Following its departure from the Apple App Store, Fortnite has also been launched from the Google Play Store for Android. Earlier today, Epic Games failed an update for both the iPhone and Android versions of the game that allowed users to pay Epic directly for in-app purchases, instead of using the officially sanctioned system for both platforms.
What followed was a wild ride: Apple hit Fortnite outside the App Store, then Epic sued Apple, and finally had an in-game video parodying its 1984 Apple ad, positioning Apple itself as a monopolist.
Now, Google is in the conversation. As with Apple, Google requires games to use the Google Play system for in-app purchases. Although the rules of the Play Store are somewhat softer than those of Apple when it comes to in-app purchases, Google pulls results in games. It is quite clear: “Developers who offer products within a game downloaded on Google Play or by providing access to game content must use Invoicing in the Google Play app as the payment method.”; Google’s system gets a 30 percent discount, as does Apple.
The Epic update earlier today was overturned by that rule, and as Google took longer to make a decision to stop Fortnite on it than Apple, both companies reached the same conclusion.
The open Android ecosystem allows developers to distribute apps through multiple app stores. For game developers who choose to use the Play Store, we have consistent policies that are fair to developers and keep the store safe for users. While Fortnite remains available on Android, we can no longer make it available on Play because it violates our policies. However, we welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions with Epic and bring Fortnite back to Google Play.
A Google spokesman stressed about it Verge that Android is an open ecosystem that allows multiple stores, and that Google Play policies must be applied equally to all developers. There is no problem with those other existing stores nor with Epic distributing their game in them, the spokesman said.
You can still install Fortnite however on Android. Epic itself shows visitors to its website where they can either download Fortnite through the Epic Games app or through the Samsung Galaxy Store on Samsung devices. This is different from the iPhone and iPad, where it is now impossible to install the game if you had not already done so.
Epic has a brawl with Google over this Play Store rule. In August 2018, Epic retired Fortnite from the Google Play Store and started distributing it directly. This is only possible because Android allows installations from third-party sources, though it does make that process seem a bit risky because of the security warnings that appear when you do.
Eighteen months later, Epic capitulated and set Fortnite back to the Google Play Store, though not without some very angry rhetoric about it. Here is the Epic statement from April 2020:
Google puts software that can be downloaded outside of Google Play at a disadvantage, through technical and business measures, such as scary, recurring security pop-ups for downloaded and updated software, agreements and restrictive manufacturer relationships, and carriers, Google public relations that characterize third-party software sources as malware, and new attempts such as Google Play Protect to completely block software received outside the Google Play Store.
An application just as popular as Fortnite being installed with other tools – especially other stores – has the potential to reduce the stability of the Google Play Store on Android – and possibly increase fragmentation. There are already competing stores – Samsung is pushing its store heavily on its Android devices, for example. But overall, the Google Play Store has been the source of software for most people.
The epic is already encouraging users to also use the version coming from the Samsung store, telling users that they can get the discount that started this whole mess if they do: “You will find out that V-Bucks and real money offers are now discounted up to 20% through the Epic Games app at epicgames.com and the Samsung Galaxy Store. “
If Epic can get users into the habit of using other stores, it means users will start wanting to use other stores for other app installations. If you have used any recent Samsung Galaxy phone, you have seen that it offers the ability to handle installations for some key applications. This could mean that Google may be able to resolve a monopoly issue with its decision, it would argue that there is a real competition for Android app stores.
Just for another example related to games, look at Microsoft. Its upcoming streaming service, Pass Ultimate (you know it as xCloud) will be available on both Google Play and Samsung Galaxy Store. If you install it through Google Play, you will not be able to purchase DLC content for Xbox games due to that 30 percent discount. If you happen to install it through the Samsung store, you They are able to make in-app purchases. Here is Microsoft’s statement on this issue:
Our vision is to bring a complete, fully featured experience with in-app purchasing capabilities in app stores. However, we comply with all store policies and do not offer in-app purchases in some stores now. To access full in-app purchasing capabilities, Samsung customers can download the Xbox Game Pass app from the Galaxy Store; SK Telecom customers can also get a complete experience through the ONE Store.
(Meanwhile, Microsoft’s gaming service is not allowed on the iPhone at all – and Microsoft is not happy about that, either.)
Given Epic’s strong response to Apple’s ban – the 1984 lawsuit and ad – it is a certainty that the company will have a response on Google as well. We will let you know what it is when it happens.