Who Needs Security? Fortnite to Skip Google Play
posted Sunday Aug 5, 2018 by Scott Ertz
There is no question that Fortnite is currently owning the gaming industry as well as determining its current direction. Many of the biggest gaming studios want a piece of the Battle Royale pie, except maybe Microsoft, as do the gaming platforms. Like Minecraft, Fortnite is available just about everywhere: from the more traditional PC, Xbox, PlayStation and Switch, to macOS, iPhone, and iPad, almost everyone can play the game wherever they are, though not with one another if you're on PlayStation.
There is one glaring exception to the platform list: Android. While Apple has a healthy portion of the mobile market, they are still #3 behind Samsung and Haiwei, both of which run on Android. In fact, Android holds 85% of the phone market, meaning that the game is missing the majority of the mobile gaming market. This week, a bit of an explanation was given as to why in the form of an announcement of the distribution for the game.
Rather than distributing the game through Google Play, the game will instead be distributed directly from the company's website. This will be inline with the distribution model for both Windows and Mac, where downloading the installer from the website is the only way to play. The experience will vary depending on the version of Android being run. If the device is running Oreo, the experience will be similar to installing on Windows: clicking the download button will prompt about the dangers of downloading from the internet and allow you to bypass. If the device is running pre-Oreo, the experience will require turning on a feature in the settings menu before trying to install. This method can open the device up to security problems, though, so it should be disabled immediately after install.
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has had a lot to say on the topic since the announcement. He has acknowledged the security issues inherent in installing from a website. First, there will be malware-laden clones all over the web which will be trying to trick people who aren't paying attention into installing fake versions. In fairness, there will also be these fake versions in the Play Store. Also, turning off security on older devices can be incredibly dangerous for those same users who accept any prompt on their screen. Sweeny says,
Open platforms are an expression of freedom: the freedom of users to install the software they choose, and the freedom of developers to release software as they wish. With that freedom comes responsibility. You should look carefully at the source of software you're installing, and only install software from sources you trust.
That makes sense when you're dealing with responsible parties, but a kid with a phone is neither responsible nor are they careful. These are the users that Google and Apple were working to protect with some of the features of their respective stores. However, with some of these protections comes something else: a monopoly on the market. Especially for Apple, who does not allow sideloading of apps, but also for the majority of Android users, the platform makers have a monopoly on apps. That is how they can get away with gouging developers for 30% of all sales.
30 percent is disproportionate to the cost of the services these stores perform, such as payment processing, download bandwidth, and customer service.
Because Epic doesn't need any marketing help from Google to make Fortnite a success on Android, they could very well have success with sideloading apps. However, for smaller companies, this is simply not possible and, in return, are forced to pay the 30% commission to Google for little to nothing in return. Epic might believe they are fighting the good fight, but it will likely not lead to anything but headlines for themselves.