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US: ”Fortnite” developer spars with Google over App-Store fees

 |  December 16, 2019

The creator of “Fortnite” is challenging Google’s policy of taking a cut of payments made for app-related purchases at a time when regulators have started scrutinizing those kind of arrangements between tech companies and their vendors.

Epic Games is asking Google to release in its app store a version of “Fortnite” with a built-in payment system that allows the developer to keep all in-game revenue. Google, a unit of Alphabet currently takes a 30% cut for the kind of in-game purchases players make on games downloaded via its app store.

Epic’s move effectively puts Google in the uncomfortable position of having to either approve the game and forgo a lucrative revenue stream, or potentially provide antitrust regulators with evidence it may be unduly pressuring smaller companies.

“We believe this form of tying of a mandatory payment service with a 30% fee is illegal in the case of a distribution platform with over 50% market share,” Epic Chief Executive Tim Sweeney said in a statement. “Epic doesn’t seek a special exception for ourselves; rather we expect to see a general change to smartphone industry practices in this regard.”

“Fortnite” is free to play and sells virtual currency for real money that users can spend on in-game perks such as avatar costumes and dance moves.

The shooter game has been accessible on mobile devices running Google’s Android operating system since last year, though only by downloading it from Epic’s website. Now the game maker wants to distribute the free game also via Google’s app store, called Google Play, which could help broaden its reach. That is where Google then takes a 30% cut on sales.

“Google Play has a business model and billing policy that allow us to invest in our platform and tools to help developers build successful businesses while keeping users safe,” Google said in a statement. It said it expected companies that want to distribute their apps through its channel to ”participate under the same terms as other developers,” adding they can also distribute their game to Android users without going through Google’s channel.