Fortnite maker Epic Games claims that Google’s been paying other companies millions of dollars to stop them competing with its app store.
Remember when Epic Games sued Apple over the latter removing Fortnite from its app store, resulting in nothing but a lot of dirty laundry – much of it from other, unrelated companies – being aired in public? Well, it’s not over yet.
While that lawsuit was all very much in the public eye (in part thanks to Fortnite capitalising on it with an in-game event), Google also struck Fortnite off its app store, for largely the same reasons, prompting Epic to sue it too.
Said lawsuit hasn’t been resolved yet, but recently unredacted documents from it see Epic accusing Google of actively stifling the competition by paying other companies to not open their own, rival app stores.
As of July 2022, Google has allegedly made deals with at least 24 other companies, including Nintendo, EA, and Ubisoft, as part of what it calls Project Hug.
Activision Blizzard is highlighted in particular, since Epic provides alleged figures. Supposedly, Activision told Google it planned to open an app store, but Google offered to pay it $360 million (over £304 million), over the course of three years, not to.
A similar situation allegedly happened with League Of Legends studio Riot Games, with Epic claiming that Google paid it $30 million (over £25 million) to give up its plans.
The redacted lawsuit has been shared by The Verge and includes an alleged 2020 email from Google’s managing director of global partnerships, Karen Aviram Beatty, about a conversation she had with the then CEO of Blizzard Entertainment Armin Zerza (he’s now the chief financial officer of Activision Blizzard) regarding the deal.
Activision’s chief communications officer Lulu Cheng Meservey has denied Epic’s allegations on Twitter, adding that Activision has already submitted evidence to the contrary.
‘Google never asked us, pressured us, or made us agree not to compete with them – and we’ve already submitted documents and testimony disproving this nonsense,’ she wrote.
An Activision spokesperson repeated Meservey’s comments to The Verge, with Google itself adding: ‘Epic is mischaracterising business conversations. Programmes like Project Hug provide incentives for developers to give benefits and early access to Google Play users when they release new or updated content; it does not prevent developers from creating competing app stores, as Epic falsely alleges.
‘In fact, the programme is proof that Google Play competes fairly with numerous rivals for developers, who have a number of choices for distributing their apps and digital content.’
An exact trial date for the suit hasn’t been decided yet, but it’s expected to take place in early 2023. Meanwhile, Epic is still appealing the result of its lawsuit with Apple from last year.
Though that suit resulted in Apple needing to make changes to its app store, Epic was still found in breach of its contract and was told to pay Apple about £2.6 million.
In case you need reminding, this all started when Epic introduced a method of purchasing Fortnite microtransactions directly from Epic at a discount, meaning Apple and Google wouldn’t see a cut of any revenue made.
This was considered a breach of guidelines and led to both Apple and Google removing Fornite from their app stores. Epic made it clear it knew they would do this, which always seemed strangely provocative considering Epic has gained absolutely nothing from the process so far.
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