Fortnite for Android has also been kicked off the Google Play Store

Photo by Stefan Etienne / The Verge

Following its removal from the Apple App Store, Fortnite has also been kicked off of the Google Play Store for Android. Earlier today, Epic Games snuck in 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 kicked Fortnite off the App Store, then Epic sued Apple, and finally there was an in-game video parodying Apple’s own 1984 commercial, positioning Apple itself as the monopolist.

Now, Google is in the conversation. As with Apple, Google requires that games use the Google Play system for in-app purchases. Although the Play Store’s rules are somewhat more lax than Apple’s when it comes to in-app purchases, Google does draw the line at games. It’s quite clear-cut: “Developers offering products within a game downloaded on Google Play or providing access to game content must use Google Play In-app Billing as the method of payment.” Google’s system takes a 30 percent cut, just as Apple’s does.

Epic’s update earlier today ran afoul of that rule, and while Google took longer to make a decision to ban Fortnite over it than Apple, both companies reached the same conclusion.

Google’s statement:

The open Android ecosystem lets developers 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 spokesperson emphasized to The Verge that Android is an open ecosystem that allows multiple stores and that Google Play’s policies need to apply equally to all developers. It has no problem with those other stores existing nor with Epic distributing its game on them, the spokesperson said.

You can still install Fortnite on Android, however. Epic itself points visitors to its website, where they can either download Fortnite through the Epic Games app or via the Samsung Galaxy Store on Samsung devices. This is different from iPhone and iPad, where it’s now impossible to install the game if you hadn’t already done so.

Epic has a history of tussling with Google over this Play Store rule. In August 2018, Epic pulled Fortnite from the Google Play Store and began distributing it directly. That is only possible because Android allows installs from third-party sources, though it does make that process seem a bit dangerous because of the security warnings that appear when you do.

Eighteen months later, Epic capitulated and put Fortnite back into the Google Play Store, though not without some very angry rhetoric about it. Here’s Epic’s statement from April 2020:

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.

An app as popular as Fortnite being installed via other means — specifically other stores — has the potential to lessen the centrality of the Google Play Store on Android — and maybe increase fragmentation. There are already competing stores — Samsung is pushing its own store heavily on its Android devices, for example. But in general, the Google Play Store has been the go-to software source for most people.

Epic is already actively encouraging users to also use the version that comes from Samsung’s store, telling users that they can get the discount that started this whole mess if they do: “You’ll find that V-Bucks and real-money offers are now discounted by up to 20% through the Epic Games app at epicgames.com and the Samsung Galaxy Store.”

If Epic can get users in the habit of using other stores, that could mean users will start to want to use other stores for other app installs. If you’ve used any recent Samsung Galaxy phone, you have seen it offer the option to handle the installs for some major apps. It could mean that Google may be able skirt a monopoly issue with its decision, it would argue that there is real competition for app stores on Android.

For just one other gaming-related example, look to Microsoft. Its upcoming Game Pass Ultimate streaming service (you know it as xCloud) will be available both on Google Play and on Samsung’s Galaxy Store. If you install it via Google Play, you won’t be able to purchase DLC content for Xbox games because of that 30 percent cut. If you happen to install it via Samsung’s store, however, you are able to make in-app purchases. Here’s Microsoft’s statement on the issue:

Our vision is to bring a complete, full-featured experience with in-app purchase capabilities to app stores. However, we are complying with all store policies and do not offer in-app purchases in some stores at this time. To access complete, in-app purchase capabilities, Samsung customers can download the Xbox Game Pass app from the Galaxy Store; SK Telecom customers can also get a complete experience through ONE Store.

(Meanwhile, Microsoft’s game streaming service isn’t allowed on the iPhone at all — and Microsoft isn’t happy about that, either.)

Given Epic’s outsized response to Apple’s ban — the lawsuit and the 1984 ad — it’s a sure bet that the company will have a response to Google as well. We’ll obviously let you know what that is when it happens.

Comments

Epic fighting a war on two fronts…

Might not be their smartest move.

Ah, the games you can play when you’re making billions.

They have nothing to lose.

I think they quite literally do have money to lose here.

Epic surely does more than Google or Apple.

I can’t comprehend the stupidity of this comment. You realize Google and Apple have been around since the 90’s and 70’s? And Apple is the #1 company in the world right now? my god. Epic has a games store. Apple has a hardware business, they make computer chips, and GOogle has hardware and software up the wazoo.. you know there’s no point to me replying here.

I think you don’t get scale or breadth here. Apple doesn’t need Fortnite on their platform, nor does Google. Epic though needs to be able to have Fortnite on those platforms. This won’t hurt Apple or Google in terms of sales.

Apple doesn’t need Fortnite on their platform, nor does Google. Epic though needs to be able to have Fortnite on those platforms.

Exactly. And what they want is free access to those stores without having to give a cut at all to either. They are weaponizing the freemium model. Personally I think the way they fleece kids for money with in app purchases is gross.

