Fortnite ignoring the Google Play Store is selfish

Epic Games has released Fortnite on Android, and not through the Google Play Store. Instead, they will self-host the APK on their own website, and also distribute through the Samsung Galaxy Store. There is one reason for this: they want the 30% In-App Purchase cut that Google demands.

It’s Unsafe

This sucks for players. The user experience of installing Fortnite is now directly as difficult as your experience with Android’s security settings. It opens up Fortnite players to potential malicious attacks and weakens the ubiquity of the Google Play Store.

Now, instead of searching, installing and playing, you need to go through the convoluted method of allowing install from third party sources, installing the app and then re-enabling the security afterwards. But Fortnite is the biggest game in the world right now, and I think that any revenue lost due to these extra steps will be much less than allowing Google their cut if they used traditional distribution.

For most people, this is going to be new territory. For others like myself, it’s not the norm but it’s not difficult either. I’ve done this many times to side-load alpha-state apps like Reply before, and I have the Humble Bundle app which allows me to install all the games I’ve bought there. But this isn’t a store or a distribution platform that competes with Google Play. It’s a single app.

It’s Inconvenient

For me and others with similar tech experience, this is only annoying. I’m intrigued enough about the game to go through the hoops. I also know not to leave my phone open to side-loading. But I have limited internal storage on my phone and moving apps to the SD card is a nightmare; so having them in Google Play makes them much easier to uninstall when I need the space and reinstall when I get the itch to play. And Fornite is a big damn game, currently 1.3GB on my phone, a device which is my alarm clock, my GPS, my portable console, my productivity suite, my travel planner, my authenticator, my stargazing guide, my podcast player and my ebook reader. My phone is at 98% capacity, and that really slows it down. I very well may need to uninstall it when I travel just so I can snap a photo without waiting ages for the camera app to open.

Beside this, I now have multiple games in multiple stores. They all need updating differently, and manually. My one-stop-shop is no more, and I have a whole new launcher just for a single game! I don’t like it. It’s a messy UX and it’s frustrating to open up Fortnite only to discover I have to update it myself because the Play Store couldn’t update it in the night.

It’s not important

Fortnite is the biggest game in the world right now, but when it comes to this discussion it isn’t all that important. Players who want to play it on phones will go through the hassle to play it, and others will comfortably ignore it. Nobody browsing Google Play will see it, and Epic doesn’t care — they have word of mouth on their side.

Until revenue on mobile competes with revenue on consoles and PC, the Android port is going to be a side project. But if the Android version suddenly became a money maker… I think we’d suddenly see Epic deciding it was worth giving Google 30% in exchange for prominent store placement to bring in new players and widen that revenue stream to a river.


Originally published at Daryl’s Blog.