Activision Blizzard and Riot Games at one point told Google they might launch their own mobile app stores, according to new documents filed in Epic’s antitrust lawsuit against the search giant. The details came to light as part of allegations about major deals signed with the two companies. The Verge reported that Google allegedly agreed to pay Activision about $360 million over three years and Riot about $30 million for a one-year deal.
According to The Verge, in one document Google exec Karen Aviram Beatty is reported back from a conversation with Activision Blizzard’s now-CFO Admin Zerza one month before the two companies signed the huge deal.
“If this deal falls through [Zerza] claims that they will launch their own mobile distribution platform (partnering with another “major mobile company” – presume Epic), double down with Amazon / Twitch (or MSFT) for Cloud / eSports [sic], and pull away from Stadia,” Beatty wrote.
Also according to The Verge: While Zerza may have just been doing hardline negotiating Activision has not yet launched its own app store on mobile, so it seems the company was happy with how the deal eventually turned out.
The Verge also reported about another document from an unnamed witness who may have been involved with “Project Hug,” Google’s program designed to incentivize and support Play Store developers. In the deposition, the witness says that Riot Games told Google it was considering launching a competing Android app store. Later, the witness says that “Riot and Activision Blizzard King were the ones that were the most direct with us” about considering starting their own app stores.
Engadget reported that the financial details of Project Hug – later known as the Apps and Games Velocity Program – are at the center of the ongoing antitrust lawsuit between Epic Games and Google. In 2020, the studio alleged Google had spent millions of dollars in incentives to keep big app developers on the Play Store.
According to Engadget, this week, a newly unreacted version of Epic’s complaint was made public, providing previously unknown details about the scope of the Apps and Games Velocity Program.
According to court documents, Engadget reported, Google also signed deals with Nintendo, Ubisoft, and Riot games. In the case of Riot, Google paid about $30 million to “stop” the League of Legends studio from pushing forward with its own “in-house ‘app store’ efforts,” Epic alleges.
“Programs like Project Hug provide incentives for developers to give benefits and early access to Google Play users who they release new or updated content; it does not prevent developers from creating competing app stores, as Epic falsely alleges,” a Google spokesperson told Engadget. “In fact, the program is proof that Google Play competes fairly with numerous rivals for developers, who have a number of choices for distributing their apps and digital content.”
To me, this feels like yet another round of lawsuits in which Google and Epic try to fight each other in court about something that they probably could have worked out together. This situation also explains why Activision Blizzard King doesn’t have much of a mobile game platform, outside of Candy Crush and Diablo Immortal.