Fortnite Was Removed From the Google Play Store, Too, So Epic Games Is Suing Google

I expected Google to follow Apple in pulling Fortnite from the Play Store and, sure enough, that was the case. What I did not anticipate was a lawsuit against Google, given that Android allows users to install apps through mechanisms other than the Play Store. But, as with Apple, Epic Games is now suing Google.

Russell Brandom, the Verge:

For years, Fortnite for Android was primarily available through this kind of sideloading. The app finally arrived on the Google Play Store in April, overcoming longstanding concerns over the Play Store policy of taking 30 percent of all in-app purchases. “After 18 months of operating Fortnite on Android outside of the Google Play Store, we’ve come to a basic realization,” the company said at the time, “Google puts software downloadable outside of Google Play at a disadvantage.”

From the suit (PDF):

Epic’s experience with one OEM, OnePlus, is illustrative. Epic struck a deal with OnePlus to make Epic games available on its phones through an Epic Games app. The Epic Games app would have allowed users to seamlessly install and update Epic games, including Fortnite, without obstacles imposed by Google’s Android OS. But Google forced OnePlus to renege on the deal, citing Google’s “particular[] concern” about Epic having the ability to install and update mobile games while “bypassing the Google Play Store”.

Another OEM, LG, told Epic that its contract with Google did not allow it to enable the direct distribution of apps, and that the OEM could not offer any functionality that would install and update Epic games except through the Google Play Store.

Pretty serious allegations against a company that promotes Android as being open and usable by any company that wants to build a phone. This whole saga has been well played by Epic Games — the story is now Apple and Google have kicked one of the world’s most popular games off their platforms.

I have not seen a similar suit filed against Sony or Microsoft regarding Fortnite on PlayStation or Xbox. Is that because it is harder to make a legal case that game consoles should be treated more like general purpose computers and less like appliances, or is it because the commission is lower on those consoles? The pricing of Fortnite’s “V-Bucks” suggests the latter.

The question of consoles and computers has been a topic of discussion on Dithering for the past week, ever since Apple provided that cryptic statement about why it wasn’t allowing Google Stadia and Xbox Game Pass into the App Store. I certainly fall on the side of considering smartphones more as general purpose computers, but the arguments Gruber has been setting up have got me thinking harder about it. It is a difficult line to draw: why should a PlayStation not be considered a computer like the one at your desk? But, also, why should an iPhone be thought of as closer to a Mac than an Apple Watch? I am not arguing that it should not — I fully believe that there are differences between all of these devices — but I have not seen a clear articulation for why that is.

Update: With my best Columbo impression, just one more thought on these two lawsuits: while there are a litany of complaints, it seems telling that both highlight the inability for Epic Games to set up its own app marketplace.