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  • Voltaire Staff

Epic win for Fortnite-maker against Google in monopoly trial

Photo by Vlad Gorshkov on Unsplash

After three years of Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, filing lawsuits against Apple and Google claiming they operated illegal monopolies in their app stores, the game maker proved it was harmed by the Google's Play Store rules, scoring a rare victory against the tech behemoth.

The US district court of Northern California in its verdict on Monday announced that Google through both its Google Play app store and Google Play Billing service exercised an unlawful monopoly.

The jury unanimously responded affirmatively, following a brief deliberation, to each question presented to them.

They concluded that Google holds a monopoly in the markets for Android app distribution and in-app billing services, asserting that the firm engaged in anticompetitive practices within these markets.

The jury also found that Epic suffered harm as a result of Google's behaviour. Additionally, they determined that there exists an illicit connection between Google's Google Play app store and its Google Play Billing payment services. The distribution agreement, Project Hug deals with game developers and deals with OEMs, were all deemed anticompetitive by the jury.

In a statement on its company blog, Epic Games celebrated the verdict, declaring it a victory for app developers and consumers worldwide.

It asserted that the decision proves Google's app store practices are illegal, and that that the company exploits its monopoly position to impose excessive fees, stifle competition, and hinder innovation.

The triumph is particularly significant given Epic's prior loss against Apple two years ago, where the court concluded that the dispute was unrelated to apps.

However, the Epic vs. Google case presented a different narrative, focusing on undisclosed revenue-sharing agreements involving Google, smartphone manufacturers, and major game developers.

"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. 

"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. And Google executives acknowledged in Court that their offer of a 26% rate on third party payment options is a fake choice for developers," Epic Games wrote in the statement post victory. 

The specific gains for Epic are yet to be determined, awaiting the decision of Judge James Donato on appropriate remedies. Epic did not seek monetary damages but aims for the court to affirm the freedom of every app developer to establish their own app stores and billing systems on Android. The outcome of these wishes remains uncertain until the meeting with Judge Donato in January.

Judge Donato has already rejected Epic's request for an anti-circumvention provision, aiming to prevent Google from reintroducing similar issues through alternative means. He showed a reluctance to issue injunctions that violate the law, encouraging parties to return if problems persist. He clarified that he does not intend to decide the percentage fee Google should charge for its products.

Although Epic did not pursue damages, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney hinted at significant financial gains, potentially in the hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, if the court exempts Epic from paying Google's fees.


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