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Apple is under investigation in Japan over allegations that it stifles competition

Published Aug 16th, 2018 6:50AM EDT
Apple App Store Anti-Trust

Apple is under investigation in Japan for alleged anti-competitive behavior related to the App Store, which is the default, and only source of applications on iOS devices, including iPhone, iPod, and iPod touch.

Unlike Android, where alternatives can co-exist alongside Google’s Play Store, Apple doesn’t allow any third-party to create App Store rivals of their own.

The Fair Trade Commission is looking at allegations that Apple forced Yahoo Japan from developing a game platform that would compete with the App Store, according to Nikkei Asian Review.

Yahoo Japan last year create a Game Plus platform that would allow gamers to access web-based games without actually needing to download anything on their devices.

The App Store, meanwhile, requires users to download apps and games, and Apple takes a consistent cut of all the money spent on paid apps and in-app purchases.

Per Nikkei’s findings, some 52 companies agreed to participate in Game Plus, including Square Enix Holdings, with more expected to get on board and create unique content for the platform. Square Enix did make an app called Antique Carnevale for the Game Plus service but pulled it in April.

Yahoo, in turn, would then harness the data it collects about its more than 60 million monthly active users to help publishers target them with goods. The service was supposed to grow beyond games, as Yahoo wanted to build a data economy unique to the Japanese market.

But Yahoo last fall cut its budget for Game Plus development abruptly, and it’s not promoting the service any longer. The company told partners that Apple pressure behind the scenes is what forced it to cut back investment in Game Plus. Yahoo also makes money through App Store apps, which would give Apple ample negotiations powers.

Apple recently banned a Steam app from the App Store precisely because it would have allowed players to purchase content from a source different than its own App Store.

The FTC believes that Japan’s Anti-Monopoly Act prohibits the kind of interference Apple allegedly conducted, and that’s why it’s investigating the iPhone maker. But the investigation seems to be “getting bogged down.”

The report notes that the FTC isn’t just looking at Apple, but also at other US tech giants who may be abusing their powers, including Amazon, Google, and Facebook.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he closely follows the events in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises. Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.