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In a closely watched antitrust showdown over how Android app users acquire apps and make in-app purchases, Epic Games, the maker of the popular game “Fortnite,” has initiated a legal battle against Google in federal court. Can be reshaped.
Epic has filed a lawsuit in the US District Court in the Northern District of California against the Google Play Store, focusing on Google’s charges for in-app subscriptions and one-time payments, as well as other terms that App developers claim have helped Google maintain an illicit monopoly on app distribution.
This legal dispute comes after years of debate on whether app store operators such as Google and Apple foster an open and competitive app ecosystem. Both companies argue that their app stores unlock billions in revenue for small businesses while ensuring Android and iOS users benefit from the security oversight offered by the tech giants.
Testimonies from high-profile witnesses on both sides, including Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Epic CEO Tim Sweeney, may be presented to the jury.
The court battle originated in 2020 when Epic launched Project Liberty, a plan to circumvent the terms of Apple and Google’s App Stores. This move by Epic sparked a confrontation with the technology giants.
Epic updated the Fortnite app, urging users to make in-app purchases directly through Epic’s own website instead of using Apple and Google’s in-app payment systems. This action violated the developer terms of the App Store.
Consequently, both app stores removed the Fortnite app from their platforms. This means that iOS users can no longer play Fortnite on their Apple devices. The Epic case related to Apple may soon be reviewed by the Supreme Court. Fortnite is still accessible on Android devices through various channels independent of Google.
Meanwhile, Sweeney has claimed that Google “regulates, monitors, and taxes transactions between users and developers,” thereby violating US antitrust law.
Google argues that Epic simply wants access to the Play Store’s 2.5 billion users worldwide without paying to support the platform. Moreover, Google claims that Epic’s victory would undermine its ability to offer a competitive Android alternative to Apple’s iOS, thereby causing harm.
Wilson White, Google’s Vice President, stated, “The most important thing for us is to demonstrate to the jury how Android has created more choices, flexibility, and openness than any other platform, and how Epic has truly taken advantage of that level of choice and flexibility.” He further added, “As a result, these baseless claims they have brought forth are destined to fail,” in relation to public policy and government affairs.
Initially, the lawsuit against Google included a wide range of plaintiffs, including dozens of state attorneys general, individual consumers, and Match Group, the online dating giant that owns apps like Tinder, Hinge, and Match. However, Google has successfully reduced the number of adversaries it faces in the lawsuit by reaching settlements that remove other plaintiffs from the case.
Epic will now face Google in court alone.