Activision Blizzard and Riot Games both told Google at some point that they might launch their own mobile app stores, according to new documents filed in Epic’s antitrust lawsuit against the search giant. Details emerged in the context of allegations of major deals signed with the two companies. Google allegedly agreed to pay Activision about $360 million over three years, and Riot agreed to pay about $30 million for a one-year deal.
In one document, Google CEO Karen Aviram Beatty reports on a conversation with Activision Blizzard’s current CFO Armin Zerza one month before the two companies signed the mega deal. If this deal fails, [Zerza] claim it They’re going to launch their own mobile distribution platform (in partnership with “another major mobile carrier” – I assume Epic)doubling down with Amazon/Twitch (or MSFT) for Cloud/eSports [sic]and stay away from Stadia,” Betty wrote (tighten my king). While Zerza may have been doing some hardcore negotiations, Activision hasn’t yet launched its own mobile app store, so it appears the company has been content with how the deal ultimately plays out.
Another document is testimony from an unnamed witness who appears to be someone who participated or participated in “Project Hug,” Google’s program designed to incentivize and support Play Store developers. In the filing, the witness said Riot Games told Google it was considering launching a competing Android app store. Later, the witness said that “Riot and Activision Blizzard King have been most direct with us” about considering starting their own app stores.
Project Hug Agreements first appeared in August 2021 as part of an unmodified Epic complaint. But Epic, in a newly amended complaint filed Thursday, alleges that Project Hug’s deals are designed “to prevent the developer from opening a competing store or otherwise distributing its apps outside of the Google Play Store.”
Epic was originally launched Fortnite out of Google Play in 2018, which allowed it to overtake Google’s fees, and Epic has already argued that Project Hug was designed to entice developers to stick with Play rather than create their own stores. (Epic was eventually brought up Fortnite to the Play Store in 2020, but was removed a few months later.) But based on new documents, it appears that Activision and Riot are considering going it alone.
in remarks the edgeGoogle and Activision rejected Epic’s claims. Google said programs like Project Hug don’t stop developers from creating their own app stores, and Activision said Google didn’t get them to agree not to compete with Google Play.
“Epic mischaracterizes trade talks”
Google spokesperson Michael Appel said, “Epic mischaracterizes the commercial talks.” Programs like Project Hug provide incentives for developers to give benefits and early access to Google Play users when new or updated content is released; it does not prevent developers from creating competing app stores, as Epic falsely claims. In fact, the program is proof that Google Play competes fairly with Many competitors are for developers, who have a number of options for distributing their applications and digital content.”
“Activision testified in court that Google and Activision never made an agreement that Activision would not open its own app store,” said Activision spokesperson Joe Christinat. “Google has never asked us, pressured us, or made us agree not to compete with Google Play. We have provided the documents and certifications to prove it. Epic claims are nonsense.”
Riot did not respond to a request for comment.
One of Epic’s exhibits also contains a list of more than 20 companies that Google has signed to Project Hug deals (now technically the “Games Velocity Program”) as of July 2022. Activision and Riot are both listed, as are big game companies like EA, Niantic, Nintendo, and Tencent and Ubisoft.
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