Google Considered Buying Epic Games, Per Court Documents

Lifted redactions from an antitrust lawsuit filed by Epic Games reveal Google considered buying the video game titan to end their app store dispute.
Lifted redactions from an antitrust lawsuit filed by Epic Games reveal Google considered buying the video game titan to end their app store dispute. / Photo courtesy of Epic Games

Newly lifted redacted portions of Epic Games' amended lawsuit filed in July reveal Google allegedly considered buying "some or all" of the Fortnite operator in an attempt to "squelch" the two companies' Android app store ecosystem dispute, as first reported by The Verge.

On Aug. 5, Google unsealed some of its redactions in Epic's antitrust complaint against them. Expanding on the initial ongoing conflict from last year, in which Google removed Fortnite from their Play app store after Android players were offered an option to pay Epic Games directly in the battle royale's item shop, Epic gave internal examples of Google's alleged anti-competitive practices.

While Fortnite is still available to download and play on Android devices via the Epic Games App on the third-party Samsung Galaxy Store, the game remains blocked on the Google Play app store.

To illustrate how Google "uses its size, influence, power, and money to induce third parties into anticompetitive agreements that further entrench its monopolies," Epic wrote.

"Google has gone so far as to share its monopoly profits with business partners to secure their agreement to fence out competition, has developed a series of internal projects to address the 'contagion' it perceived from efforts by Epic and others to offer consumers and developers competitive alternatives, and has even contemplated buying some or all of Epic to squelch this threat."

The "contagion" Epic says Google is bothered by is their ultimate goal in the lawsuit — injunctive relief that would make an open, competitive Android ecosystem for all users and industry participants (i.e. eliminating actions that unfairly influence/force app developers and consumers into using Google’s app store).

One example Epic detailed was a Google representative offering a "special deal" to launch Fortnite on Google Play who went on to describe how they seemingly felt games offered on third-party Android app stores are at a major disadvantage compared to those offered on their own store.

"One [senior Google Play] manager contacted Epic’s Vice President and Co-Founder to gauge Epic’s interest in a special deal and, among other things, discussed 'the experience of getting Fortnite on Android' via direct downloading. The manager’s call notes state that she viewed direct downloading Fortnite as 'frankly abysmal' and 'an awful experience', and that Epic should 'worry that most will not go through the 15+ steps.'

According to a statement from Google given to The Verge, Google will continue to defend themselves from "these meritless claims," maintaining that the current "open" Android ecosystem lets developers distribute apps through multiple app stores, and that those who work with the Play store have "consistent" policies that are fair to them.

Epic Games is also currently awaiting a ruling on their case against Apple, which went to trial in May. Fortnite remains on version 13.40 for Battle Royale/Creative on Mac, and unavailable entirely on iOS.