Even if Epic loses to Google, the 'Fortnite' creator still wins
'Fortnite' developer Epic Games now faces a countersuit from Google. But scoring a legal victory against Big Tech likely isn't the ultimate goal.
Epic Games’ legal battles are far from over.
Inverse previously reported on the Epic Games v. Apple court case ruling, which loosened payment option restrictions on the App Store but didn’t give Epic Games everything it wanted.
Epic Games and Apple have both appealed that September 10 ruling, and now Google is filing a countersuit of its own. As the lawsuits continue to pile on, Epic’s efforts are starting to seem futile. But winning likely isn’t the ultimate goal. Getting attention is.
“Think about it: Epic is the self-styled David against not one but two Goliaths,” Esquire Digital Chief Legal Analyst Aron Solomon tells Inverse. “Even if Epic loses (which they will if it was indeed a breach), they win because they're fighting for more choice for gamers. That in itself could be the ultimate win.”
What happened? On October 11, Google filed a countersuit against Epic Games in response to the antitrust litigation Google currently faces from Epic Games.
That’s the same alternative payment processing stunt the Fortnite creator pulled with Apple on the Google Play Store. Google now claims that "Epic has reaped economic benefit from its relationship with Google and all of the services that Google provided to Epic."
Google claims Epic Games was "unjustly enriched" before adding its own payment system to spark litigation purposefully. The courts must decide whether or not Epic Games breached its contract as it did with Apple.
Google wants to maintain control and power over the Google Play Store, even if it's not tied to specific lines of mobile devices like the App Store. By countersuing, Google played right into Epic Games' strategy of airing its grievances against Big Tech in a highly publicized manner. This “battle plan” was known internally at Epic as Project Liberty.
Attention Please: Sure, Big Tech companies should be more welcoming to smaller developers and lower their revenue splits accordingly. But Epic Games is not the scrappy little underdog it makes itself out to be. This is a billion-dollar company attempting to seize more power on the iOS and Android platforms.
Apple revealed that Epic tried to get the Epic Game Store on iOS prior to its breach of agreement. Epic Games is likely trying to come out of this with a popular storefront for all mobile phones that gives developers a better revenue split deal.
But even if it can't accomplish that, Epic Games is kicking and screaming so its most significant issues with the App Store and Google Play Store are exposed.
"I don't make much of Google's lede here that Epic did this "act of deception" to drive litigation as much as I believe that Epic did it for attention," Solomon says.
While Epic Games' chances of getting anything more from the courts are looking dour, it brought lots of attention to the power Apple and Google have over their storefronts. The fact that we're still discussing #FreeFortnite and the ruling of Epic Games v. Apple lawsuit over a month after the verdict is exactly what Epic Games wants.
That doesn't even take into account all the free publicity Fortnite received during these proceedings.
Even if Epic Games has ulterior motives and ultimately fails in the courts, it created a robust, altruistic discourse around the responsibility of platform holders like Apple and Google. That dirty laundry is something the mobile and video game industries will grapple with for years.
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