Tim Sweeney, chief executive of the company behind the popular videogame “Fortnite,” is now spearheading a battle that app developers have waged for years against two of the world’s biggest technology companies.
And he is uniquely positioned to lead that fight against Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. Mr. Sweeney and his company Epic Games Inc. have deep pockets. He is worth more than $8.5 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index, and his company is valued at $17.3 billion, landing investments from companies including Walt Disney Co., Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Sony Corp.
Unlike others who have challenged Apple and Google, Epic is closely held, meaning it faces less pressure from shareholders. And “Fortnite” boasts a massive and loyal user base—with more than 350 million registered users world-wide—that has been nudged to show their dismay about the situation on social media.
“Tim is altruistic and wants this to be a fight for the little guy,” said Mike Salmon, an executive at Magid Consulting, a videogame advisory firm in Los Angeles. He thinks Mr. Sweeney and Epic are going down this path now because of the stiff antitrust scrutiny Apple and Google are facing and because Epic is looking to build out its own digital game store beyond the strictly computer games it sells now. “Epic is making a retail play,” he said.
Apple and Google pulled “Fortnite” from their app stores Thursday after Mr. Sweeney’s Epic rolled out a new way of making in-game purchases that circumvents the 30% cut the tech giants take from digital transactions within apps—a percentage established in Apple’s case more than a decade ago and some developers have called to reduce for years.