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Day three of the Epic vs Google antitrust trial offered insight into a previous dispute between the two companies regarding the initial launch of Fortnite on Google Play – including a $147 million deal proposed by Google.
In 2018, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney told GamesIndustry.biz that Fortnite would not be released on Google Play as the “30% store tax is a high cost.” Instead, the company planned to release a Fortnite Installer that could be downloaded directly from Epic’s website.
In a San Francisco court on Wednesday, Epic once again argued that the process of sideloading apps onto Android devices – which involved 15 or more steps, and multiple security warnings – deters users, making them more likely to rely on the Google Play store. This was a key argument in its opening statement on Monday.
The Verge reported that an internal Google document shown to the court – a list of “the most principled arguments” the company could make to convince Epic to release Fortnite on Google Play – demonstrates that the platform holder was aware of this.
The top entry read: “The install friction is not only a bad experience, but we know from our data that it will drastically limit their reach.”
Another read: “The [Play] store will still attract billions of users who will search for Fortnite and run into deadends that aren’t clear how to resolve.”
Evidently these arguments either weren’t put forward to Epic or didn’t convince the Fortnite firm, as The Verge also reported Google offered Epic $147 million to put the popular battle royale game on Google Play.
During her time on the stand, Google’s VP of Play partnerships Purnima Kochikar confirmed this offer was approved by Google’s business council and put forward to Epic Games – but it was rejected.
The deal would have seen Google invest $147 million into Epic as incremental funding over three years.
A document justifying the deal show showed Google’s estimates that Fortnite’s absence from the Play store could result in between $130 million and $250 million direct revenue loss for the marketplace.
The same document suggested a potential “downstream impact” of between $550 million and $3.6 billion in revenue loss “if broad contagion to other developers,” i.e. other studios followed Epic’s lead and began offering Android games solely as direct downloads.
Epic Games eventually relented and brought Fortnite to Google Play 18 months later.
At the time, the company said: “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.
Fortnite launched on Google Play in April 2020 – five months before it was removed for the hotfix that enabled direct payments, which prompted Epic’s antitrust lawsuit against Google.
Elsewhere during yesterday’s proceedings, the district court’s director of courtroom operations confirmed to The Verge that no exhibits will be made publicly accessible until the jury has reached its verdict.
During Epic’s 2021 bench trial against Apple, several documents and exhibits were found online revealing more about both companies, plus others that had been discussed during the proceedings.
Similarly, poorly redacted documents discovered during the FTC vs Microsoft trial in June revealed company innovation, such as Sony’s production costs for The Last of Us Part 2 and Horizon Forbidden West.
The Epic vs Google trial continues later today, and you can follow the biggest revelations from the case right here.