If nothing else, Epic’s continuing legal battle with Apple and Google is revealing some juicy behind-the-scenes details of the mobile gaming world. The latest tidbit is that, according to a report of the ongoing Epic v. Apple lawsuit, the game developer tried to tempt Google with a Stadia launch of Fortnite, one of the most popular free-to-play games on the planet, and the fulcrum of Epic’s current battles.
The catch? In order to get Fortnite on Google’s nascent streaming game platform, Google would have to give up the lucrative 30% revenue split for Fortnite on the Play Store. As you can probably tell, that didn’t happen. Epic pulled its in-app purchases stunt, both Apple and Google pulled Fortnite from their respective stores, and Epic sued both of them.
The info comes out of the Epic v. Apple suit, now active and being streamed over the web. IGN reporter Rebekah Valentine tweeted it out yesterday while covering the proceedings live:
haha someone at Epic apparently pitched to Google (prior to Fortnite being on Google Play) that if they let them put Fortnite on Google Play for free, they’d put Fortnite on Stadia too
— Rebekah Valentine (@duckvalentine) May 3, 2021
The precise details of this proposed deal aren’t known, and are likely to remain murky. For example, assuming the report is accurate, it would have been offered before Fortnite was released on the Play Store in April 2020, while Epic was still trying to get as many players as possible to side-load the game in order to avoid the revenue split.
Epic’s offer was probably sincere, since Fortnite’s mobile purchases for skins and other in-game items are incredibly lucrative. But it’s worth pointing out that this wouldn’t have been a one-sided deal: Epic would need to spend considerable resources on developing a Fortnite release for Stadia’s custom, cloud-based hardware, and updating it constantly to keep it in line with the mobile, PC, and console versions of the game. And having the world’s most popular shooter on Stadia, possibly at launch, would have gone a long way towards giving the struggling platform a better chance. Note that NVIDIA, at the launch of its similar GeForce NOW service, featured Fortnite heavily in its marketing.
Contextually, recall that Epic CEO Tim Sweeney had already complained about Google’s Play Store revenue split and dismissed Stadia as a platform years before. Apple has previously said that Sweeney approached the company directly, asking for a similar sweetheart deal to keep more revenue from App Store in-app purchase sales.
Whatever might or might not have come from this kind of corporate horse-trading, Epic’s actions have resulted in tumultuous uncertainty in the world of mobile apps, and even the tech world in general. Epic’s spotlight on revenue splits has given regulators the push to more closely investigate both Apple and Google for anti-trust behavior. Both companies have announced plans to give most app developers a more generous revenue split, though the terms are still extremely weighted in favor of the platform holder.
Fortnite is still available on Android, as either a side-loaded installation (as was the case when it launched) or from Samsung’s Galaxy Store. The game is currently not available for download on iOS.