Fortnite maker Epic Games has slapped a case against Google over 'illegal monopoly'

Fortnite maker Epic Games is suing Google, alleging an 'illegal app store monopoly'. This is a critical case as the judgment will impact app stores and payments on Android devices.

| Updated on: Nov 07 2023, 10:29 IST
Epic games
Epic Games takes Google to court, alleging the running of an illegal monopoly in the app store. The trial could reshape the digital landscape. (AFP)
Epic games
Epic Games takes Google to court, alleging the running of an illegal monopoly in the app store. The trial could reshape the digital landscape. (AFP)

In a legal showdown set to commence today, Epic Games, the publisher of the wildly popular game Fortnite, is taking tech giant Google to court. The lawsuit alleges that Google's mobile app store constitutes an illegal monopoly. If this legal battle seems oddly familiar, it's because Epic has previously faced off against Apple, albeit with less favorable results. So, why is Epic returning to the courtroom, and what's at stake?

Epic vs. Google

The primary reason is that while Epic's antitrust claims against Apple went to court earlier, a similar lawsuit against Google never did. The trial, titled "Epic v. Google," is finally set to begin today, 1,180 days after Epic initially filed the lawsuit, according to a report by the Verge.

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The Battle Over "App Store Taxes

Before delving into the specifics of this case, let's take a step back. Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, generates revenue by selling in-game items using its virtual currency, V-Bucks. Prior to August 13, 2020, if players used an Android or iOS device and installed Fortnite through an official app store, they were subject to in-app payment fees imposed by Google or Apple. These fees have been widely criticized as the "Google tax" or "Apple tax."

Epic's dispute with these tech giants began on August 13, 2020, when the company decided to bypass Apple and Google's app store fees. It introduced a hotfix update to Fortnite that allowed players to purchase V-Bucks directly through Epic's payment processing system at a discount. In response, Apple and Google promptly removed Fortnite from their respective app stores.

Epic's High-Stakes Battle

Epic was prepared with lawsuits and an attention-grabbing attack ad featuring a Fortnite hero wielding a unicorn-llama hammer, reminiscent of Apple's iconic "1984" Macintosh ad. While the legal battle with Apple proceeded to trial in 2021, the lawsuit against Google faced numerous delays. A ruling in favor of Apple was handed down in September, but both parties are awaiting potential Supreme Court involvement. Meanwhile, the fight against Google continued, culminating in today's trial.

The outcome of this case holds significant implications for Google's app store. Epic aims to break Google's alleged monopoly on Android app stores and payment methods, potentially sparing developers from paying the "Google Tax." However, Google argues that a victory for Epic could compromise the security of Android devices and hinder their ability to compete with Apple's iPhone by offering a free app store.

Epic's claims against Google assert that the tech giant makes it exceedingly challenging for developers and users to circumvent its Android app store and its associated fees.

The crucial question to be addressed in court is whether Google possesses a monopoly.

Ultimately, this legal battle will decide the fate of Google's app store and its implications for developers and users alike. With billions of dollars at stake and the potential to reshape the digital landscape, the trial promises to be a consequential legal showdown.

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First Published Date: 06 Nov, 16:42 IST