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Google loses antitrust trial against Epic Games

A jury found its deals with video gaming companies and device manufacturers anti-competitive.


Epic Games' lawsuit against Google has had a much different turnout from its courtroom battle with Apple. A federal jury has sided with the video game developer and has found Google to be in violation of US antitrust laws when it comes to how it runs the Play Store. According to The Verge, the jury has unanimously agreed that Google held an illegal monopoly on app distribution and in-app billing services for Android devices. Further, it found the company's distribution agreements with other video gaming companies, as well as its deals with device manufacturers to pre-install its apps on Android devices, to be anticompetitive.

In its complaint, Epic said that Google had silently paid game developers hundreds of millions of dollars to make their titles downloadable from the Play Store in an initiative that was originally known as "Project Hug." It alleged that the company had paid Activision Blizzard $360 million to abandon its plans of creating a competing app store, which the game developer subsequently denied. Google, which Epic said came up with the incentive program after it released Fortnite outside of the Play Store, also reportedly inked deals with Nintendo, Ubisoft and Riot Games.

The jury has come to the conclusion that Epic Games has been negatively affected by Google's actions, but we've yet to know how its victory will change the latter's practices. In a statement posted on X, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney said the court will start "work[ing] on remedies" in January. Judge James Donato, who's overseeing the case, will be making the decision whether to order Google to give developers the freedom to introduce their own app stores and billing systems for Android devices. In the case of Epic's lawsuit against Apple, the court ruled that the iPhone-maker didn't violate US antitrust laws, but it ordered the company to allow App Store developers to direct customers through third-party payment systems.

In a statement published on its website, Epic called its victory "a win for all app developers and consumers around the world" and said they have proved that "Google’s app store practices are illegal and they abuse their monopoly to extract exorbitant fees, stifle competition and reduce innovation." It also said that the case's outcome "demonstrates the urgent need for legislation and regulations that address Apple and Google strangleholds over smartphones."

Google, however, doesn't intend to go down without a fight. Wilson White, Google VP for Government Affairs and Public Policy, told Engadget that the company plans to challenge the verdict. "Android and Google Play provide more choice and openness than any other major mobile platform," White said. "The trial made clear that we compete fiercely with Apple and its App Store, as well as app stores on Android devices and gaming consoles. We will continue to defend the Android business model and remain deeply committed to our users, partners, and the broader Android ecosystem."

Update, Dec 12 2023, 11:00 AM ET: Added a statement from Epic.