Epic Games Takes on Google’s Dominance, Prompting Industry-Wide Scrutiny and Potential Reforms

Epic Games challenges Google Play Store’s monopoly, driving for substantial app store reform in the wake of a landmark antitrust triumph, shaping the future landscape of digital marketplaces

By Raunak Bose
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Epic Games (Image via TechFirstNow)

The game developer Epic Games, better known for the popular “Fortnite” video game, has suggested some significant new rules for the Google Play Store following a recent win in an antitrust case. The firm's lawsuit calls for a federal judge in California to force changes on Android so that developers and consumers have a larger choice of apps.

In a recent court document filed with U.S. District Judge James Donato who works in San Francisco, Epic Games outlined different possible solution options. Such measures entail making Google Play Services the only permitted source of application distribution in the market for a period of six years. This will allow other app stores to compete in the market. Moreover, Epic is trying to limit Google from making any exclusive deals with device manufacturers that prohibit the preloading of alternative app stores.

The announcement comes after the revolutionary antitrust trial which was ruled against Google by a jury in December 2018. The jury established that Google was guilty of unlawful competition because it had prevented programmers from using the alternative distribution network outside the Play Store besides enforcing strict usages of in-app purchase restrictions.

In addition, the motion submitted by Epic Games is also intended to prevent Google from damaging apps’ ability to inform users about external purchasing options that are not provided in the app. However, Google has strongly refuted the allegations and denied any wrongdoing, but still, it is under pressure to solve issues related to its market domination and anticompetitive behaviours.

Epic Games Proposes Overhaul of Google Play Store Rules

Although Judge Donato is not legally required to just take up Epic’s suggestions, this filing certainly lays the premises for engaging in a legal conflict over Google’s app store rules in terms of their effects on developers and customers. The tech giant has to reply to Epic's proposal by May 3, and with the stakes so high, it appears that their legal battle will drag on.

James Donato, Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California (via Law)
James Donato, Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California
(Image via Law)

The recent announcement signals the continuing controversy brought to the forefront by big tech companies on their monopoly over digital marketplaces. Google’s $700 million settlement in December resolving state and consumer allegations concerning Play Store restrictions is an illustration of increasing regulations and public indignation over Big Tech domination.

To help with some of the mentioned concerns, Google has come up with ways for app and game developers to expand their options, such as launching alternative billing mechanisms for in-app purchases. The “choice billing” development in the U.S. is a major step given that it addresses criticisms against Google's billing practices within the Play Store ecosystem.

On the other hand, Google’s legal challenges are only the beginning. The company intends to appeal the antitrust court's decision in December, and in addition to this, it retains the right to contest any remedies ordered by the court which may further lengthen the court's process.

At the same time, Epic Games engages in another legal battle against Apple over the control of the App Store. The verdict of these high-visibility trials could remould the digital environment and have large-scale consequences for app stores by setting new standards and competitive strategies.

With Epic Games and Google having now entered a battle of wills in a lengthy courtroom, the tech industry is keeping a close eye on the proceedings keen to see any hints as to a change in power or whether there could be a new set of rules governing app distribution and revenue generation. These legal battles can have very important consequences for developers, end-users and the overall digital domain.

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