A jury unanimously agreed today that Google had created an illegal monopoly with its Play Store and billing services. This is a significant result, especially considering Epic lost a similar claim against Apple in 2021. According to The Verge, the jury determined that Google participated in illegal action with its Play Store and billing services, among other anti-competitive practices.
Epic built their argument by alleging that Google had secret deals with phone manufacturers and game developers to keep alternative app stores down, and that, as The Verge puts it, “run scared of the Fortnite developer.” It’s unclear what will come of this triumph, but Epic has campaigned for every app developer to be able to share their own app stores and billing services on Android without having to go through Google. If this comes to fruition, it will have far-reaching repercussions in the game industry.
For starters, Epic could continue selling V-Bucks to Fortnite users without paying the usage fee to use Google’s billing systems. This was originally deployed by the developer in 2020, leading to its removal from the Play Store. It would also be able to expand the Epic Games app marketplace on Android, allowing players to download mobile games other than Fortnite.
Similarly, other game developers would be allowed to exclude Google billing service fees from in-game sales, instead opting for other solutions and potentially bringing their games to different app stores for Android devices. Again, nothing has been decided by the courts that would allow this.
While Epic has triumphed for the time being, Google has decided to appeal the ruling, so don’t expect this legal struggle to be over anytime soon.