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Fortnite Throws Google Under The Bus

Fortnite is finally available for purchase through the Google Play Store, which will comes as a welcome sight to many fans. However, behind this release is a story of two companies at odds with one another. In fact, Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite, has been reluctant to allow the Google Play Store to carry the battle royale title for some time. It seems that reluctance is still a major factor, as Epic has released a statement to IGN explaining the thought process behind finally releasing Fortnite for the Google Play Store, and the developer sounds none too pleased.

The statement explains that "Google puts software downloadable outside of Google Play at a disadvantage" by presenting users with "scary, repetitive security pop-ups for downloaded and updated software." Epic also takes issue with Google's public relations department, which it feels has been "characterizing third-party software sources as malware." Worse yet, Epic claims Google has been using Google Play Protect "to outright block software obtained outside the Google Play store." You can understand, then, why Epic moved to add Fortnite to Google's store. The company may fear Fortnite will become inaccessible to Android users if it's not there.

In a 2018 interview with The Verge, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney railed against the profits made off of apps by major companies like Apple, Google, and Android. "It's time for change," said Sweeney. "In the early days of Steam, 70 / 30 [percent cut] was a revolutionary split because you could compare it to 70 / 30 in favor of the retailer."

However, those days seemed to be in the past, according to Sweeney. With companies like Epic launching proprietary stores, the general idea was that developers and publishers would theoretically be able to digitally distribute their own games to consumers. This seemed like a better option than having to rely on companies that had a monopolistic foothold in the digital sales arena. 

As Sweeney explained, "Visa and Mastercard process transactions for 3 percent on average. Apple, Google, and Android manufacturers make vast, vast profits from the sale of their devices and do not in any way justify the 30 percent cut."

Epic Games would go so far as to release a statement in which it referred to the practice of taking 30% cuts as "illegal." However, it has been pointed out by representatives from Google that Fortnite has been available on the App Store since 2018, so presumably Epic Games has been permitting Apple to take that 30% cut for some time. Perhaps Epic decided it didn't want to continue that practice when it came time to negotiate with Google.

The Epic Games Store has not gone without controversy, either. While Epic allows for a larger profit share on games sold (which is a huge blessing to indie developers), it does so at the expense of other platforms. Some developers have been told that their games will only be sold through Epic Games Store if the game is first removed from a competing platform, such as Steam.

For the time being, however, it looks like Epic will swallow its pride and put Fortnite in Google's digital shop — but not without one pretty big caveat.

"We'll continue to operate the Epic Games App and Fortnite outside of Google Play, too," Epic's statement reads. "We hope that Google will revise its policies and business dealings in the near future, so that all developers are free to reach and engage in commerce with customers on Android and in the Play Store through open services, including payment services, that can compete on a level playing field."

In other words, Epic seems to be hoping to recoup some of those losses from the 30% tax by continuing sales through its own channels. Epic likely had to concede that there were potential sales being lost by not having Fortnite on as many platforms as possible, regardless of the company's stance on Google's business practices.

Google finally got directly involved with gaming in a big way last year with the launch of its Google Stadia service. Since then, the service has floundered in the eyes of fans, providing a lineup of games that's less than stellar, mostly made up of older non-exclusives. Still, there's hope that this could turn around in 2020, as Google intends to add dozens of games to the platform over the course of the year.

As for Fortnite's availability through Google Play, that should hopefully make a lot of the game's fans happy, even if Epic isn't too keen on the situation. It's just not often you see a company call out a major corporation like this.