Epic Games has filed suit Google for alleged antitrust violations just hours after Fortnite was dropped from both the Play Store and iOS App Store and filed a similar lawsuit against Apple. Epic’s complaint alleges that Google’s payment restrictions on the Play Store constitute a monopoly and thus a violation of both the Sherman Act and California’s Cartwright Act.
Epic’s hit game Fortnite was removed from the Google Play Store earlier today.
Where the Apple complaint opened with a description of the company’s iconic 1984 ad, Epic’s complaint against Google focuses on that company’s now infamous ‘Don’t Be Evil’ mantra. “Twenty-two years later, Google has downgraded its motto to almost an afterthought,” the complaint claims, “and is using its size to harm competitors, innovators, customers and users in a slew of markets it has come to monopolize.”
Outside of the colorful opening, the two primary charges are identical to Epic’s lawsuit against Apple: monopoly control over distribution of software to phones and monopoly control over payment systems within that software. In the case of Google, Epic is specifically concerned about the powerful role of the Google Play Store as a distributor of Android apps and the Play Store’s requirement that hosted apps use Play Store billing for in-app purchases.
That case is more difficult to level against Google, which controls Android software less strictly than Apple for iOS. Android has long allowed installation from third-party app stores, including Epic’s own Epic Games app. Apps can also be sideload via direct links, without going through an app store.
Fortnite for Android was mainly available through this type of sideloading for years. The app finally arrived on the Google Play Store in April, dispelling long-standing concerns about Play Store’s policy of accepting 30 percent of all in-app purchases. “After 18 months of work Fortnite on Android outside of the Google Play Store, we have come to a basic realization, “the company said at the time,” Google puts software that can be downloaded outside of Google Play at a disadvantage. “
Thursday’s lawsuit brings up a similar case, arguing that Google created the Play Store as the only viable distribution method for Android apps. Despite its promises to open up Android devices to competition, Google has put in place contractual and technological barriers that exclude competing ways to distribute apps to Android users, so the Google Play Store accounts for almost all app downloads from app stores on Android devices.. “