Epic Games triumphs over Google in landmark antitrust case

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Written By Viju V

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What just happened? Epic Games’ legal battle against Apple might not have been as successful as it hoped, but the lawsuit against Google has ended in a win for Tim Sweeney’s company. A jury has just sided with Epic, ruling that Google violated antitrust laws to extract fees and limit competition from developers.

It’s been over three years since Epic sued Apple and Google after the pair removed Fortnite from their respective app stores – a consequence of the Battle Royale mobile title introducing the Epic Direct Payment option, which allowed players to pay Epic directly for in-game purchases.

The fight against Google concluded following a three-hour deliberation by the nine-person jury that saw it unanimously answer yes to all 11 questions. As reported by The Verge, the jury found that Google held an illegal monopoly on app distribution and in-app billing services for Android devices. It also found that there is an illegal tie between the Google Play app store and the Google Play Billing payment service, and that the company’s distribution agreement with game developers and deals with OEMs were anticompetitive. Furthermore, it was agreed that Epic Games has been injured by Google’s behavior.

Epic had cited an initiative called “Project Hug” in its complaint alleging that Google paid developers to continue using the store. It had also been accused of paying Activision $360 million to stop it building a rival app store and even considered buying some or all of Epic to fight the lawsuit. Google also reportedly made deals with Nintendo, Ubisoft, and Riot Games. Epic defined these as “bribes.”

Google said it would appeal the verdict. “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,” said Wilson White, Google VP for Government Affairs and Public Policy. “We will continue to defend the Android business model and remain deeply committed to our users, partners, and the broader Android ecosystem.”

What happens now rests with Judge James Donato, who will meet with both parties in the second week of January to discuss potential remedies. Epic wants Google to give developers the freedom to introduce their own app stores and billing systems for Android. The judge said he would neither decide the percentage fee Google should charge for its products nor grant Epic’s request to prevent Google from implementing an anti-circumvention provision.

Epic mostly lost its case against Apple. In April, the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a previous decision that Apple had not violated competition laws. However, Cupertino was ordered to allow developers to use alternative payment methods.

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