Borkowski Weekly Media Trends 21-05-21

Apple v. Epic Games | Prince Harry attacks First Amendment | Friends Reunion

Fortnite takes on Apple: Attrition Warfare

Today, Friday 21st May, Tim Cook is due to testify in Apple’s most significant legal battle in recent history. Epic Games - the developer behind Fortnite, the cult game that has captured the imaginations of 100 million players around the world and promises to spawn what we will ultimately call the ‘metaverse’ – has taken Apple to court after a row over the commission the tech monolith takes from App Store purchases.

Apple takes a 30% cut of every sale made in the App Store, including the purchases of games like Fortnite and any subsequent transactions made within those games. It’s a fee that allows Apple to maintain the safe running of the App Store and its devices, it says. But Epic feels that game developers should take all of the revenue generated by their products. Last June, it called on Fortnite players (some 10 million of which play via Apple devices) to use alternative in-app payment methods (rather that the default App store mechanism). These transactions gave users a 20% discount and, crucially, channelled all funds directly to Fortnite. Apple quickly removed Fortnite from the app store, and Fortnite promptly sued, over claims Apple is monopolising the industry.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is now due to testify in a case could either absolve Apple of anti-competitiveness claims, easing the pressure mounting from the pile of anti-trust cases currently stacking against them, or, in a landmark ruling, would see Apple’s dominance undermined for the first time. Analysts predict that Apple will win the case, although others have suggested that Epic is in it for the long game: In 2021, the iPhone’s dominance in our day to day lives mean that Apple reigns supreme. But over the coming years we can expect to see that power balance shift, as we stop worshipping the devices we use and instead the software we use whilst we’re on them. Epic has proven that they’re serious about changing the status quo and, as one the developers creating the digital worlds we’ll come to inhabit increasingly frequently, they look to set to do just that.

Prince Harry attacks First Amendment

Prince Harry is stepping into his own as both headline generating machine and ubiquitous media presence after making comments that the first amendment, which protects free speech, is ‘bonkers’. He might have a point, and though most Americans remain sympathetic to his special reasons for caring about privacy, the comments struck a highly contentious note—not least because he represents (if no longer in an official capacity) the latest generation of that very arbitrary power which so vehemently opposed individual liberty that it fought two wars to stop America from writing it in the first place.

No doubt, if he were still a royal, this would be a full-scale diplomatic incident. Because he (happily) is not, he is free to make remarks even when couched in polite concessions that he ‘hasn’t lived here very long’. The conservative punditry predictably lashed out at the former royal, with blogger Ben Domenech declaring he should be ‘tarred and feathered’ and sent back to Britain. Tucker Carlson, Megyn Kelly, and the rest of the Fox News gang followed suit.

As Harry and Meghan’s PR machine finds its stride, they could do worse than courting these would-be gaffes to generate explosive coverage. They may have just accidentally tapped into an evergreen market as the media’s go-to whipping boy for America’s endless supply of Revolutionary fervour. If they can play this necessary role with humility and occasional remorse, that is, without falling into *actual* disfavour, they may have found themselves limitless publicity fuelled by that familiar antagonism we all love so much - the ‘special relationship’.

The One That Broke The Friends Fantasy

Previously on The Trends…

In sitcom-related Trends of the past, we have analysed how successful shows like Gavin and Stacey and Frasier have balanced nostalgia with changing social values that might make the old formula for success problematic, were you to try to repeat it in the 2020s. Whilst it can go wrong, in most cases these reboots don’t live long in our collective memories and become another chapter in the show’s lifespan for the die-hard fans.

As TV fanbases go, it doesn’t get much more cult-like than Friends.

Back in 2018, Netflix and WarnerMedia negotiated a $100 million deal to stream the 10 seasons on Netflix. Friends became the most popular TV shows on the site, which even sparked a surge in DVD sales when it was removed in 2020.

You will likely see hoards of celebratory fans rejoicing all over social media, and a fair share cringing; however, returning to the original point, the question remains: will this reunion survive the critical, glaring eyes of 2021?

To take just a few examples, the gang fat-shaming Monica hasn’t aged well, nor has Chandler’s father’s gender identity and the writers’ understanding of trans and drag culture.

But a talking point that surrounds this reunion is Matthew Perry and his battles with alcoholism and prescription drugs. Fans have been reacting to the trailer where Perry breaks down during the show – expressing their emotions for the troubled star.

It is a stark reminder that, although Friends was a huge part of people’s lives, it was a fantasy world about six straight, white, attractive friends living on each other’s doorsteps in low-paying job whilst living in palatial apartments, addicted to caffeine. It was precisely this fantasy, however, that drew such a gigantic following, and if the writers don’t deviate too far from their formula (and avoid trying to fill in all the plot points from the intervening years in just an hour-long segment) it just might hit all the right buttons.