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Google mulled Epic purchase as Fortnite legal row raged

Google considered an offer to purchase Epic Games, the company behind the Fortnite mobile game, during the legal row over in-app purchases within the game.

According to unredacted court documents, which have now been unsealed, Google pondered buying “some or all” of Epic. The gaming giant remains in dispute with Google and Apple over its efforts to bypass Play Store and App Store rules on in-app purchases.

The documents say Google had been threatened by a so-called “contagion” that may have led to other developers attempting to set-up their own in-app marketplaces without compensation to Apple or Google.

In the documents, Epic said: “Google has gone so far as to share its monopoly profits with business partners to secure their agreement to fence out competition, has developed a series of internal projects to address the “contagion” it perceived from efforts by Epic and others to offer consumers and developers competitive alternatives, and has even contemplated buying some or all of Epic to squelch this threat.”

Following a report from The Verge, Epic CEO Tim responded with a tweet claiming the company was unaware of Google’s potential move at the time and described it as a bid to “shut down” the company’s efforts to compete with Google Play on its own turf.

Sweeney said: “This was unbeknownst to us at the time, and because of the court’s protective order we’re just finding out now about Google’s consideration of buying Epic to shut down our efforts to compete with Google Play.

“Whether this would have been a negotiation to buy Epic or some sort of hostile takeover attempt is unclear. Here Google also talks about the “frankly abysmal” side-loading experience they created, all while touting Android publicly as an “open platform”.

It’s not clear just how seriously Google was considering snapping up Epic, which is valued at around $30 billion. The legal battles with Google, Apple and Epic continue to rumble on. The outcome could determine the sustainability of Apple and Google’s app store business models moving forward.

Fortnite remains unavailable to download from the Google Play store, as it has been for over a year.

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