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Epic Games Grudgingly Brings "Fortnite" Back To the Google Play Store

By Anders Bylund – Apr 22, 2020 at 9:36AM

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The game developer isn't happy about it but the Play Store turned out to hold all the leverage in this public pettifoggery over publishing royalties.

Keep calm and play Fortnite. The popular Battle Royale game is back in the Google Play Store after 18 months in the wilderness of third-party app stores.

The story so far

Fortnite publisher Epic Games had a public fallout with the Play Store in August 2018. The game publisher argued that Alphabet's (GOOG 0.11%) (GOOGL) official app store's 30% cut of the revenues from paid apps and in-game purchases is much too large.

The company is also unhappy about Apple's (AAPL 0.03%) app store grabbing the same 30% slice of Epic's revenue streams, but it has always been easier to access apps from unofficial sources on Alphabet's Android devices than Apple's iPhone and iPad platforms. That's why Epic took its first-person shooter game to a number of alternative app stores for Android gamers, including the company's own Epic Games Store.

That experiment just ended. Epic had some success with third-party downloads for a while, but Fortnite fans were also bombarded with warnings about malware and security concerns every time they wanted to grab an official update.

A young couple at a train station, smiling and cheering as the man plays a game on his smartphone.

Image source: Getty Images.

Epic Games finally pays the app store toll

"We've come to a basic realization. Google puts software downloadable outside of Google Play at a disadvantage," Epic wrote in a statement emailed to many media outlets. Potential gamers have been scared away from Fortnite and the economic damage from fewer users quickly outweighs even a large app story royalty payment.

Epic will bite the bullet and pay the industry-standard 30% app store royalties in the end. Not even one of the most popular games on the planet, with robust financial backing from major Epic Games investor Tencent (TCEHY), could dodge the app store toll in the long run. It certainly makes sense to simplify the app download experience in the middle of global COVID-19 lockdowns, with billions of potential gamers stuck at home and aching for some entertainment.

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Anders Bylund owns shares of Alphabet (A shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Apple, and Tencent Holdings. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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