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Google was this close to buying out Fortnite creator

Google was tossing around the idea of buying Epic Games outright.

Published onNovember 21, 2023

blu g90 pro review fortnite gameplay 1
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
  • Internal emails show that Google was considering buying a controlling stake in Epic Games even before Stadia launched.
  • Google reportedly wanted to influence Epic’s approach to Android.
  • Stadia lead Phil Harrison suggested just buying Epic Games out entirely.

Currently, Google is in a court fight with Epic Games, being accused of stifling app competition. Since the case kicked off, there have been some interesting revelations, but the latest discovery about Google and the Fortnite creator may be the most surprising yet.

The Verge has obtained internal emails from Google that reference a 2018 strategy called “Project Elektra.” It appears that Project Elektra was a plan to obtain influence over Epic Games by purchasing a controlling stake in the company or buying it outright.

In one of the emails, Google’s Don Harrison explains:

We are bringing a package offering to BC on Thursday re Epic. Spoke to Jamie and I think we need a couple pages about what investment could look like and someone there to discuss (based on whatever we can glean publicly). We just did a prep call and investment was the only way people could realistically think of to sway them on Epic’s approach to Android — because it’s easy to imagine us investing billions ant some ridiculous valuation (for everyone except for the corpdev folks).

According to the message, Google initially wanted a way to influence the game developer/publisher’s approach to Android. However, those ambitions evolved as talks went on, with Stadia lead Phil Harrison suggesting partnering with Tencent to buy Epic Games out entirely. In a reply from director of corporate development at Google Dave Sobota:

As a potential alternative, Phil is proposing we consider approaching Tencent to either (a) buy Epic shares from Tencent to get more control over Epic (unclear how that helps us without a majority share) or (b) join up with Tencent to buy 100% of Epic (and then of course we do a lot of deep commercial things with Epic).

Among the emails, Phil Harrison mentions how there’s a “high-level strategic rationale” for investing in the company responsible for one of the best Android games available. He believed that Fortnite could be a driver across Google, from increasing game watch time on YouTube to bringing support for “Yeti.” For those who don’t remember, “Yeti” ended up being Google’s now-defunct gaming platform Stadia.

Reportedly, Google was ready to spend up to $2 billion for a 20% stake in the company. However, Google appears to have thought Tencent would be tentative about the deal. In the end, Google passed up purchasing Epic Games and the rest is history.

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