Google wanted to stop Fortnite game app launch in epic fierce battle over downloads

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To stop the Fortnite game from launching, Google was considering taking over Epic Games, the game maker claims. Epic considered enabling public Fortnite downloads bypassing the Google Play Store.

Epic Games Inc. claims that Google went so far as to explore Tencent Holdings’ stake in the game maker to prevent it from launching its Fortnite gaming app on Android by bypassing the Google Play Store.

Epic’s year-old lawsuit against unit Alphabet Inc. characterizes Google as viewing the tightly held game maker as a threat to its app store. Epic alleges the Tencent plan was hatched at a 2018 meeting of Google executives, according to an unredacted version of Epic’s lawsuit against Google that was made public Thursday by order of a judge.

“A senior Google executive has proposed that Google “consider approaching Tencent,” a company that owns a minority stake in Epic, “either (a) buy Epic stock from Tencent to gain more control over Epic,” or “ (b) joins with Tencent to buy 100% of Epic,” attorneys for the game maker said in the lawsuit.

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The alleged takeover plan was first revealed this month when a partially redacted version of the complaint was filed with the court.

“As we have previously stated, Epic’s lawsuit is without merit and misrepresents our business conversations,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “Android offers more choice in mobile devices for developers and consumers.”

Epic is battling Google and Apple Inc. over fees the companies charge developers in their mobile app stores. A trial in the Epic-Apple case took place in May and the companies are awaiting a decision from the judge. The fight with Google is only intensifying.

In July 2018, senior Google executives, including Alphabet’s chief financial officer, considered offering Epic a partnership worth up to $208 million over three years, according to Epic. They also considered reducing the fees charged to Epic. Epic rejected Google’s “special deal,” choosing instead to distribute Fortnite for Android through Epic’s website and through a partnership with Samsung Electronics, according to the complaint.

Google is also facing a sweeping lawsuit filed in July by attorneys general from three dozen states, alleging the company unlawfully abused its power over the sale and distribution of apps through Google Play. The states allege that after Epic launched its app outside of Google Play, Google “bought out” the developers to dissuade them from doing the same – but details of those payments were redacted in the states complaint.

In response, Google said the states’ antitrust lawsuit “errs” by limiting the definition of the app market to Android devices and ignoring that Google competes with Apple for developers and consumers.

In its own complaint, Epic claims that Google executives offered a “tailored” $208 million deal to persuade the game maker to launch Fortnite on Google Play. Google planned to offer Epic a 25% discounted fee, from the standard 30% discount it asked developers, to give Epic an additional revenue share, according to the unredacted complaint. When Google realized Epic might not agree to such a deal, it considered approaching Tencent, Epic said.

Thursday’s filing fleshes out Epic’s claims that Google “developed a series of internal projects” to prevent other game makers and app developers from distributing their apps like Epic did with Fortnite. One such effort by Google has been to enter into exclusive agreements with device manufacturers to thwart the presence of alternative app stores on mobile devices, according to the complaint.

Google has had agreements with some mobile device makers since 2019 that prevent them from pre-installing other app stores on most or all new Android devices they sell, Epic said in the unredacted complaint. In exchange for this, Google shares “monopoly profits that Google derives from its search business (and in some cases, profits from the Play Store itself),” Epic said.

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