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Activision Blizzard once planned to launch its own Android app store for games

The plan was ultimately dropped since it wasn't "financially attractive."
By
November 30, 2023
Google Play Store app on smartphone UI stock photo (2)
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
TL;DR
  • Activision Blizzard was once working on its own alternate app store that would house Android games, pitching it as the “Steam of Mobile.”
  • The initial plan for the store was to launch in 2019 or 2020 and charge about 10 to 12% transaction fees. The store also aimed to be on iOS eventually.
  • Activision Blizzard instead pursued a deal with Google as the alternate app store was deemed not “financially attractive.”

Android has always had the Google Play Store as the omnipresent source for downloading and installing apps and games on our phones. You can still install your apps and games from other sources, but most users decide not to bother themselves with the chore. But that doesn’t stop developers from trying to build their own app stores to compete with the Play Store. Had some things gone differently, we could have had a “Steam of Mobile” equivalent app store dedicated to Android games from none other than Activision Blizzard.

During the ongoing Epic vs Google trial, it has emerged that Activision Blizzard had its own “Project Boston” that it was working on. As The Verge reports, citing internal emails and other documents seen during the courtroom hearing, Activision Blizzard planned to build its own mobile game store. This would have been either in partnership with Epic Games and Supercell or independently by itself. Users would have been able to download this alternate app store from the internet, sideload it onto their Android phone, and would then be able to purchase, download, and install games.

Activision Blizzard pitched this game store as the “Steam of Mobile.” Transaction fees would have been set around 10 to 12%, lower than the 30% that Google imposes through the Play Store. It would have been lower than many other stores on other platforms, too.

The initial plan for the store was to launch it in 2019 or 2020 and feature games from King, such as Candy Crush. The first market for the store would be the US. Then, the store was to be ramped up with new capabilities like multi-account support, push notifications, and more. By 2021, the vision for the store was to include all of Activision Blizzard King’s mobile games and more. If the Android store had succeeded, the plan was to aim for iOS, too.

But as we know, Activision Blizzard’s app store on Android has not yet materialized. Activision dropped this plan in favor of a deal with Google that would allow it to “capture stronger economics for ABK across mobile, YouTube, advertising, media spend, and cloud.” This deal is quoted to have been worth “far more than $100 million.”

During the Epic vs. Google trial, Google has long counter-argued that its agreements (including “Project Hug” incentives such as ad credits and co-marketing) did not stop developers from creating their own alternate app store. And from these new developments, that seems to be the case. The Verge‘s reporting says that evidence suggests the alternate app store was an Activision Blizzard ploy for leverage. One of the goals of the store pilot program was to “put pressure on Google.”

Activision Blizzard’s Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Armin Zerza, mentioned in a sworn testimony during the trial that the company did not pursue the app store because “it wasn’t financially attractive.” In previous media reports, Activision Blizzard spokespersons have said that Google never asked, pressured, or made them agree not to compete with Google Play.

It would have been interesting to see what a competing game store for Android would have looked like, especially with the might of Activision Blizzard King behind it. Alas, that did not come to fruition.