Rumors have been swirling that the enormously popular battle royale game Fortnite will not be on the Google Play Store when it arrives on Android, and now multiple news outlets are confirming that the rumors are true. Instead of the Play Store, Android gamers will download the mobile app from the Epic Games' website, Fortnite.com.
This alternate method customarily requires an app installation method called "sideloading," where the user must change a security setting on their Android device to authorize the app's presence. Such an app often has a built-in tool to check for and retrieve updates, to compensate for the absence of the Play Store's own update mechanisms. The Amazon App Store works like this, for example.
We reached out to Epic for more details, and a representative speaking on background told us that the Fortnite app on Android would be able to update itself in a manner similar to that of the Amazon App Store app. After you've sideloaded the app, Fortnite will check for an available update when you open it, and it will update itself when you tap the prompt.
Hopefully the app will also be able to check for updates independently of user interaction, like the Amazon App Store app can. Otherwise, Epic's update servers could be overwhelmed by manual checks every time new content is announced.
Google doesn't allow Amazon's store app on its Play Store because it competes with the Play Store itself. However, Epic Games' decision about Fortnite is a voluntary one. Its CEO Tim Sweeney told TechCrunch, "On open platforms like PC, Mac, and Android, Epic's goal is to bring its games directly to customers. We believe gamers will benefit from competition among software sources on Android. Competition among services gives consumers lots of great choices and enables the best to succeed based on merit."
Sweeney's position stirs up memories of the very argument that Electronic Arts made when it stopped publishing games via Steam. At the time, EA's head of global e-commerce David DeMartini said, "You are connecting to our servers, and we want to establish on ongoing relationship with you, to continue to give you the best possible gaming experience ... Unfortunately, if we're not allowed to manage this experience directly and establish a relationship with you, it disrupts our ability to provide the support you expect and deserve."
Left out of both conversations is the fact that Steam and the Play Store, like Apple's App Store, customarily take a 30 percent cut in exchange for providing a distribution and promotion platform. This cut applies not only to the base game itself but also to whatever in-game content that has a real-money price tag on it.
EA was large enough of a company to distribute its own games via its own Origin platform, and Epic appears to be banking on Fortnite's own popularity to sidestep the usual Android app setup. As for why Epic hasn't taken this route on iOS as well, there's no actual method to download and install an iPhone or iPad app independently from Apple's distribution system outside of jailbreaking the phone.
However, in a conversation with The Verge, Sweeney was more candid: "The 30 percent store tax is a high cost in a world where game developers' 70 percent must cover all the cost of developing, operating, and supporting their games. There's a rationale for this on console where there's enormous investment in hardware, often sold below cost, and marketing campaigns in broad partnership with publishers."
With Fortnite racking up $300 million just in the month of April (albeit across all of its platforms), that 30 percent could turn into a huge sum, and an unavoidable question arises: Is the distribution platform doing enough to earn such a large cut? Epic appears unconvinced that Google will deliver opportunities that scale to the amount of money it stands to make.
Meanwhile, the Android version of Fortnite still lacks a release date, and Epic has yet to respond to rumors that the game will be exclusive to the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 9 for the first 30 days. We'll loop you in as soon as we find out more.
- The Android version of Fortnite will not be available on the Google Play Store. Instead, you will download it directly from Epic Games' website, Fortnite.com. This will require an installation method called "sideloading."
- Epic Games is not enthusiastic about the 30 percent cut of app revenue that Google and Apple take. On iOS, there is no alternate method to install an app outside of jailbreaking, but Android's sideloading system allows Epic to do its own thing on that platform.