It would be interesting to watch how quickly Epic changed their defiant "consumer friendly" tune if Apple and Google both said "you know what, we are done with you for good. You can just take your app and go elsewhere". Then they’d be left with what…PC and consoles? I imagine the console stores take a cut of the transactions too so they better tread lightly.

They don’t want free access. They simply feel like a 30% cut for what is glorified hosting is too much. You have to pay a yearly fee to be on either app store and then they get to take a cut of every single in app purchase, but the key factor here is that epic was trying to not have to use their payment providers so that the 30% cut makes even less sense. Epic thinks that the cut should be lower and well frankly I’m inclined to agree given that if Fortnite was earning 500 mill on iOS they’d be looking at having to pay apple out 150,000,000 and that’s just simply ridiculous. Epic things it should be paying more like 50,000,000 on that which is far far far more reasonable and still an assload of money coming apple’s way and is by no means a "free ride"

Epic wants:

1. To give their app away for "free" on the app store. Apple makes 0 dollars from those downloads aside from the measly 99 dollars a year Epic pays to be in the developer program.

2. To sideload payments in their own app thereby bypassing any money they would have to give to Apple.

That sounds totally reasonable. 99 dollars a year.

What is with you kids thinking Epic is a new company or something. Epic has been around a long ass time. In fact longer than google has existed. Epic has been around in some form since 91 though the epic games branding (it was epic megagames inc. from 92 – 99). Epic has a long and stories history in game development and they also produce the most used and most successful game engine on the planet and could literally get by on that money along.

While a huge part of their current success is due to fortnite they’d be fine without it and are making quite a bit of money just off other people’s games alone.

This is gonna be EPIC.

Launching such a war on two fronts is the only way to change the stupid rules. Otherwise the other could point on the other and claim they do the same and aren’t fined.

I am not saying it will work, I find it most likely that US will again bow to corporate overlords and that EU will fine Google and Apple late enough it won’t help Epic at all.

Stop making sense.. many tech bros here have apple and Google stock.

Who cares if Apple and Google are ripping off the little developers.

Ripping off the little developers? I disagree. There was a time when we had absolutely no chance of being listed side by side with an app or game from the big brands. Any serious distribution of software incurred costs at least three orders of magnitude higher to begin (for App Store, Play Store is basically free as in beer). Those stores gave us visibility, and they heavy lifted most of the work regarding listing, distributing, deployment and post-installation follow-up.

I can talk about the Play Store: it has distribution channels, analytics, easy integration to cloud features, translation, listing, everything and more, and I could go on and on… that heavylifting is free for us, and I’m OK giving 30% to Google tax for the value I’m given.

The ones who do not need application stores, because they are big companies who can do this heavylifting themselves with less money are the ones unhappy, and that’s fine because we should do what suits us best.

And I feel Google’s position is way better here, because they give you the option to distribute by your own means on their platform, if you so choose. You can do through other stores (eg, Samsung’s) or you can make your own, like Steam or nVidia, so you can distribute it on Android completely bypassing Google’s proprietary layer.

Apple’s position is probably questionable though. However, I lean towards those who think they should have the right to control their software. If you’re unhappy, move to Android, like I did 10 years ago and couldn’t be happier - I only distribute my apps there, but I don’t primarily use iOS anymore.

My little developers 2¢.

Apple’s position is probably questionable though.

Given your other thoughts, can you be more specific about what is questionable about Apple’s position?

They are clearly viewing the current regulatory climate in both the US and the EU as an opportunity, and it looks like they have just seized it. Let’s see what happens next.

I’m not a fan of Fortnite at all, but I really appreciate that Epic is using the clout they have built up to shake up the industry. It’s no coincidence that this is happening shortly after the Congress hearings of Apple, Google et al. concerning antitrust behavior. If there’s one company that can go head-to-head with these juggernauts and force real change, it’s Epic. Whatever comes out of all this, it’s going to set one hell of a precedent for every app developer out there.

But what if what they want isn’t good?

I’m leery of courts making decisions about software ecosystems because they’re bound to base decisions on laws that are likely outdated.

I can assure you, Epic — despite their feel good claims — does not want a situation where they can wither make 30% of $10 or make $7 (minus normal processing fees). They’re somehow trying to get to where they can just make $10.

And that’s great. They should want that. But I don’t think the company that has likely already made them millions and millions of dollars owes it to them, especially when there are literally 6 or 7 options with differing distribution requirements (some, exactly what they claim to want) they also make money from.

Follow-up question: On platforms like Windows where Fortnite is distributed in their ideal fashion where they control installation and payment processing, do they charge 30% less than they do on platforms that require the 30% fee?

As of today (or yesterday?) you get up to a 20% discount for purchasing directly from Epic. See: https://www.theverge.com/2020/8/13/21366259/epic-fortnite-vbucks-mega-drop-discount-iphone-android

I’m not interested in as of today. I’m wondering if they (historically) give their customers the prices they claim they desperately want to give them on the platforms that do not provide any roadblocks to doing so?

No they didn’t. However, yesterday when you logged in to Fortnite, you got a refund for that 20% for the purchases you had made in the past.

They are doing a loss leader thing I expect they’d raise prices back up to where they were if they win said case.

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