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Fortnite for Android leak points to risky anti-Google Play plan

Code found on Epic's Fortnite Mobile webpage suggests it may not be available through the Google Play Store when it launches on Android. Yikes.

Published onJuly 30, 2018

  • Code snippets found on the Fortnite Mobile website suggests it may not launch on Google Play.
  • The popular shooter may instead be available directly via its website, allowing publisher Epic Games to avoid Play Store fees.
  • It would be a risky move for Epic that could cost it some users in the process.

Fortnite Mobile developer Epic Games may not launch its popular shooter title on Google Play, it has emerged. Code discovered on the Fortnite Mobile webpage (via XDA-Developers) makes explicit references to disabling permissions “necessary to install any app outside of the Play Store,” as well as downloading and installing Fortnite through a web browser, suggesting it’s going to give Google’s app distribution platform the slip.

Why avoid the Play Store?

Google takes a 30 percent cut from revenues earned on apps in its Play Store. Given how much loot might flow from the Android platform, it’s possible Epic is calculating that this move will maximize its earnings. Fortnite Battle Royale on PC also isn’t available on major distribution channels like Steam or Origin — which take a cut like Google — and this hasn’t harmed its chances of success on desktop systems.

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The existence of the instructions makes it clear that Epic has, for whatever reason, considered how it would explain this to its users, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that is its final plan.

Here’s why it’s a bad idea:

Making users download it elsewhere adds unnecessary complications and security risks. The complications include needing to enable external download sources from your Android phone, which comes with a security warning. It might be a small hoop, but it’s a hoop nonetheless.

Fortnite is a game that relies on availability and ease-of-access: it’s free, it’s rated “teen” for content, it has reasonable system requirements, and it’ll soon be playable on every popular gaming platform. Therefore, it would seem like it’s not worth putting off potential users by complicating the whole thing. It also would create big security risks as scammers create malware-laden “Fortnite” APKs to leach off those who don’t know any better.

The Google Play Store listing would also act as a promotion for the product: it would be blasted across the store and popular lists, especially once the almost guaranteed downloads start racking up. Add to this that Fortnite Mobile is currently available on Apple’s iOS store too (something which is a requirement on iOS, not an option like with Android and Google’s store) and Epic would risk affording iOS users a better experience than Android, potentially causing friction among its fans.

Fortnite Mobile
Fortnite Mobile

Critically, the code could simply indicate Epic is planning the external download option for a limited purpose only, such as for a short beta period, or during the time when it’s supposedly a Galaxy Note 9 launch exclusive. Fans willing to purchase a circa $1,000 phone just to play a game a month early probably wouldn’t be turned off by something like an alternative install method (and Epic could more effectively monetize those core fans).

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There are success stories for games that aren’t sold through major distribution channels, like Minecraft or League of Legends. It’s not unprecedented, and Fortnite is a global phenomenon. Mobile is a different beast, though, as Nintendo learned when it introduced its most beloved character to the platform.

Despite the evidence we have right now, I can’t see Epic’s ubiquitous shooter eschewing Google’s digital marketplace. That’s where I stand, but what about you? Gimme your thoughts in the comments.

Up next: find out which Android phones are compatible with Fortnite Mobile.

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