Seems like Google would rather keep its de-facto monopoly over game and app distribution
Epic Games and Google have been in a legal dispute ever since the gaming company tried to bypass the Play Store’s 30% cut on in-game content via concealed code in an update to Fortnite in 2020, but the fight between the two businesses started much earlier. Epic first offered a version of Fortnite outside the Play Store as early as 2018, and that apparently really scared Google. As details from a legal filing reveal (via Bloomberg), Google quickly created a Fortnite task force to come up with a strategy against Epic’s break with the Play Store.
For context, Epic was the company to first file a lawsuit against Google for removing Fortnite from the Play Store in 2020, only to be countersued by Google shortly after for bypassing the Play Store’s security mechanisms. As part of this legal discourse, Epic has now revealed details regarding Google’s Fortnite task force.
The task force was created shortly after Epic launched its own Android game store in 2018 and was supposed to find strategies for dealing with Epic’s attempt to go independent from the only significant app distribution platform on Android. The task force met daily, and according to Epic, one of the responses it came up with revolved around clamping down on a potential security breach that could occur for gamers who install Fortnite from outside the Play Store (we covered). However, instead of waiting for the usual 90 days before disclosing the (then already fixed) issue, Google went ahead and published its findings by getting it to media “friendlies” only nine days later, making Epic scramble to keep its users secure as it was still rolling out its update.
Bloomberg cites the filing, “Instead, disregarding the security of users, Google rushed to ‘get the word out.'” The company supposedly wanted to “deter developers from launching outside of Google Play and maintain Google’s monopoly over Android app distribution.”
A Google spokesperson responded to the allegations, telling Bloomberg that “Epic released Fortnite on Android with security vulnerabilities that could compromise consumers’ data. Safety and security are our top priorities, so of course we took steps to warn our users about this security flaw, in accordance with our App Security policy. We’ll continue to fight Epic’s claims in court.”
However, according to the filing from Epic, Google’s own software developers and engineers found the warnings issued by Google overblown. The company provided an email from the head of Android security saying that the wording his own company chose seemed “inappropriately dire.”
Epic had long taken issue with both Google’s and Apple’s distribution systems on Android and iOS. That’s why the company introduced its own payment system in 2020, effectively stopping both companies from collecting their 30% cut that’s usually deducted on almost all in-app purchases. When both Apple and Google responded by removing the battle royale game from their platforms, the company quickly sued. However, things are looking a bit dire for Epic at the moment, as a judge recently ruled that Apple was within its rights to remove the game from its platform. An appeal is in the works, but Epic stands to lose millions if it doesn’t win.
A narrative shift may toss out rules that would cost Epic the money
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