As more details on Epic Games‘ 2020 legal battle with Google come to light, a new wrinkle in their dispute alleges that Google considered working with industry giant Tencent to purchase a controlling interest over the Fortnite developer. Epic v. Google followed the heavily publicized Epic v. Apple case from the same year, and both arose from Fortnite being removed from its opponents’ respective app markets.
Google’s scheme to purchase Epic Games was not initially a public aspect of court proceedings. The suit was levied in August of last year after Google de-listed Fortnite from its Play Store; Epic cited the move as an anti-trust action, and made ready to meet Google in court just as it was doing with Apple. Google and Apple’s decisions spawned from Epic introducing a price drop for V-Bucks and a new payment system for purchasing them in Fortnite‘s mobile editions. The host platforms for Fortnite saw the introduction as a subversion of their app markets, and the battle royale disappeared from Android and iOS almost immediately. Deep into the ensuing legal and social media fights between the companies, related court documents entered the public eye, and it was revealed that Google secretly plotted a full-scale buyout of Epic to put a swift end to the controversy. The news even caught Epic CEO Tim Sweeney off guard, who saw it as a play to eliminate Epic’s attempts to compete with Google’s app dominance.
As detailed by Bloomberg, Google’s strategy may not have been as simple as a flat purchase, and its potential course of action could have included collusion with multinational conglomerate Tencent. Tencent, the parent company of the developers of League of Legends and Pokémon Unite, has a minority interest in Epic Games. More unredacted court documents clarify Epic’s belief that Google considered approaching Tencent to formulate an agreement. According to Epic, Google planned to either purchase that interest from Tencent or to work together with it to buy the remainder of Epic, which would’ve granted Google virtual control over the company.
Had Google pursued the deal, it could have resulted in powerful levels of control over a very prominent video game developer. Communicating with Tencent also would have resembled a landmark partnership for aggressive market control. Google and Tencent may have owned Epic Games together.
Aside from extrapolations on the rumor, the idea of Google considering full ownership of Epic Games is a frightening indication of its sheer magnitude. A financial agreement from the search engine owner and Tencent could have ended the independence of a famous publisher and studio in one fell swoop. Both of Epic‘s lawsuits against Apple and Google are still ongoing, and additional curious details about their court documents could come to the surface as those cases finalize.
Fortnite is currently available on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch.