Google told Epic Games sideloading Android apps is an awful experience

Ewdison Then - Aug 8, 2021, 9:27pm CDT
Google told Epic Games sideloading Android apps is an awful experience

Epic Games’ legal spat against Apple may have been the headlines of many tech news in the past, but the Cupertino-based company isn’t the only recipient of the game publisher’s complaints. Epic Games also sued Google over alleged monopolistic practices with Fortnite at the center of it all. New details have surfaced that reveal the extent to which Google was willing to go to keep Fortnite from ruining its Play Store ecosystem, including an outright acquisition of Epic Games.

Fortnite may be one of the most popular battle royale games in the market today, but it is just a fraction of Epic Games’ properties. Epic Games is, of course, one of the biggest game developers and publishers in the market, and Google’s plans to buy a part or all of it reeks of desperation. That was all internal discussion, though, and Epic Games never knew about that possibility until these documents came to light in court.

Apparently, Google considered Fortnite and Epic Games’ plans to allow sideloading the game on Android as a “contagion” that needed to be stamped out at once. It reportedly resorted to using offering special deals to launch Fortnite exclusive on Play Store, which probably meant waiving or decreasing the 30% tax Google customarily takes from all app and in-app purchases.

Another interesting strategy was to paint the sideloading experience as awful and something that took more than 15 steps to accomplish. The latter is clearly an exaggeration, but internal communication revealed that Google knew how this “install friction” would adversely affect Fortnite’s reach, which applies to all apps distributed outside the Google Play Store. Interestingly, Google didn’t play on its ecosystem’s security and safety benefits, which could have been weightier arguments than the “awful experience” spiel.

Unfortunately for Google, its strategy might have only helped Epic Games make its point. It has accused the tech giant of using its position to create a monopoly, despite Google’s claims to the contrary. Google has made many changes since the Fortnite drama first came out, but none of those adjustments to the Play Store revenue sharing would have benefited Epic Games anyway.


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