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Google is now fighting back against Epic Games as part of the ongoing antitrust litigation between the two companies. A new countersuit was filed by Google against Epic Games and focuses on something called Project Liberty. Project Liberty is the name given to the 2020 plan from Epic that had them adding an alternate payment method to the Android and iOS versions of Fortnite.

This meant that users could bypass paying Apple or Google for purchases made in Fortnite, thus having it all go straight to Epic Games. That's kind of a big no-no.

You may recall that this additional payment option eventually led to Apple and Google kicking Fortnite off of their mobile storefronts. Epic very quickly, almost too quickly, launched a real scummy propaganda campaign called #FreeFortnite that tried to turn the game's young audience into their own little army against Apple. Epic then sued Apple and Google. Apple then terminated all of Epic's developer accounts on iOS. Apple countersued Epic afterwards. The result of the legal battle between Epic and Apple was partially resolved just this past month, with a ruling that was largely in favor of Apple. Both Epic and Apple are appealing that ruling for different reasons. Now, Google is countersuing Epic.

Google's countersuit denies Epic's claims of antitrust behavior. They continue on to say that they're actually owed relief as Epic Games breached their Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement (DDA) by allowing Fortnite players to download the app through the Google Play Store while also using Epic's own payment system that bypasses Google.

Just as Epic did with Apple, so too did they do with Google. That is, they released a version of Fortnite to Google Play that used Epic's own direct payment system instead of Google Play Billing. The submission was rejected by Google for failing to comply with existing policies. Epic then submitted a new version that was compliant in April 2020 that Google says was "an act of deception designed to provoke litigation." This new version hid Epic's direct payment option in an update that was sent to both Apple and Google. This allowed Epic to enable this direct payment options via a server-side hotfix that would not need to be approved by Google.

This server-side option was enabled in mid-August 2020. As you may already know, this "hotfix" allowed Fortnite users to choose to either use Google Play Billing or Epic's own direct payment system. This move would result in the game being rejected and removed from both app stores, thus allowing Epic to pursue its plan of suing Apple and Google.

Unlike Apple, Google did not disable Epic's developer account after it pulled Fortnite from the store. They informed Epic of what was going on the same day that the "hotfix" was applied and the game pulled from the storefront. This at least kept the door open for Epic to submit a compliant version of Fortnite that doesn't bypass Google Play Billing.

Epic did not do this and seems they had no intention of playing by the rules they agreed to. Those that had already downloaded Fortnite to their mobile devices were still able to use Epic's payment system even after the app was pulled from the store. Google's countersuit says that this allowed Epic to avoid the service fee to Google, something that they are contractually obligated to pay.

Google is looking to be awarded restitution of the loss of fees, as well as other damages, plus attorney's fees, interest, and any other relief that the court deems worthy of giving them. Google issued the following public remarks as part of their countersuit against Epic.

Epic, a multibillion-dollar company backed by two of the world’s largest video game developers, has profited immensely from the safe, secure platform provided by Google Play, a platform for which it pays a fee equivalent or less than that charged by other major platform providers,” the counterclaim states. “Not satisfied with those immense profits, it entered into a legal agreement with Google with which it never intended to comply, deceiving Google and concealing its true intentions to provoke a legal and public relations confrontation that continues to this day. Its actions have put its own users at risk, have harmed Google, and are deserving of relief from this Court.
Epic provided no comments, not even from outspoken CEO Tim Sweeney.

Epic has stood by the idea that Apple and Google hold a monopoly on payment systems that allegedly puts developers at a disadvantage. In the case of Apple, the court did rule that Apple shouldn't be able to block developers from sharing a link (at most) to other payment methods inside apps. However, the court did not rule that Apple was a monopoly. On the flip side, Google already allows users to sideload Android apps, meaning that there is already a way for developers to reach consumers that does not involve Goggle Play. That kind of puts Epic in a bad spot there if they're trying to have their cake and eat it too by having Fortnite go through Google Play but not giving Google a justified cut.

The full countersuit can be found here, courtesy of TechCrunch.