When ‘Fortnite’ finally arrives on Android, it’s skipping Google’s storefront — and the CEO of Epic Games told me why

Epic Games
  • When “Fortnite” finally arrives on Android in the coming weeks, you won’t find it on the Google Play Store.
  • Instead, Epic Games says, you’ll download the game directly from Epic.
  • By skipping the Google Play Store, Epic Games doesn’t have to pay Google a cut of the massive profits from “Fortnite.”

Sorry, Google: When the biggest game in the world, “Fortnite,” arrives on Android in the coming weeks, it’s skipping Google’s Play Store.

Instead, interested players will download the game directly from its maker, Epic Games. It’s a smart move for Epic Games, who won’t have to pay Google the usual 30% cut from the game’s profits.

“The 30% store tax is a high cost in a world where game developers’ 70% must cover all the cost of developing, operating, and supporting their games,” Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney told me in an email interview this week.

“There’s a rationale for this on console where there’s enormous investment in hardware, often sold below cost, and marketing campaigns in broad partnership with publishers,” he said. “But on open platforms, 30% is disproportionate to the cost of the services these stores perform, such as payment processing, download bandwidth, and customer service. We’re intimately familiar with these costs from our experience operating ‘Fortnite’ as a direct-to-customer service on PC and Mac.”

Sweeney would know, as Epic Games is already paying that “high cost” on Apple’s iPhone and iPad. Apple is taking a 30% cut of all money made by “Fortnite” on iOS devices.

Fortnite (battle pass)Epic GamesThe Battle Pass in ‘Fortnite’ costs about $US10.

Additionally, by handling distribution and maintenance of “Fortnite” itself, Epic Games can maintain a “direct relationship” with its players, says Sweeney.

That said, even blockbusters like “Pokémon Go” use Google Play for distribution. It’s the app store on Android, and the place where people would expect to find “Fortnite” for download.

In so many words: What Epic is doing sounds weird because it’s pretty weird.

It also makes a lot of sense given the position “Fortnite” is in – it’s the most popular game in the world. A major reason for distributing games on Android through Google Play is discovery. How else will people find your app if it’s not in the store? But people are already acutely aware of “Fortnite,” and navigating to a website on their phone instead of the Google Play Store isn’t a huge ask.

As Sweeney put it: “The installation process is pretty straightforward and is only a one-time effort, so the downsides are quite small.”

“Fortnite” is expected to arrive on Android at some point this summer – Epic Games hasn’t put a firm release date on it yet, but rumours point to a late August launch on Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Note 9 phone with a wider Android launch in late September.

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