Apple has ‘salted the Earth with subpoenas,’ says judge, but orders Valve to hand over Steam data anyway

Apple has 'salted the Earth with subpoenas,' says judge, but orders Valve to hand over Steam data anyway

According to the California judge overseeing Apple’s attempts to drag Valve into an ongoing beef with Epic Games, Apple has “salted the Earth with subpoenas, so don’t worry, it’s not just you.” Regardless, Thomas Hixon went on to issue a discovery order (spotted by iMore) that requires Valve to produce certain Steam information demanded by Apple, something that Valve has been doing its best to resist.

Here’s a primer on the basic arguments from both sides, but the short version is that Apple subpoenaed Valve because, it says, certain Steam information will be crucial to building its case against Epic, which is all about competitive practices. Valve says the case between Apple and Epic is all about mobile, Apple is using this as a fishing expedition to obtain a bunch of third party data, and it has already shared limited information which it believes should be enough for Apple’s cause.

Apple’s lawyers, needless to say, disagreed. In the latest hearing it countered Valve’s arguments and in the course of doing so made it explicit exactly why it’s seeking to drag the company into the case against Epic. Apple’s subpoena, according to judge Hixon’s discovery order, “seeks information relevant to the effects of competition. Recall that in these related cases, Plaintiffs allege that Apple’s 30% commission on sales through its App Store is anti-competitive and that allowing iOS apps to be sold through other stores would force Apple to reduce its commission to a more competitive level. Well, Steam is one of the largest video game stores for PCs, and it too charges a 30% commission.”

(Image credit: Epic games.)

Hopefully you can see where this argument is heading: Apple is going to try and show that the emergence of the Epic Games Store did not affect the commission that Valve charges on Steam. This is because the central pillar of Epic’s argument is about “monopolistic practices” and that Apple, in removing Fortnite, is looking to stifle competition. Epic is also the one that compared mobile iOS to the more open environment on Macs. But if the Epic Games Store did not make Valve lower its commission, that argument looks a lot shakier.

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