Epic Games sues Google over removal of ‘Fortnite’ from Google Play Store

Where Apple leads, Google usually follows. Just hours after seeing “Fortnite” dropped by Apple’s App Store, followed by the Google Play Store, and after filing a similar lawsuit against Apple, Epic Games has sued Google over alleged antitrust violations.

Epic Games' Fortnite violated Apple's App Store guidelines
Epic Games’ Fortnite violated Apple’s App Store guidelines

Russell Brandom for The Vegre:

The two primary charges are identical to Epic’s suit against Apple: monopoly control over the distribution of software to phones, and monopoly control over payment systems within that software. In Google’s case, Epic is specifically concerned about the Google Play Store’s powerful role as a distributor of Android apps, and the Play Store’s requirement that hosted apps use Play Store Billing for any in-app purchases.

Thursday’s lawsuit makes a similar case, arguing that Google has established the Play Store as the only viable distribution method for Android apps. “Notwithstanding its promises to make Android devices open to competition, Google has erected contractual and technological barriers that foreclose competing ways of distributing apps to Android users, ensuring that the Google Play Store accounts for nearly all the downloads of apps from app stores on Android devices.”

Reached for comment, Google emphasized that Fortnite had been removed from the Play Store for violating clear and pre-established rules.

MacDailyNews Take: Yesterday, a hot dog vendor was kicked out of the local mall. The hot dog guy just rolled his cart in there, plugged in his neon sign, and started selling hot dogs without even telling, much less contracting with, the mall. He went down the road and tried to do it at the next mall, too. They kicked him out, too. Now, he’s suing both malls for “antitrust violations.” Gee, wonder if he’ll win his lawsuits?

17 Comments

  1. Hot dog analogy: Remember that the customers are forbidden from buying anything outside the mall. “…for their protection” may have started out as an honest reason, but it is evolving in an unfair direction. 15-30% is totally excessive for financial services, and in a fair market that would never stand. THAT is why it is antitrust.

    in the 90’s Microsoft argued that Apple’s existence made MS “not a monopoly”. The response to that was that consumer choice has to be real and practical. Now it is Apple’s turn in power, and they should set a better example.

    1. Sigh. Millennials. (Or Millennial mentalities.) 🙄

      “[Security/privacy] may have started out as an honest reason, but it is evolving in an unfair direction.”

      Why, have the nearly infinite issues with online security/privacy been magically solved?

      “15-30% is totally excessive…”

      That is your opinion, not a fact of law and, in fact, refuted by prior and current rates charged for similar services.”

      The salient part of Tim Cook’s statement to Congress, July 29, 2020 (bold emphasis added):

      “Apple does not have a dominant market share in any market where we do business. That is not just true for iPhone; it is true for any product category…

      Apple’s commissions are comparable to or lower than commissions charged by the majority of our competitors. And they are vastly lower than the 50 to 70 percent that software developers paid to distribute their work before we launched the App Store.

      In the more than a decade since the App Store debuted, we have never raised the commission or added a single fee. In fact, we have reduced them for subscriptions and exempted additional categories of apps.”

        1. The problem is that Epic is claiming there are two monopolies in a single industry (cell phone software) something that, by the very definition of monopoly, simply cannot exist.

          Saying Apple has an iOS App Store (or Google a whatever their App Store is called) “monopoly” is like saying Ford has a Mustang monopoly or General Motors a Corvette monopoly in new car sales.

          Epic is simply being a cheapskate and wants access to something they don’t own, and they are trying to use the government to get something they don’t want to pay for.

          Although he uses the same misunderstanding what a monopoly is, Kyle Orland at Ars Technica has an interesting piece on Epic’s hypocrisy (they aren’t suing console makers for the same 30% they require Epic to pay).

          1. Cell phone software can easily be broken down two two markets due to business and technical barriers between them. They are distinct and non-interchangeable.

            Google does not have the only Android software store, and even if they did, due to legitimate side loading ability they cannot be a single channel monopoly. The exact opposite is true for iOS.

          2. In the console side, first of all a game console by it’s very nature is a very limited computer. One could say it’s crippled. Do we really want to see iOS as a game console OS?

            But in principle, you’re right. The very same arguments can be made against game consoles, but no one really gives enough of a crap.

            1. Till recently games were sold exclusively on cartridges and optical disk media. Now the market is trending towards downloads. I suspect in a few more years it will be possible to have multiple stores to purchase console games also.

            2. @Xennex1170

              Never mind that games could be purchased at any number of retailers. So Leif GameStop hypothetically does not want to carry “Redneck Rampage-MAGA Rally Edition”, Walmart might.

  2. Epic’s claim for Google’s App Store being the “only viable distribution method for Android apps” is weakened by the existence of Amazon’s App Store. Epic is also large and well known enough that they could host their Android app on their own site as a 3rd party App Store.

  3. The real question has to do with scale.

    The local mall can set any rules it wants. But what if that mall is part of a network of malls that included all malls in the entire world? And what if that network set up rules that required all stores to pay an extortionate amount to participate? That’s when Congress might begin to argue that the public good was being harmed. Subsequent legislation and regulation might be enacted requiring certain fee structures, etc.

    That’s the bet Epic is making. Apple controls a billion devices. People with those devices cannot use any app — only the ones Apple approves. Developers cannot sell any app — only the ones Apple approves.

    If you can make the argument that Apple’s control is harming the public good, then watch out. Scale matters.

    1. Apple doesn’t have to have any apps for the iPhone other than their own, if there were only one hundred apps available I would still buy a iPad or iPhone. Must people use 2 dozen apps at most daily.

  4. These guys are really crying over a 30% cut when they’re peddling virtual t-shirts, flip flops, and other fake-world goods 🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️

  5. If Epic wants access to the App Store (and everything that comes with it), they agree to the terms of service; no different than the terms of service agreement they force on users of their games.

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