Epic Games claims that Google considered buying out the studio as part of an attempt to snuff out competition.
The lawsuit between Epic Games and Apple may have been what dominated headlines for a while (mainly because of all the confidential information it leaked), but it’s not the only one Epic is embroiled in.
Since Google removed Fortnite from its Google Play app store for the same reasons Apple did, Epic filed a lawsuit against it as well. Recently, Epic amended the suit to further support its case after it was linked to another lawsuit filed by multiple states against the Google Play store over antitrust violations.
According to newly unredacted complaints within the lawsuit, Epic claims that Google considered outright buying Epic Games, either by purchasing Tencent’s shares (Tencent owns a 40% stake in Epic Games) or teaming up with it to buy out Epic entirely.
Epic CEO Tim Sweeney, in a Twitter statement, openly called it a hostile takeover attempt in response to Fortnite launching outside of the Google Play store, ‘Rather than competing by giving developers a better deal than 30%, they wanted to collude to crush Epic instead.’
In addition, Epic says that Google had been paying developers, such as Activision Blizzard, hundreds of millions of dollars as incentives to keep their games exclusive to the Play store.
This initiative was originally named Project Hug but is now called the Apps and Games Velocity Program. Epic alleges that this was also done as a response to its initial Android release of Fortnite.
Originally, Fortnite wasn’t part of the Google Play store. Android owners had to download a separate launcher instead, which essentially meant Epic didn’t have to pay a 30% cut in revenue to Google. It did eventually add Fortnite to Google’s app store properly, but it states that Google was concerned about other developers trying the same thing so it launched the Project Hug program.
‘These deals allow Google to keep its monopolistic behaviour publicly unchallenged,’ writes Epic, ‘But Epic is not interested in any side deals that might benefit Epic alone while leaving Google’s anticompetitive restraints intact; instead, Epic is focused on opening up the Android ecosystem for the benefit of all developers and consumers.’
According to Google’s own internal documents, it sounds like the program was a big success for the company. By the end of 2020, it had signed deals with the vast majority of the developers it had targeted.
And in a statement to The Verge, a Google spokesperson pretty much defended programs such as this, saying that they’re a sign of healthy competition.
‘Google Play competes with other app stores on Android devices and on rival operating systems for developer attention and business. We’ve long had programs in place that support best-in-class developers with enhanced resources and investments to help them reach more customers across Google Play. These programs are a sign of healthy competition between operating systems and app stores and benefit developers tremendously.’
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