Amid Fair Trade Commission's heightened scrutiny of the big four US tech companies, Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.com, Japan's FTC is investigating another matter involving one of the quartets. Apple is being probed by Japan's FTC after receiving complaints that the Cupertino-based tech giant pressurised Yahoo Japan to shut down its gaming platform for posing a direct threat to App Store.
Nikkei reported that Yahoo Japan slashed the budget for its game streaming platform, Game Plus, last fall due to pressure from Apple and filed complaints with Japan's FTC to look into the matter. The regulators are investigating the allegations against Apple for engaging in anti-competitive behaviour by violating the country's Anti-Monopoly Act.
Yahoo Japan's Game Plus vs App Store
For those unaware, Yahoo Japan's Game Plus allows users to stream full games regardless of the platform and also play HTML5 games on mobile phones without downloading games. If users, including iOS device owners, have the option to skip downloading apps, it could pose a threat to Apple's lucrative business model.
According to the report, more than 50 companies, including Final Fantasy creator Square Enix, agreed to work with Yahoo Japan on its web-based gaming platform. Yahoo Japan's gaming platform worked better for developers as it posed fewer restrictions on how games were updated and sold on the platform.
But, according to Yahoo, Apple pressurised the partners to back down. Square Enix, which had developed "Antique Carnevale" exclusively for Game Plus, pulled off the game from the platform. Apple gets a 30 percent cut from most sales conducted through the App Store, and Yahoo Japan's model could have posed a direct threat.
To put things in perspective, Epic Games recently decided to ditch the Play Store to launch its popular mobile game, Fortnite, on Android. As a result, Google is expected to lose $50 million in the next five months. If Yahoo Japan's gaming platform took off, it could do sizable damage to Apple's steady revenue.
SoftBank Group steps in
Yahoo Japan is a standalone firm and was not included in the Verizon's deal to acquire Yahoo. The largest shareholder in Yahoo Japan is SoftBank Group, which may have resulted in the silent demise of Game Plus.
SoftBank already has an existing partnership with Apple, where it handles payments made by its mobile phone subscribers on the App Store. In return, SoftBank takes a cut from those payments, and Nikkei reports that the company stepped in as a mediator.
Nikkei also noted that FTC won't be able to prove any wrongdoings as the companies involved may not be interested in helping with the investigation. Neither Apple nor Yahoo Japan has commented on this matter yet. Stay tuned for updated.