Epic Games Suit Against Google Kicks Off, Alleging Play Store Abuses Monopoly Power

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Epic Games, maker of the hugely popular Fortnite game, is set to begin a high-stakes antitrust trial against Google on November 6th in San Francisco federal court. Epic alleges Google unlawfully maintains a monopoly over app distribution on Android devices through its Play Store policies and practices.

The trial follows Epic’s similar antitrust case against Apple last year. Google now faces accusations of anticompetitive conduct akin to those leveled against Apple previously.

Epic Seeks Changes to Google’s App Distribution Rules

In its lawsuit, Epic seeks to force Google to open up alternative ways for consumers to directly download apps on Android without being forced through the Play Store.

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney said the company aims to enable “consumer and developer freedom” and bypass the Play Store’s commissions and restrictive terms. The suit does not seek financial damages.

A high-profile witness list includes CEOs from major tech firms like Google, Apple, and Microsoft who may testify on app market dynamics.

Google Says Suit Undermines Successful Ecosystem

Google argues its model provides important security protections and flexibility, saying Epic simply wants the benefits of its app platform without paying commissions covering costs and investments.

A Google spokesperson contended the Play Store faces ample competition from Apple’s App Store and other platforms. But Epic claims Google effectively shuts out other Android app stores.

Epic Claims Google Paid Off Developers to Retain Play Store Dominance

A key allegation is that Google launched “Project Hug” to pay major developers hundreds of millions to keep their apps exclusively on the Play Store and not distribute them directly.

Epic says efforts like Project Hug, later called the “Apps and Games Velocity Program,” were designed specifically to undermine fledgling competition and maintain the Play Store’s monopoly.

Google’s Android Tactics Mirror Apple’s iOS Strategy

Parallels exist between Epic’s Google suit and its earlier legal crusade against Apple’s “walled garden” iOS ecosystem and 30% App Store commission.

But some experts argue Google may have more liability from paying app makers to stick with the Play Store rather than opening Android up more for alternative stores.

Outcome Could Impact Competitive Landscape Across Mobile Ecosystem

If Epic succeeds, it could force wide-ranging changes to Google’s Play Store business model, app distribution restrictions, and commissions.

More developer options to circumvent the Play Store could reshape the entire Android app ecosystem.

However, Apple prevailed over Epic’s antitrust claims in their 2021 trial, setting a precedent Google may rely on in its own defense.

Ruling Could Influence Broader Scrutiny of Big Tech

On a wider scale, the verdict could influence lawmakers’ ongoing assessment of technology giants’ market power as reform momentum builds.

Google already faces a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit separately alleging it unfairly dominates online search and search advertising.

Epic’s case keeps the spotlight squarely on anti-competitive conduct across Big Tech, with implications beyond just Google.

Google CEO Defends Search Deals in Ongoing Antitrust Trial

The Epic case comes as Google nears the end of the Justice Department trial focused on search dominance.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai this week defended paying billions to Apple and others to remain the default search engine as improving user experience.

But the DOJ contends the tactics exclude competition, foreshadowing likely arguments from Epic regarding the Play Store’s inclusion rules.

Epic Laser-Focused on Antitrust Fight Against Google

With its lawsuit headed to trial, Epic remains fully committed to opening up Android and breaking Google’s alleged stranglehold over app distribution channels.

The video game company is closely monitoring the DOJ’s search monopoly case against Google but not basing its legal strategy on that separate trial’s outcome.

Epic maintains that Android users should have true freedom to download apps without being forced through Google’s marketplace and fees. But Google insists its approach benefits consumers and developers enormously.

Now a jury will weigh those arguments in determining if Google is unfairly abusing market power or if Epic is simply a disgruntled app maker challenging a legitimately dominant distribution platform. Their verdict could reshape the mobile app landscape.

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