Fortnite doesn’t want to play with Google [Update]

by Lewis Leong on Aug 3, 2018

XDA Developers dropped a bombshell on Sunday night, claiming that the upcoming Fortnite for Android would not be distributed in Google Play. Instead, XDA claims, Epic is preparing to launch Fortnite for Android as an external app that users will have to download from a browser and install manually.

Code from Fortnite’s mobile account creation page states: “Download and install Fortnite through your browser. Once you download, you will be prompted with some security permissions. This is necessary to install any app outside of the Play Store.”

If true, this will be a huge move for Epic with ramifications that have the potential to shake up the mobile games industry on Android.

Setting a precedent for Android game developers

The biggest reason why Epic is considering taking Fortnite outside Google Play is obvious: They don’t want to give up 30% of their revenue to Google. With Fortnite generating over $2 million in revenue per day on iOS, it’s easy to see why Epic doesn’t want to fork over $600,000 per day to Google if it doesn’t have to.

Since iOS is a locked ecosystem, meaning you can only install apps from the App Store (without complicated and risky jailbreaks), Epic has to play in Apple’s sandbox. But since Android allows users to install apps from external sources, Epic can take its ball and go home.

Epic isn’t the only company taking advantage of this. Amazon has long had its own Android app store, which offers discounts and rewards for customers buying apps. On the PC side, Epic is also going it alone by choosing not to publish the game in the popular Steam marketplace.

Tim Sweeney, Epic’s founder and CEO, has been a vocal supporter of open platforms. Sweeney spoke about the dangers of Microsoft trying to monopolize the PC games industry with its Universal Windows Platform, saying “it must and will die.” And if one game can set a precedent for offering Android games outside of Google Play, it’s Fortnite.

The risks of building your own fort

Going it alone makes sense for increasing revenue, but in doing so, Epic faces substantial risks. The biggest one is getting consumers to defeat a layer of security in Android in order to install the game. By default, Android phones do not allow installation of apps outside of Google Play, requiring users to dig in the settings to enable installing from “unknown sources.” Many players may be turned away by this extra step.

And for those who do end up disabling this security feature, there are major risks as well. Apps installed outside of Google’s walled garden are subject to clones and viruses and you can be sure enterprising hackers will dress up sites and software packages to look like the legit Fortnite game.

Putting the game out as a downloadable package on the web opens it to modifications and cheats. With access to the software package, players could theoretically load their favorite cheats on the game (like they’ve already done on PC), undermining its balance and turning off legitimate players.

However, Epic’s risk may turn into reward outside the US. Android is deeply fragmented in China, which has resulted in many third-party app stores and created a culture of installing app packages from around the web. Epic could see huge success in China—a country that has a history of loving hardcore games like Fortnite—by not having to give up any of its revenues from in-app purchases.

Will Epic’s decision to stay outside Google Play influence other developers to do so? Probably not, as developers will want consumers to find their apps easily and from a trusted source. Epic may see success outside Google Play, but it has the brand and buzz to succeed. Other games could follow suit, but if any game has the power to get people to install an app outside Google Play, though, it’s Fortnite. Unless your game is the next cultural phenomenon, you’re probably better off sticking with offering it in Google Play.

UPDATE: Epic CEO Tim Sweeney speaking with Eurogamer confirmed today that Fortnite will not be distributed in Google Play. Players will have to go to Epic’s website and download an Android software package to install manually.

“We believe gamers will benefit from competition among software sources on Android,” said Sweeney. “Competition among services gives consumers lots of great choices and enables the best to succeed based on merit.”

Sweeney went on to say that if Apple’s system wasn’t locked down, it would have taken Fortnite outside the App Store as well.  Head over to Eurogamer for the full interview, which is fascinating. 

Lewis Leong is AppLovin's Content Marketing Manager.