The anti-trust battle between Epic and Apple is still raging on, and Half-Life developer Valve is inadvertently required to get involved in it following a subpoena from Apple and an order to provide Steam-related data.
As reported by PC Gamer, Valve is required to provide years of Steam-related data – stretching back to due to 2015 – with Apple claiming that certain information would play a crucial part in building its case against Epic. Apple first subpoenaed Valve in November 2020, with a joint discovery letter being filed on February 18 following Valve’s resistance.
The summarized version of Valve’s arguments, in the words of the letter, is “that the requested information is irrelevant, that collecting it is burdensome, and that Apple has not shown a substantial need for this information”. However, the letter also said that the information sought by Apple seeks “relevant and proportional”. Valve is currently required to provide data on 436 games, with Wall Street Journal reporting that Apple had previously sought data from more than 30,000 games.
One of Valve’s arguments against providing the information was that it is not a participant in the mobile market and thus does not have relevant information, but the letter said that Apple is entitled “to take discovery to support its arguments in favor of a broad market definition”. Another argument said that Apple was taking a shortcut in obtaining sales and pricing information for third-party games by subpoenaing Valve, but the Court disagreed by saying that having Apple subpoena each individual developer would be an “undue burden”. It claimed that Valve had not shown that the sales and pricing information were confidential, and that the protective order is enough to protect the information.
Valve had also redacted sales and revenue information, arguing that as a private company, it “derives significant value and edge from the confidentiality of its information”. However, the letter stated that Valve’s “decision to stay private means that it avoids the public company disclosure and reporting requirements, but it does not immunize the company from discovery”.
According to a paywalled report from Law360 (via MacRumors), Judge Thomas Hixon, who issued the letter, noted that Apple had "salted the Earth with subpoenas” and told Valve, “So don't worry, it's not just you.”
The Epic vs Apple saga began in late 2020 due to Epic challenging Apple’s monopoly on the iOS app market and its 30% cut, resulting in Fortnite’s removal from iOS and the formation of an anti-Apple coalition of companies. In the PC gaming market, Steam itself charges a 30% commission while Epic charges a lower commission on its Epic Games Store, and one of the reasons behind Apple’s action against Valve is to “take discovery into whether the availability of other stores does in fact affect commissions in the way Plaintiffs allege”.