Newly unsealed documents in Epic's antitrust court case against Google allege that the tech giant considered buying "some or all" of Epic Games, out of concern over the Fortnite developer's intention to sidestep the Google Play app store.
The document doesn't contain any of the internal messages where such a plan is considered, but a previously redacted paragraph is now included in court documents, as reported by The Verge yesterday:
"For example, 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."
Responding to the Verge article on Twitter, Epic Games CEO said that they were only finding out now "about Google's consideration":
This was unbeknownst to us at the time, and because of the court’s protective order we’re just finding out now about Google’s consideration of buying Epic to shut down our efforts to compete with Google Play.https://t.co/HSS1edUrQm— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) August 6, 2021
Elsewhere in the court documents, Epic also allege that Google offered them a "special deal" to launch Fortnite on the Google Play store, which they rejected, and referred to the experience of installing apps on Android phones outside of the store as "frankly abysmal."
Much of the document's claims and offered evidence remains redacted, but Epic further allege that after they signed a distribution agreement for Fortnite with Samsung's Android app store, Google "took action to ensure that OEMs would not enter into partnerships with distributors like Epic."
A lot of attention has been paid to Epic's lawsuit against Apple regarding restrictions on the app store, but their lawsuit against Google was launched on the same day and is related to the same issue. Epic claim that Apple and Google's control of their app store's constitutes a monopoly, and want to be able to offer users alternative routes to buying their games such as Fortnite - without having to give Apple or Google a 30% cut. The outcomes of both cases have enormous ramifications for Apple and Google's walled gardens, and for every software developer who releases on those platforms. It could also have consequences for other platforms including consoles, and other digital stores such as Steam.