Apple’s App Store Antitrust Questions Could Be Applied To Other Gaming & Tech Companies, Analyst Says

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks via video conference during the House Judiciary Subcommittee
Graeme Jennings / Getty Images

Questions lawmakers made about Apple’s App Store on Wednesday could just as easily have applied to several other gaming and tech companies around the world. One firm, in particular, that should be sweating is Steam, according to Engadget‘s Jessica Conditt.

The inquiries about Apple’s practices were posed during a congressional investigation into some of the biggest technology companies in the world. Lawmakers described problems they had with the App Store and by extension, Android’s Google Play store.

Speaking with Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, members of the House Judiciary Committee relayed stories about both megacorporations using their online stores to block competition, while taking massive cuts of developers’ revenue. They were reportedly accused of acting as though they were monopolies over the last decade.

Conditt said everything members of the committee pointed to as problematic could also be applied to Steam. Owned by Valve, the PC gaming hub is the biggest and arguably most well known and most used hub in the entire world.

She added the $4 billion valuation of the platform is likely one of the reasons Google and Apple came up with their own storefronts. They wanted in on a piece of that pie, only for mobile devices.

Valve’s creation launched five years before Apple released its offering in 2003. Certain features, such as a pipeline for software fixes built directly into the client for its own products, appear to be a model for the mobile platforms.

Tim Cook testifies about Apple in front of Congress
  Graeme Jennings / Getty Images

Two years after it was first created, it began hosting third party games and software in 2005. By 2007, Steam had more than 13 million player accounts and over 150 titles on offer.

In 2019, more than a billion users were registered and there were thousands of pieces of software on offer. There is not a platform that can compete these days and there are few that are even trying, according to Conditt.

Like Apple, a 70/30 revenue split has been part of Valve’s service since the very beginning. When the mobile storefronts launched a decade ago, reportedly no one complained about their revenue splits and they remain almost exactly the same in 2020.

In recent years, there have been some companies that have launched their own gaming hubs. Epic Games might be the closest thing to a rival, but its catalog is dozens, rather than thousands, of titles.

Other services might have their own stores, but they still sell keys that will work on the bigger, more established site. The analyst believes the dominance of the market in the video game sector could draw attention from the people who were skeptical of Apple’s answers on Wednesday, in a very short period of time.