Valve Politely Asks To Be Left Alone After Apple Subpoena

The Steam developer claims Apple is putting undue burden on a non-party in legal battle with Epic.

It’s been about six months since Epic Games and Apple began their legal dispute about Apple taking a cut of in-game purchases on iOS devices after Fortnite was pulled from the storefront. Since then, Apple has revoked Epic Games’ access to iOS development tools. Epic also hosted has hosted an in-game #FreeFortnite event, because it’s impossible to weaponize your younger audience if you don’t make your legal battles directly affect their everyday life. Oh, and there was a point where Epic Games founder and weird room haver Tim Sweeney compared the whole thing to civil rights movements. But it turns out, in the midst of all this, Apple subpoenaed Steam developer Valve back in November in an attempt to make a case against Epic.

News of this came from a joint discovery letter filed to the District court in Northern California, which summarizes the back and forth between Apple and Valve, which paints a picture of a company wholly uninterested in getting into Epic and Apple’s public divorce. [Thanks PC Gamer]

Apple argued via law firm McDermott, Will and Lowery that, as a direct competitor of the Epic Games Store, Valve would have access to information relevant to the digital distribution of games on PC. From the looks of it, the information Valve supplied was inefficient in Apple’s eyes. Much of it was redacted, but Valve had already told Apple the confidential nature of the information requested meant it’d be getting a gutted version of any documents the company requested.

“Valve admits that the information requested exists in some undisclosed, readily accessible format, but generically claims it won’t produce the information because it is confidential or too burdensome to gather in the manner Apple requested. Separately, Valve provided a small production of documents (the “Volume 5 Production”) which are so heavily redacted that Apple cannot discern what information they might contain and thus are non-responsive and unusable in their current form.”

According to the letter, Apple requested the following information from Valve as part of request referred to as “Request 2” in the document:

“Valve’s: (a) total yearly sales of apps and in-app products; (b) annual advertising revenues from Steam; (c) annual sales of external products attributable to Steam; (d) annual revenues from Steam; and (e) annual earnings (whether gross or net) from Steam.”

Apple says it wants to know this information so it can show “the strength of competition for consumers and app developers.” Valve is obviously free to respond however it likes, but the actual information being asked for doesn’t seem anywhere near as unreasonable Request 32, which asked for the following:

“(a) the name of each App on Steam; (b) the date range when the App was available on Steam; and (c) the price of the App and any in-app product available on Steam.”

In other news:

As for Valve, the company argues that it’s already provided the documents Apple asked for, while pointing out Apple is unwilling to cover costs it would take to “(i) recreate six years’ worth of PC game and item sales for hundreds of third party video games, then (ii) produce a massive amount of confidential information about
these games and Valve’s revenues.”

“Apple wrongly claims those requests are narrow. They are not. Apple gave Valve a list of 436
video games it says are available on the Epic Game Store and Steam, and (a) demanded Valve
identify, from 2015 to the present, every version and all digital content or items for each of these
games on Steam, then (b) provide exhaustive information about all of them, including:

  • The dates on sale, plus every price and price change, from 2015 to the present (RFP 32);
  • Gross revenues for each game version and item, broken down individually (RFP 2); and
  • All of Valve’s revenues related to these versions, content and items (RFP 2).”

Ultimately, Valve’s underlying point is that Apple’s demands are too broad, and place “too heavy a burden on a non-party,” and that Apple hasn’t really sold the company on the idea that it’s really relevant to the legal conflict at hand. Steam isn’t a mobile developer, and isn’t competing in that space.

Among the more recent developments in this entire legal slap fight, Epic Games expanded its #FreeFortnite campaign by filing an antitrust complaint against Apple Europe earlier this week.