Fortnite has just recently dropped on Android, offering a scaled-down version of the competitive shooter on mobile devices. Google has listed the app on the Play Store for distribution. THis platform carries with it a fee that Google uses to monetize the platform. That fee is 30% of sales of both apps themselves, and in-app microtansactions. But Epic allegedly wants to be exempt from that 30% fee. Now, Epic Games and Google are squabbling over the whole thing.
Google has made it pretty clear that they won’t be offering any kind of exception to the sales cut they take for apps on the Play Store. According to this report from The Verge, Google publicly noted that the Android platform requires publishers — all publishers — to follow the Play Store terms. The company ostensibly uses this revenue to help support the platform, and offer new features and incentives to the benefit of app developers and consumers alike. Here’s their statement in regards to the Epic controversy:
“Android enables multiple app stores and choices for developers to distribute apps. Google Play has a business model and billing policy that allow us to invest in our platform and tools to help developers build successful businesses while keeping users safe,” a Google spokesperson explained. “We welcome any developer that recognizes the value of Google Play and expect them to participate under the same terms as other developers.”
Fortnite has been growing steadily in popularity these last couple of years. Themed events have been a very big draw for the game. THe constant stream of updates and patches has helped push the free-to-play title to the top of the battle royale hill, and the massive amount of revenue from microtransactions has helped Epic push their other ventures much higher.
Epic fired back at Google, citing a few different things they saw as problems. For one thing, Epic highlighted the fact that Google Play doesn’t require users to default to Google Pay when processing transactions, but pushes developers to integrate the service into their apps over other payment processor options. Going further, Epic added the following:
“Epic doesn’t seek a special exception for ourselves; rather we expect to see a general change to smartphone industry practices in this regard. We have asked that Google not enforce its publicly stated expectation that products distributed through Google Play use Google’s payment service for in-app purchase. We believe this form of tying of a mandatory payment service with a 30% fee is illegal in the case of a distribution platform with over 50% market share.”
It doesn’t seem like Fortnite will be exempt from the Play Store fees anytime soon, which leaves Fortnite’s future in the Play Store up in the air. Neither of these companies will really be willing to risk their revenue streams over a single quibble. Because if Epic manages to negotiate an exception, then more and more developers will push Google to do the same for them. That kind of controversy is not something Google wants, they manufacture enough problems with YouTube nonsense, and the fumbled Stadia launch. Epic has also made plenty of enemies over exclusivity deals, so both companies are in a tough spot here.