If you’re having a hard time finding Fortnite in the Google Play Store this morning, you’re not alone. Just hours after suing Apple for booting Fortnite from its iOS App Store, Google did the same thing. And right on cue, Epic Games rolled out a lawsuit against Google for the same thing—namely “unfair, monopolistic and anti-competitive actions.”
Here's the backstory. On Thursday morning, Epic announced new lower pricing for its in-game V-Bucks currency. Instead, a paying $10 for a thousand V-Bucks, Epic is now charging $8, a savings of 20 percent. However, Epic presented two pricing options, one for “Epic direct payment” that reflects the $8 price, and another for $10 if you wanted to go through Apple’s or Google’s App Stores for the previous $10 price. The reason, as Epic explained, was due to the 30 percent fee that Apple and Google collect on all in-app purchases.
That violates Google’s terms of service, which state that apps or games downloaded through the Play Store “must use Google Play In-app Billing as the method of payment.” By offering its own method of payment, Epic ran afoul of those rules.
But make no mistake, this is a fight Epic wanted. Not only did they have lawsuits ready, they also kicked off a social media campaign with the hashtag #FreeFortnite as well as a cheeky in-game video parodying Apple’s iconic 1984 commercial:
Epic Games has defied the App Store Monopoly. In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices. Join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming “1984”.
But while Epic didn’t have any slick videos at the ready, it did have plenty of ammunition in its arsenal. In addition to essentially calling Google evil and greedy, the lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California court claims that Google killed deals with OnePlus and LG “to allow users … to seamlessly install Fortnite and other Epic games by touching an Epic Games app on their devices.” Epic says Google stepped in and “demanded that OnePlus not implement its agreement with Epic” over concerns that “the Epic Games app would have ability to potentially install and update multiple games with a silent install bypassing the Google Play Store.”
Similarly, LG told Epic “that its contract with Google did not allow it to enable the direct distribution of apps.”
Notably, the Epic Games App is available exclusively in India as described in the suit. Furthermore, OnePlus 8 users can play Fortnite at 90Hz for a smoother gameplay not available on other devices.
These accusations are serious but also confusing. Google already pre-installed apps onto their phones, so it’s unclear why it would block Fortnite from appearing on LG phones. But what’s clear is that this fight is just beginning and will likely last a long time. And with the anticipated Fortnite Chapter 2, Season 4 update looming later this month, both sides have a lot to lose.