Google allegedly wanted to buy Epic Games to stop third-party “contagion”

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Epic Games’ plans to gain more profit from hosting Fortnite on other platforms is not just a recent battle. In fact, it’s a fight that three years in the making. Initially, the battle was simply against Epic Games and Google. However, that has since expanded into the company's big fight against Apple.

Despite Epic Games’ fight ballooning in recent years, that initial battle that gave Samsung Fortnite exclusivity has recently been blown open. Furthermore, it reveals an allegedly ugly truth regarding Google's hold on the Android ecosystem.

Google planned to buy out the competition

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In a report by The Verge, it's said that court documents detail Google's retaliation against Epic Games. While Epic moved to sideloading and lawsuits to circumvent the Play Store’s 30% cut, Google moved to buy out Epic.

The court documents state that Google’s fortress hold on the Android ecosystem was seen as threatened. Google reportedly viewed Epic’s popular sideloading as a “contagion” to its industry. Epic Games explained the situation thusly:

“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.”
Google wanted to limit Fortnite
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Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney revealed that they had no idea that Google was aiming to purchase them at the time. But why didn't the plans to purchase go through? Well, considering how popular Fortnite was at the time, The Big G just couldn't splash the cash.

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At the time, Epic Games' valuation was a massive $15 billion. Nowadays, that valuation is almost double at $29 billion. With Fortnite, the Epic Games Store and Unreal Engine, the company keeps climbing in value.

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The antitrust argument

Google's attempt to buy out Epic Games adds another leaf to its critics’ book of antitrust accusations against the company. At the time, Epic wanted Google to reduce restrictions on Android devices that made sideloading applications seem terrifying for users. Google argued that sideloading applications is a “bad experience” for Android users anyway.

The documents state:

“In an internal document titled “Response to Epic,” a Google employee explained that the “install friction” associated with direct downloading was “not only a bad experience” for users but that Google knew “from its data that it will drastically limit [Epic’s] reach.” The document goes on to explain that “[f]uture [Fortnite] updates will be challenged re: targeting, update experience via web”; that the direct downloading approach was “most associated with malicious apps,” which would be “incompatible with [Epic’s] brand/demographics”; and that “[t]he approach will create significant user confusion, since [Google Play] will still attract [billions] of users who will search for Fortnite and run into dead ends that aren’t clear how to resolve.”

For Android 12, Google is only slightly loosening the rules for Epic. In the new OS, third-party App Stores like Samsung Galaxy and Epic Games Store will be able to update apps in the background. It's not perfect, but it's something.

Read More: Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney criticises Apple’s CSAM flagging tools