The Epic v Apple trial is revealing things that go far beyond questions about Apple’s rules for iOS apps and what people are willing to do to get Fortnite mobile back. Confidential emails included as an exhibit in the trial, for instance, have confirmed a 2019 rumor that Walmart was—and possibly still is—working on its own cloud gaming service.
“Ed, Matt and I met with Walmart executives to hear their blind pitch (we didn’t know they’d be pitching a streaming service) and it was intriguing,” Epic Games co-founder Mark Rein wrote in a 2019 email chain.
“I played Walmart’s demo on an Android phone (with an Xbox controller) and the experience felt like playing on PS4 and superior to playing on Android or iOS. They also moved it over to a laptop in real-time (video stream hopped form phone to laptop instantly) and I played it there too. Again, it was VASTLY superior to playing it on my daughter’s Surface Pro laptop (the most expensive version no less!) or the crappy business laptop they brought.”
Rein also seemed to suggest that Walmart’s system was superior to Google Stadia, writing that it and Nvidia’s GeForce Now service (which Epic was also looking at) run on Windows and support the Epic launcher directly. “Google is a complete port over to a new operating system and platform with their own APIs etc,” he wrote.
The document includes elements of a Walmart presentation that touches on how the company is “positioned to win in digital gaming,” how the service is being built, and what it could look like:
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The current status of Walmart’s streamed gaming service isn’t known, but according to The Verge the rollout was put on hold because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In a reply further down the email chain, however, Epic’s Arjan Brussee made it clear that Walmart was already well past the fact-finding stage. “They have Fortnite (PC) running on their Edge cloud, streaming to any platform,” he wrote. “They’re planning to very aggressively develop and roll this out.”
I’ve reached out to Walmart for more information and will update if I receive a reply.