Epic Games will have to face more than just Apple in court. According to reports, Google has filed a countersuit against the game developer for violating Google Play Store policies by introducing a direct payment option for Fortnite on Android.
On Aug. 13, 2020, Epic Games added that alternative payment option to Fortnite on iOS and Android to avoid Apple and Google taking a 30% cut of in-game purchases. Epic Games retaliated by suing Apple and Google on the same day the game was removed from both platforms, ostensibly because it believes their marketplace policies are anti-competitive. (This is a viewpoint that regulators around the world are beginning to adopt.)
According to ZDNet, Google has filed a countersuit against Epic Games, alleging a breach of contract in the release of Fortnite’s direct payment solution—at least for the Google Play Store version of the game. Google doesn’t seem to mind Epic Games implementing such a system in an Android version of Fortnite in general; rather, it seems to mind it being used in a Google Play Store game.
This argument highlights a significant difference between iOS and Android. When Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store, it effectively made the game unplayable on new devices. Due to the game’s removal from the Google Play Store, Android users will need to side-load it after downloading it from the Epic Games website. The game is still available on the platform, even if it isn’t as convenient as downloading it from Google’s marketplace.
People who previously downloaded Fortnite from the Google Play Store can still play it on their phones, according to Google. “Users who downloaded the non-compliant version of Fortnite before it was removed from Google Play are still able to make in-app purchases using Epic’s hotfixed external payment mechanism, allowing Epic to evade its contractually agreed service fee to Google for those purchases,” the company claimed in its countersuit.
Due to a vulnerability in the game’s installer, Epic Games’ decision to release Fortnite outside of the Google Play Store in 2018 put Android users at risk, according to Google. “Google has been harmed directly as a result of Epic’s breach of contract,” it said, “including the loss of the DDA’s’service fee’ on a global basis, and the Google Play ecosystem has been harmed because the hotfix potentially exposed a security vulnerability that could be exploited for even more nefarious purposes.”
Google appears to want to eat both sides of the cake. Epic Games claims it is free to add a direct payment mechanism to Fortnite on Android as long as it isn’t included in the Google Play Store version, but it opposes the game’s release outside of that store. Sure, it’s because of the vulnerability, but seeing Fortnite complaints in and out of the Google Play Store is strange.
In any case, Epic Games’ legal battle royale shows no signs of going away anytime soon. Its case against Apple could drag on for years, and now that Google has filed a countersuit, it could drag on even longer.