Google versus Epic Games verdict in US cheers Indian gaming developers

The verdict in the Google versus Epic Games antitrust case in the US has spread cheer among the Indian gaming and app developers.

Ending a three-year legal battle, the San Francisco jury found that Google turned its Play app store and billing service into an illegal monopoly.

American video game maker Epic Games, best known for Fortnite, had sued Google in 2020.

The Mountain View-headquartered search engine major has faced backlash in India as well.

Last October, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) had imposed a penalty of Rs 1,338 crore on Google for abusing its dominant position in multiple markets in the Android mobile device ecosystem.

It had also issued a cease and desist order.

In the latest case, the jury also observed that the company hurt competition by tying Google Play store with its payment services.

The details about Epic’s win have not been made public yet.

But analysts believe that if this verdict is implemented, app developers may have a greater say in the way they get charged on the Play Store.

“We plan to challenge the verdict.

“Android and Google Play provide more choice and openness than any other major mobile platform.

“The trial made it clear that we compete fiercely with Apple and its App Store, as well as app stores on Android devices and gaming consoles.

“We will continue to defend the Android business model and remain deeply committed to our users, partners, and the broader Android ecosystem.” said Wilson White, VP, Government Affairs & Public Policy, Google.

There’s a significant interest in the case in India, where a section of developers tried to battle Google for reduction in service fees.

“The verdict in the Epic vs Google case marks an epic win (pun intended) for app developers worldwide.

“The unanimous jury decision once again exposes Google’s illicit practices on a global scale,’’ said Snehil Khanor, co-founder and CEO of TrulyMadly.

Expecting positive ripple effects both in India and globally, Khanor said that the verdict reinforced the need for a level-playing field and empowering developers to choose billing systems that align with their preferences and business strategies.

The Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF), in a statement, said: “The recent resolution of the antitrust case between Epic Games and Google Play store marks a noteworthy development. ADIF has been working assiduously against the exorbitant commissions charged by Google for in-app purchases.”

The Foundation pointed out that India has been actively fighting against dominant entities resorting to unfair and discriminatory practices, especially in the last few years.

In February, Google made user choice billing available to all apps and games.

Through user choice billing, developers can offer users the option to choose an alternative billing system alongside Google Play’s billing system when purchasing in-app digital content.

However, the complaint of Indian developers as well as Epic Games has been that Google Play store also charges a service fee that is as high as 30 per cent.

Google has denied this.

In a blog, Google said: “Our service fees only apply when a developer sells digital goods or services in their app.

“Today, only 3 per cent of developers in India sell digital goods or services and therefore would need to pay a service fee.

“For the vast majority of developers, our fees are 15 per cent or less — the lowest rates of any major app store — due to the range of pricing programs Google Play offers.”

According to Google estimates, less than 60 of the over 200,000 Indian developers on Google Play currently could pay a service fee of above 15 per cent.

“And this fee is further reduced by 4 per cent if a user pays through an alternative billing system to fairly reflect that Google Play’s billing system has not been used,” says the Google blog.

Meanwhile, domestic players like PhonePe have been gearing to launch their offering in the app store segment.

Sameer Nigam, co-founder and CEO, PhonePe, had during the launch of Indus Appstore said that India is too large a market to have just one app store.

Indus Appstore, which will be a competition to Google Play Store, is set to be launched by early next year, according to sources.

In a recent announcement, Indus Appstore had said that it is committed to supporting developers and hence there will be zero commissions on in-app payments—a sharp contrast to other app stores charging hefty fees ranging from 15-30 per cent.

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