Google has illegal app store monopoly, Epic Games lawsuit finds

After three years, Epic Games has won its antitrust lawsuit against Google.
fortnite epic games google lawsuit

Fortnite maker Epic Games has won its lawsuit against Google, initially lodged to determine whether the company “stifled innovation, reduced consumer choices, and inflated prices” by “restricting competition in payment processing and app distribution on the Google Play Store.”

Epic had alleged that Google forcing game developers to use its proprietary Play Store and its in-app payment services, which required a 30% commission, was illegal. Epic had a major stake in this claim, as all purchases for Fortnite on Android devices were subject to this 30% commission.

In 2020, the company attempted to circumvent the requirements of the Google Play Store (and the Apple App Store) by installing its own standalone payment processing system within Fortnite on both the iOS and Android versions of the game – but the game was subsequently removed by Google and Apple for defying their individual app store rules.

Read: Apple is seeking to overturn ruling on App Store payments

Dual lawsuits were then filed, with the Apple lawsuit taking precedent. This ended in 2021 with a negative verdict for Epic Games, but the Google lawsuit took much longer, with a verdict only being reached this week, and after much deliberation from a trial jury.

According to this jury, Epic Games is accurate in its assessment – that Google is running an illegal app store monopoly, and stifling competitive alternatives. Specifically, the jury found that Google was engaging in anticompetitive behaviour, and that Epic Games had been impacted by these moves. It also found that Google’s revenue sharing deals with smartphone makers and big game developers were made to hold onto monopoly powers.

“Over the course of the trial we saw evidence that Google was willing to pay billions of dollars to stifle alternative app stores by paying developers to abandon their own store efforts and direct distribution plans, and offering highly lucrative agreements with device manufacturers in exchange for excluding competing app stores,” Epic Games said in its victory statement.

“These deals were meant to cement Google’s dominance as the only app store in town – and it worked. More than 95% of apps are distributed through the Play Store on Android. Google imposes a 30% tax on developers simply because they have prevented any viable competitors from emerging to offer better deals.”

Remedies for this verdict are yet to be determined, as Epic Games did not sue for monetary damages. Rather, it aimed to highlight the monopoly of Google, and potentially determine a path forward for developers wishing to release games on Android devices. (The Apple lawsuit had a similar goal.)

For its part, Google has denied the verdict, claiming it competes “intensely on price, quality, and security” particularly against Apple’s own App Store. A lawyer for Google claimed it offered competitive fees to fight against an Apple monopoly in the app arena.

“We plan to challenge the verdict. Android and Google Play provide more choice and openness than any other major mobile platform,” Wilson White, Google VP, Government Affairs and Public Policy said, per The Verge.

“The trial made clear that we compete fiercely with Apple and its App Store, as well as app stores on Android devices and gaming consoles. We will continue to defend the Android business model and remain deeply committed to our users, partners, and the broader Android ecosystem.”

In the coming months, we’ll likely learn more about the final verdict of this case, and what this means for Google and its Google Play app store.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.