Epic alleges Google paid $360 million to keep Activision from launching its own app store

Activision Blizzard and Riot Games at one level advised Google they may launch their own cellular app shops, in accordance to new paperwork filed in Epic’s antitrust lawsuit in opposition to the search big. The particulars got here to gentle as a part of allegations about main offers signed with the 2 corporations. Google allegedly agreed to pay Activision about $360 million over three years and Riot about $30 million for a one-year deal.

In one doc, Google exec Karen Aviram Beatty is reporting again from a dialog with Activision Blizzard’s now-CFO Armin Zerza one month earlier than the 2 corporations signed the massive deal. “If this deal falls by means of, [Zerza] claims that they are going to launch their own cellular distribution platform (partnering with one other “main cellular firm” — presume Epic)double down with Amazon / Twitch (or MSFT) for Cloud / eSports [sic]and draw back from Stadia,” Beatty wrote (emphasis mine). While Zerza might have simply been performing some hardline negotiating, Activision has not but launched its own app store on cellular, so it appears the corporate was proud of how the deal finally turned out.

Another doc is a deposition from an unnamed witness that appears to be somebody who’s or was concerned with “Project Hug,” Google’s program designed to incentivize and help Play Store builders. In the deposition, the witness says that Riot Games advised Google it was contemplating launching a competing Android app store. Later, the witness says that “Riot and Activision Blizzard King had been those that had been essentially the most direct with us” about contemplating beginning their own app shops.

Project Hug agreements first got here to gentle in August 2021 as a part of an unredacted Epic criticism. But Epic, in a newly amended criticism filed Thursday, alleges Project Hug offers are designed to “forestall the developer from opening a competing store or in any other case distributing its apps outdoors of the Google Play Store.”

Epic initially launched Fortnite outdoors of Google Play in 2018, which let it bypass Google’s charges, and Epic has already argued that Project Hug was designed to entice builders to follow Play as a substitute of creating their own shops. (Epic finally introduced Fortnite to the Play Store in 2020, nevertheless it was eliminated just a few months later.) But based mostly on the brand new paperwork, it appears Activision and Riot had been considering of placing out on their own.

In statements to The Verge, Google and Activision pushed again on Epic’s allegations. Google mentioned that packages like Project Hug do not forestall builders from creating their own app shops, and Activision mentioned that Google did not make them agree not to compete with Google Play.

“Epic is mischaracterizing enterprise conversations”

“Epic is mischaracterizing enterprise conversations,” Google spokesperson Michael Appel mentioned. “Programs like Project Hug present incentives for builders to present advantages and early entry to Google Play customers after they launch new or up to date content material; it doesn’t forestall builders from creating competing app shops, as Epic falsely alleges. In truth, this system is proof that Google Play competes pretty with quite a few rivals for builders, who’ve quite a few selections for distributing their apps and digital content material.”

“Activision testified in courtroom that Google and Activision by no means entered into an settlement that Activision wouldn’t open its own app store,” Activision spokesperson Joe Christinat mentioned. “Google by no means requested us, pressured us, or made us agree not to compete with Google Play. We submitted paperwork and testimony that show this. Epic’s allegations are nonsense.”

Riot didn’t reply to a request for remark.

One of Epic’s reveals additionally accommodates a listing of greater than 20 corporations Google has signed Project Hug (now technically the “Games Velocity Program”) offers with as of July 2022. Activision and Riot are each listed, as are massive gaming corporations like EA, Niantic, Nintendo, Tencent, and Ubisoft.

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