The Fortnite legal kerfuffle has Apple and now also Google digging in their heels that they should get a 30% cut of any purchase made within apps on their respective platforms.
I could personally care less that some shoot-em-up video game called Fortnite was removed from Apple’s App Store and Google Play last month over a money dispute that is now before a federal judge, because I don’t play that game. But the underlying conflict affects all smartphone users, not just the video game set. Last week, Spotify, Basecamp, and Tinder and OKCupid’s parent company Match Group joined that legal battle against Apple and Android’s exorbitant fees of up to 30% for in-app purchases, arguing that the two companies’ dominance over the smartphone market essentially gives them monopoly price-gouging profiles.
Fortnite maker Epic Games put out the whimsical but sort of pompous Apple “1984” parody ad seen above after Apple kicked them out of the App Store, though VentureBeat notes that “Google hasn’t been enforcing its rule as strictly,” and some big apps like Netflix had finagled their way around the fee on Google Play. But the Play party is apparently coming to an end, as the New York Times reports that Google is cracking down on enforcing their 30% cut, by essentially tightening the rules on its Android 12 software coming out next year.
Google really, really wants its 30% cut. https://t.co/fDrEJPZ8MQ— Daisuke Wakabayashi (@daiwaka) September 28, 2020
Google, of course, tries to play the good guys in a company blog post announcing the changes as “Listening to Developer Feedback to Improve Google Play” and making it “even easier for people to use other app stores on their devices while being careful not to compromise the safety measures Android has in place.”
We have not seen these new restrictions in the wild yet, of course, but it seems like Google is just going to make sure that every transaction on the platform runs through Google Play, so they can have oversight to make sure fees are collected.
“We’ve always required developers who distribute their apps on Play to use Google Play’s billing system if they offer in-app purchases of digital goods, and pay a service fee from a percentage of the purchase,” Google said in their blog post. “We have clarified the language in our Payments Policy to be more explicit that all developers selling digital goods in their apps are required to use Google Play’s billing system.”
The Verge points out that the change won’t go into effect for a whole year, as the pandemic has obviously been a lot harder on smaller companies than it has on cash-flush Google and Apple. A separate Verge report from last week notes that Apple had blinked and won’t charge the 30% cut on certain paid online events for a similar one-year period. But that may prove a shrewd move by both Apple and Google, by getting people hooked on these products before that extra 30% charge kicks in.
Image: Epic Games