The Children’s Crusade: Epic Games vs. Big Tech

Historically, the children’s crusade refers to a particular attempt by European Christians to regain The Holy Land from Muslims around the year 1212. The story goes that about 30,000 children marched throughout Europe towards the Mediterranean Sea, under the idea that the sea itself would part for them so that all of the children could cross and fulfill their duty.

Once the children arrived in Italy and noticed the sea was not parting as planned, they turned to local merchants for help. The merchants there told them they would carry as many children as they could fit into their boats across the sea, free of charge. The children boarded these ships and were unknowingly brought to slave markets. It’s truly a horrible part of history that takes advantage of the malleable minds of children and turns their faith into their unsettling demise.

Fast forward from Italy in 1212 to my bedroom in 2020. After a long day of battling my way through a divided, virus struck America, I decided to take a break from my daily deeds to play some games with the boys. I loaded into Fortnite and was greeted by a new video. “Oh boy! I wonder how the map changed!”, I thought. Below is the video that every player entering the game has seen.

Click here to read more about the controversy

When it started playing, I was pretty hyped. I was really amused they were doing a little Apple vs IBM/1984 satire and I thought to myself that maybe the Apple character would be a new skin to combat the Banana skin (Peely). However, as the video ended and the true message was displayed, all I could think to myself was why? Why bring the players into their feud? Let’s look at some of the Fortnite player base demographics to get a better idea of who those players are.

According to an article by Mansoor Iqbal, we can see some pretty important pieces of information. This graph below being the first:

While telling, this graph actually doesn’t include players ages 10–17!

While showing that most of the users in Fortnite are typically around 18–24, it leaves out another important piece of information. What about those under 18? Luckily for us, the same article addresses this, too.

A survey conducted by Newzoo took players under 18 into account, finding that 53% of Fortnite gamers were aged 10–25

What we can gather from both the graph to the left and the above quote is that yes, the majority of people playing Fortnite are young people. Most people who play the game probably knew that. However, I didn’t realize that young people made up more than half of the Fortnite community. When you take into consideration that 250 million people played the game in 2019, that means that we can assume 125 million of those people could be ranged from 10–25. Those numbers are likely to be higher in 2020 due to Covid-19.

What jumps out to me is that Epic released this video to their players knowing that their target audience includes people from 10–25. As we can read in the statements from both Epic and Apple, the gaming company knew ahead of time that they were going to violate the terms of the App Store by adding their own, unapproved, method of payment for in game currency. It leads me to believe that this video was also probably cooked up before the game was inevitably taken off the App Store and Google Play Store.

So is Epic recruiting for their own children’s crusade? If so, are they on the side of the children, or are they simply the merchants luring them to line their pockets? It is tough to say, because their argument does hold water. The idea of Apple or Google taking 30% off the top from developers so they could sell their games is a deep, deep loss. Especially for those who are small developers that want to develop more indie-like games. Epic’s system reduces that amount to around 12%, and passes the savings to the players. That sounds awesome, but what’s the catch?

It needs to be said that the parent company of Epic is Tencent, a large Chinese tech conglomerate who already has the rights to all of the games produced by Riot Games, and SuperCell. Could Epic be the key for Tencent to truly enter the western market? Their PC platform WeGame has more concurrent users than Steam, so it would make sense for this giant to do its best in making its way over here. However, since Tencent is already an invincible monopoly in China, would Epic’s move really help competition? Or would it just open the doorway to another triopoly situation, much like the phone/cable/textbook companies in America?

I’d love to hear about what my readers think about this situation! Please leave a comment and check out the links scattered throughout my article to learn more about the ongoing fight between Epic and Big Tech. Also, special thanks to Sean Welsh Brown for chatting with me about this and getting my brain working!

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Software Engineering Graduate from Flatiron School. Former expatriate and music teacher.

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Kevin Gleeson

Kevin Gleeson

Software Engineering Graduate from Flatiron School. Former expatriate and music teacher.

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