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Google has illegal app store monopoly, jury decides in Epic Games lawsuit

Court victory for the Fortnite maker
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In a decision that could have widespread consequences for the gaming landscape on Android, a jury found that Google used its position at the operating system’s helm to turn Google Play Store and the Google Play Billing service into a monopoly. It voted unanimously to answer positively to all of the accusations that Fortnite maker Epic Games had laid out against Google three years ago when it filed this lawsuit (via The Verge).

What did Google in – in contrast to Apple, which won its own court battle against Epic – were seemingly the company’s secret distribution agreements and revenue sharing models with big game developers and phone manufacturers, which were designed to stifle the app stores of competitors on Android. Crucially, some of these plans were made in reaction to Epic Games in particular, showing that Google targeted the company with anti-competitive measures.

Fortnite ad attacking Apple and referencing Orwell's 1984.

It's been three years since Epic started its offensive against Apple and Google.

Epic called the decision “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 has already announced that it would appeal the verdict, stating that “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.”

While Epic is celebrating and Google is plotting a rematch, it’s not entirely clear yet what exactly has been won and lost due to this jury decision – Epic didn’t actually sue for damages. It wants to force Google into allowing everyone to make their own app stores and billing systems on the Android ecosystem, but at the end of the day it will be up to the judge presiding over the case to decide on the exact remedies Google will have to offer. A discussion between both parties and the judge has been scheduled for the second week of January 2024.

If the judge follows all of Epic Games’ wishes, it would greatly open up the Android ecosystem to new stores and could lower the prices of apps and in-app purchases for consumers. Industry giants like Microsoft, which recently positioned itself as a huge force on the mobile market thanks to its acquisition of Activision Blizzard King, have been preparing for this moment by working on their own stores.