Companies do not get involved in lawsuits very often, most of the parties give way prematurely. However, when both parties are convinced of “their truth” and a dispute arises, very unpleasant findings almost always come to the surface. An anonymized filing in Epic Games’ 2020 lawsuit against Google revealed that the American giant financially “sustained” select development studios. And this is so that it does not offer its games and applications on other stores, i.e. on competitors or on its own.
The entire event, which has the code name “Project Hug”, was attended by 24 developers who came up with considerable funds. E.g. studio Activision Blizzard was paid 360 million dollars (CZK 8.5 billion) over three years for “loyalty” to Google Play. The first financial fulfillment occurred when the studio announced plans to create its own application store. Epic Games subsequently used this case as a successful example of how these similar practices in the background reduce the quality of services on Google Play and at the same time contribute to high prices for individual games, applications or in-app purchases.
But there were also other developers. The developer Riot Games, which is behind the well-known games League of Legends, Valorant and Legends of Runeterra, received 30 million dollars (CZK 705 million). Unspecified financial compensation was also received by Nintendo, Ubisoft, Calm and Age of Learning. It should be added that in all cases it was not just a purely financial payment, part of it was in the form of credits for Google’s advertising and cloud services.
Google was worried about a drop in purchases
Why did Google “bribe” developers? He was simply afraid of potentially losing millions in in-app purchases outside of Google Play, so he proactively invested those same millions ahead of time. From the point of view of the ordinary user and the regulators, this is a clear case of unfair practice, or anti-competitive conduct, which may not end up in court. Android users have the option of sideloading, so they can install a game or application downloaded from the Internet onto their phone. And they are therefore not in the thrall of Google, as is the case with iOS users due to Apple, which does not allow sideloading.
However, the lack of self-reflection on Google’s part is very disturbing. He sees these payments to selected development studios as a necessity to maintain “healthy competition” on Google Play…