Earlier this week, speculation spread that Fortnite wouldn’t be landing in the Google Play Store when it arrives on Android devices. Epic Games boss Tim Sweeney has confirmed that this is correct; the mobile version of the battle royale hit will be available for download directly from the developer’s website, not Google Play.
Sweeney cites two main reasons for the decision:
“First, we want to have a direct relationship with our customers wherever we can. On open platforms like PC and Android, it’s possible for them to get the software direct from us. We can be in contact with them and not have a third-party distributor in between,” said Sweeney in an interview with GamesBeat. “The second motivation is the economics of the store ecosystem as it exists right now.”
The Apple App Store and Google Play both take a 30 percent cut of apps’ revenue. In Sweeney’s opinion, mobile marketplaces don’t actually benefit developers. Studios eat the cost of doing business, like marketing and user acquisition, while surrendering 30 percent of their revenue. Meanwhile, the Apple App Store and Google Play are serving up ads to players that might push competing games.
“When you search for Fortnite on iOS, you’ll often get PUBG or Minecraft ads. Whoever bought that ad in front of us is the top result when searching for Fortnite,” said Sweeney. “It’s just a bad experience. Why not just make the game available direct to users, instead of having the store get between us and our customers and inject all kinds of cruft like that? It’s a general criticism I have of the smartphone platforms right now.”
Really, how did we get to this state? The store prioritizes ad revenue above user intent, so now developers buy ads in front of each others’ products so that exactly nobody’s search results lead to the actual thing they typed. Who in this cycle isn’t crazy?
— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) July 19, 2018
Epic has rejected the 70/30 split on its own platform, the Unreal Engine Marketplace. In early July, it bumped up developers’ revenue to 88 percent, and creators will also be getting a belated windfall as Epic has promised to pay that rate retroactively for sales from the last four years.
“We’re trying to make our software available to users in as economically efficient a way as possible,” said Sweeney. “That means distributing the software directly to them, taking payment through Mastercard, Visa, Paypal, and other options, and not having a store take 30 percent.”
This does mean that Android players will have to set up payment in order to make purchases in Fortnite. It will be an extra step for folks who already have all those details sorted out on Google Play. But Sweeney says that it’s worked for players on PC, so he’s not concerned that that will deter people.
“It’s on us to make payment as simple as possible. It’s a free game that anyone can download and play, and the only way we make money from it at all is if users love the game and decide to buy stuff, if they’re willing to do that,” said Sweeney. “Our experience is that that’s worked just fine. If you really care about a game, spending a couple of minutes setting up payment is perfectly reasonable. It’s certainly happened with Fortnite. All the stores that operate independently on PC, like GOG and Steam, have all gone through that process. If you look at the economics of it, it’s not worth, say, 25 percent of gross revenue to save the effort of setting up a payment method on our platform.”
Fortnite has been an enormous success on iOS devices, raking in more than 100 million downloads and $160 million in revenue in less than half a year. It will likely be just as much of a hit on Android — and this time, Epic won’t have to share its good fortune with a middleman.