The Evolution of the Play Store: Epic Games’ Triumph Against Google Unveils Potential Transformations


The Play Store, an integral part of the Android ecosystem, could potentially undergo a transformation following Epic Games’ recent victory against Google in court. Epic Games, the developer behind the popular game Fortnite, has filed a lawsuit against Google, alleging that the tech giant’s monopoly on the Google Play Store violates antitrust rules. While Google has the option to appeal the decision, the outcome of the trial could have significant implications for the future of the app marketplace.

On Monday, November 11th, Epic Games emerged victorious in its legal battle against Google, which shed light on the monopolization that the tech giant had established with its Play Store and Play Billing service. While the Google Play Store has yet to file an appeal, it is expected that there may be unannounced changes to the platform as a result of the court’s decision. The legal struggle between Epic Games and Google began in 2020 when the game developer expressed discontent with the 30% fee imposed by Google on Play Store purchases. In response, Fortnite was pulled from the app store when Epic Games attempted to offer an alternative payment mechanism. A similar situation unfolded simultaneously on Apple’s App Store.

The fact that Epic Games won the lawsuit against Google after losing the case against Apple in 2021 came as a surprise to many. Unlike the previous lawsuit, the trial against Google was conducted before a jury. After hours of deliberation, the jury reached a consensus: Google exercises control over the Android app distribution and pricing marketplaces. The verdict made it clear that the corporation engaged in anti-competitive practices in these spheres, which negatively impacted Epic Games. Moreover, Google was found to have unlawfully linked the Google Play Store with its Play Billing payment service. The text outlines the anti-competitive nature of the agreements between the corporation, developers, and manufacturers, known as “Project Hug.” According to The Verge, it was alleged that the largest Google Play Store developers and manufacturers received significant undisclosed payments as part of these agreements.

The lawsuit claims that Epic Games’ decision to remove Fortnite from the Play Store was intended to persuade the company to remain in the store and support the cause. Similar to how Epic Games competes with PC rival Steam through its Epic Games Store, Google executives were concerned that Epic Games could offer a cheaper alternative to the Google Play Store. The full extent of the impact of the court’s decision on the future of the Play Store remains uncertain. Judge James Donato will continue to provide further clarification on any necessary adjustments to the store. In the second week of January 2024, a meeting between Epic Games and Google will take place to propose potential solutions.

Rather than seeking monetary compensation, Epic Games aimed to enable other developers to establish their own storefronts and payment methods. This choice may also pave the way for Fortnite to return to the Google Play Store. The game’s newly added features and experiences make a future comeback more likely. Responding to the court’s finding of monopolistic practices, Google’s VP of Business and Public Policy, Wilson White, stated, “The judgment made clear that we compete fiercely with Apple and its App Store, as well as app stores on Android devices and in video games.” White also affirmed that the company would appeal the conviction. On the other hand, Epic Games expressed their satisfaction with the court’s ruling, stating on their business blog that, “This ruling is a victory for all app developers and consumers around the world.” Epic Games believes that Google has been abusing its monopoly power to impose exorbitant fees, limit competition, and stifle innovation, all of which violate the law.

It is worth noting that in the case against Apple, the judge presiding over the trial, Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, overturned Epic Games’ loss but did not find the iPhone manufacturer to be in violation of antitrust rules. However, she did imply that Apple was “on the precipice” of crossing that line. One distinguishing factor between Apple’s iOS system and Google’s Android is the ability to install apps from sources other than the official app store. This gives the impression that Apple’s system is more closed than Android. Nevertheless, Google also provides the option to enable the installation of apps from external sources, with a warning about potential security risks for users who choose to do so.