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 Fortnite  finally hits Google Play, but Epic still isn't a fan of Google's mobile tactics

Fortnite finally hits Google Play, but Epic still isn't a fan of Google's mobile tactics

April 21, 2020 | By Alissa McAloon

Epic Games hasn’t been quiet about its reasons for keeping Fortnite from launching on Google’s first-party Android app storefront and hasn’t backed down on those arguments despite debuting Fortnite on Google Play today.

In a statement given to Polygon, Epic Games says that Google makes it difficult for apps to exist outside of Google Play (and therefore without giving Google a 30 percent cut of revenue), and does so under the banner of platform security.

Downloading a game for Android without going through Google Play requires would-be players to jump through a number of hoops that include enabling the use third-party apps through system settings and security warnings when installing and running apps downloaded from outside sources that aim to keep Android users from accidentally welcoming malware to their devices.

As Epic tells it, those measures also aim to make life difficult for developers that don’t want to launch through Google Play.

“After 18 months of operating Fortnite on Android outside of the Google Play Store, we’ve come to a basic realization,” an Epic representative tells Polygon. “Google puts software downloadable outside of Google Play at a disadvantage, through technical and business measures such as scary, repetitive security pop-ups for downloaded and updated software, restrictive manufacturer and carrier agreements and dealings, Google public relations characterizing third party software sources as malware, and new efforts such as Google Play Protect to outright block software obtained outside the Google Play Store.”

Given the difficulties outlined in that statement, Epic has now launched a Google Play version of Fortnite, but will keep its existing, non-Google Play version up and running despite the launch.

Epic’s public disdain for Google’s dealings on mobile has been out in the open for nearly two years at this point, and largely centers around the cut the platform holder takes takes from revenue earned by Google Play Store-hosted games.

Back when Fortnite first launched as a non-Google Play title in August 2018, Epic head Tim Sweeney was quick to call out Google Play’s mandatory 30 percent cut as the chief reason behind the decision, then telling Eurogamer that “ 30 percent is disproportionate to the cost of the services these stores perform, such as payment processing, download bandwidth, and customer service.”

Just a few months back, that flame was reignited as reports emerged that Epic (unsuccessfully) tried to negotiate a launch on Google Play where Fortnite could use Epic’s own payment platform and therefore keep 100 percent of in-app purchase revenue. In a statement following that campaign, Epic clarified that it didn’t ”seek a special exception for ourselves; rather we expect to see a general change to smartphone industry practices in this regard” and wanted Google to more easily allow all developers to use non-Google payment services for in-app purchases.

At the time, reports suggested that Fortnite’s launch on Google Play would be linked to the success of that exemption request, but today’s launch suggests Epic has decided 70 percent of any additional revenue a Google Play launch would contribute beats its previous, exclusively third-party launcher driven setup.

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