Apple subpoenaed Valve Software in its legal battle against Epic Games seeking data regarding Steam sales

Apple is knee-deep in a legal battle with Epic Games right now. But it looks like Apple isn’t completely against involving other companies, either. Apple’s now got Valve Software (or Valve Corporation) involved in the mess, too.

As first reported today by PC Gamer, Apple actually subpoenaed Valve Software in November of 2020. The goal? To see a treasure trove of data related to Steam sales and operations going over the last several years. The reason Apple did this is to help build its case against Epic Games. That legal battle is about competitive practices, so Apple wanted to see data from one of Epic Games’ competitors, especially as it relates to digital storefronts.

The report says that Apple was looking for quite a bit of data, including Steam sales numbers, yearly sales, the money earned from in-app purchases, sales of external products, annual advertising revenue, and much more. The request actually goes further than that, too. Apple is seeking information related to the pricing of all the apps and in-app purchases made available in the Steam digital storefront. The company is also looking for Valve Software to specifically name every single app available on Steam.

The subpoena was seeking information on over 30,000 games available from the digital storefront.

Valve does not want to hand over that information, and has argued that it doesn’t plan to, either. It goes further, saying that the dispute between Apple and Epic Games started on mobile, and Valve doesn’t have a competing position in the mobile market. Valve argues the obvious, saying that it is “not Epic” and that Fortnite is not available on Steam, either.

The argument goes on:

Somehow, in a dispute over mobile apps, a maker of PC games that does not compete in the mobile market or sell ‘apps’ is being portrayed as a key figure. It’s not. The extensive and highly confidential information Apple demands about a subset of the PC games available on Steam does not show the size or parameters of the relevant market and would be massively burdensome to pull together. Apple’s demands for further production should be rejected.

It’s interesting, because Apple and Valve apparently met several times in order to talk about these things. However, Steam has adamantly denied Apple’s requests for information, and is now arguing that point against the subpoena as well.

One last thing: Valve notes that it doesn’t keep all the information Apple is seeking. Why? Because, in the normal day-to-day routine of business the company says it doesn’t need that information.

An interesting turn of events, to be sure. You can see the full timeline of events in the legal battle between Apple and Epic Games just below.

The timeline

August 13, 2020

  • Epic Games updates Fortnite on the server-side, bypassing the App Store review process. It adds a direct payment option, breaking another rule in the process.
  • Apple removes Fortnite from the App Store due to Epic Games breaking the App Store rules.
  • Epic Games launches a media blitz, and it also sues Apple for anti-competitive behavior.
  • Epic launches “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite”, a parody video of Apple’s original “1984” ad:

  • Google removes Fortnite from the Play Store, as Epic Games also violated the Play Store’s rules.
  • Epic sues Google, too.
  • Spotify weighs in! Unsurprisingly, it applauds Epic Games for its decision to stand up against Apple.

August 14, 2020

  • Facebook says Apple’s App Store fees make it impossible to help small businessesimpacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

August 17, 2020

  • Apple threatens to revoke Epic Games’ developer accounts for not only iOS, but also macOS. That cut-off is set to take place on Friday, August 28, 2020.

August 18, 2020

August 20, 2020

  • The Wall Street Journal and other news publications sign an open letter asking for Apple to reduce its App Store fees down to a standard 15%.

August 21, 2020

  • Epic Games promotes the #FreeFortnite Cup, or tournament, that is meant to bring even more attention against Apple, and is promoting “anti-Apple” prizes.
  • Epic sought special treatment for Fortnite before it declared war against Apple and the App Store’s guidelines.

August 24, 2020

  • Judge Gonzalez-Rogers rules that Apple does not need to reinstate Fortnite back into the App Store as the legal battle wages on. The judge also rules that Apple cannot revoke the Unreal Engine development tools, but it can still move forward with removing Epic’s developer account for iOS and macOS.
  • Apple says it agrees with the ruling made by Judge Gonzalez-Rogers, and is prepared to welcome Fortnite back onto iOS as soon as Epic Games is ready to follow the App Store guidelines.

August 26, 2020

  • Epic confirms that the new season of Fortnite, which is Marvel-themed, will not be available on iOS or Mac. Cross-platform functionality with those platforms is also removed.

August 28, 2020

September 8, 2020

September 9, 2020

  • Epic Games says Apple is going to disable the “Sign in with Apple” feature as soon as Friday, September 11.
  • Apple changes its mind regarding “Sign in with Apple”, allows existing customers to keep using it.

September 10, 2020

September 18, 2020

September 24, 2020

  • Epic Games, Spotify, Tile, and other companies create the “Coalition for App Fairness” to take on Apple’s and Google’s digital storefront policies.

September 28, 2020

October 7, 2020

  • Judge rules that the court battle between Apple and Epic Games will resume in May 2021.

November 5, 2020

  • Fortnite returns to iOS thanks to GeForce Now game streaming service, and only available via Safari.

December 17, 2020

  • Judge orders both Tim Cook and Craig Federighi to testify in the legal battle between Apple and Epic Games.

December 21, 2020

January 14, 2021

February 1, 2021

  • Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, is ordered to sit through a 7-hour deposition

February 10, 2021