Epic Wins Antitrust Case Against Google As the Play Store is Ruled a Monopoly





Fortnite-maker Epic Games scored a decisive win against Google in its antitrust lawsuit on Monday after a jury ruled that the search giant’s Google Play app store and its cozy relationship with different partners constituted a monopoly, according to The Verge.

The jury ruled that Google’s Play Store represented a monopoly in its distribution power and also maintained its power by engaging in anticompetitive conduct, the report said.

It’s a stunning win for Epic, which sued both Google and Apple back in 2020, alleging they both abused the power of their respective application stores, which were the main way to download programs to their respective phones. Epic made headlines early on for a splashy campaign, complete with a video remake of Apple’s famous 1984 Macintosh Super Bowl ad, which drew inspiration from George Orwell’s dystopian novel. The ruling is even more surprising given Apple largely won its fight against Epic in 2021.

As The Verge points out, Google was in a different situation after the trial revealed secret deals between Google, the handset makers, and large video game developers, which the jury found were designed to keep rival app stores from seeing any growth. This trial was decided by a jury, while Apple’s victory was decided by Federal Judge Yvonne Gonzalez.

This could have a long-term impact on cord cutting, as it opens the doors for streaming services to offer subscriptions without needing to pay the 30% commission on all subscriptions and sales made on Android. Google later introduced a program for smaller developers that cut the rate down to 15% for the first $1 million in annual revenue.

An Epic spokesperson shared this statement: “Today’s verdict is a win for all app developers and consumers around the world. It proves that Google’s app store practices are illegal and they abuse their monopoly to extract exorbitant fees, stifle competition and reduce innovation.” 

Google said it plans to challenge the verdict.

“We plan to challenge the verdict,” said Wilson White, vice president of government affairs and policy for the search giant. “Android and Google Play provide more choice and openness than any other major mobile platform. The trial made clear that we compete fiercely with Apple and its App Store, as well as app stores on Android devices and gaming consoles. We will continue to defend the Android business model and remain deeply committed to our users, partners, and the broader Android ecosystem.” 

The loss comes as Google wrapped up a separate antitrust case against the U.S. Department of Justice, which alleged its powers in the search business also constituted a monopoly.

While most developers are beholden to both Apple and Google because of the power of their app stores, Epic was in an unusual situation. The popularity of Fortnite, especially back in 2020, meant it didn’t necessarily need either app store. To get around the 15% fee that both Apple and Google imposed on developers, Epic introduced a direct payment system for the game, prompting both Apple and Google to boot the game from their respective stores.

But Epic was waiting for that, and immediately filed its lawsuit, complete with video and PR campaign bashing the tech giants.

Three years later, Epic finally gets the ruling it was looking for.

Epic hadn’t sued for monetary damages — it sought a change in how Google operated — so Judge James Donato still needs decide on the damages.

Image credit: Epic Games

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