Apple V Epic Trial May Hinge On Roblox's Definition Of "Games"

Apple's review policies toward games differ from other types of media, and now Roblox is at the center of it.


The ongoing Epic v Apple trial has been delving into minutiae and parsing fine legal details, but one major industry player could have a big impact: Roblox. The game has morphed into a platform that hosts lots of different user-created applications, but whether those count as "games" or "experiences" could make a huge impact on the case.

Ars Technica reports that Apple senior director of marketing Trystan Kosmynka argued that Roblox's many applications do not qualify as games, because at least some of them don't have challenges to overcome, or a particular end-point.

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This is somewhat at odds with a 2017 email presented at the trial, in which Kosmynka said he was "surprised [Roblox] was approved" and inquired if it fits within Apple's company guidelines. Roblox had been rejected in 2014 due to "streaming games which we don't like, since these games don't come into review." But then in 2015, it was approved by the executive review board, which carries the final say.

That distinction is important. Apple exercises stricter controls on game approvals and has even blocked streaming apps like Microsoft's xCloud based on being unable to review each individual game offered through the service. (It later came to iOS via a browser app.) But it is more permissive of apps that stream other content, like Roblox does on iOS.

To that end, Roblox has shifted all of its verbiage that used to read "Games" to now read "Discover." An official spokesperson told The Verge that calling its applications "experiences" is more consistent with its current approach.

"The term 'experiences' is consistent with how we've evolved our terminology to reflect our realization of the metaverse," the spokesperson said. "Roblox is an online community where people do things together in virtual worlds, and over the years, we began referring to these worlds as experiences, as they better represent the wide range of 3D immersive places--from obbys to virtual concerts – that people can enjoy together with their friends."

If the judge in the Epic v Apple trial doesn't find this distinction convincing, she could rule that Apple needs to apply more consistent review policies, which then in turn could advantage Epic. Epic has argued that Apple treats games like Fortnite fundamentally different from other services like Netflix, which allow you to subscribe and stream content without giving a cut to Apple. Essentially it's arguing that this is a distinction without a difference, and that it should also be able to accept direct payments or set up its own competing app store.

Roblox Corp., the company built to support the massively successful game (or depending on who you ask, experience), recently went public with a direct listing. This came just after it shared impressive profit numbers.

The Epic v Apple suit has had lots of other revelations, including Fortnite's earnings and a treasure trove of leaks from third parties. For more details, check out our regularly updated rundown of everything we've learned in the Epic v Apple suit.

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