting, my friends did not, and I witnessed shockingly unpleasant and abusive relationships borne out entirely through text on Gaia Online. Add the real-time social features of World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV, mix in a Skype chat or Discord server, and you get an environment ripe for very real abuses. The fact that institutions are only now taking digital assault seriously—now that it’s attached to Facebook or whatever, and not just orcs in armor—is frustrating and upsetting, and the fact that Conservative politicians are the ones with the talking points bodes poorly for equal protection across users moving forward.
In other metaverse news, they’re making one based on Ready Player One. How will this be different than any other sci-fi MMO? I couldn’t tell you.
In other news…
Original City of Heroes developer NCSoft did the unthinkable and gave the fans who are keeping the discontinued MMORPG alive a license to continue doing just that.
FFXIV has had an action-packed month: they released the Dawntrail trailer, celebrated over 30 million adventurers, and dropped the final designs for the female Hrothgar. Who needs the Meta metaverse when you can play as a buff catgirl or a twinky bunnyboy?
They're (nearly) here!
— FINAL FANTASY XIV (@FF_XIV_EN) January 7, 2024
I don’t know what The Crew is, and now I never will: The Crew has been removed from sale and will become unplayable April 1.
I don’t know who this guy is… and now I never will: MatPat Announces Retirement From YouTube. Hey, am I old?
Kojima’s dream of making a movie is finally coming true, and of course it’s with A24.
@everywhereno on TikTok is trying to make the worst video game of all time, and I salute them. Also, if you love this horrible idea, might I suggest listening to “The Most Unwanted Song“? It’s very good, and by good, I mean captivatingly unpleasant.
A kid beat Tetris. No, I mean like beat Tetris—induced a kill screen at level 157, a feat previously only accomplished by tool-assisted play. Let nothing stand in the way of a 13-year-old with fleet fingers and a need for a distraction.
AGDQ is happening right now, this year supporting the Prevent Cancer Foundation.
And, finally: there was no Waluigi in 2023. Maybe next year, bud.
Zora Gilbert cares a whole lot about words, kids, and comics. Find them at @zhgilbert on twitter, and find the comics they edit at datesanthology.com.