Court documents in the Epic Games v. Google antitrust case reveal that the internet giant wanted to take over developer Fortnite and Unreal Engine and was willing to work with shareholder Tencent to complete a buyout.
A quick reminder of how we got here: In August 2020, Epic implemented a method to bypass Apple and Google fees on in-game payments in the iOS and Android versions of Fortnite. The two platform owners quickly retaliated by removing the game from their storefronts. Epic subsequently filed lawsuits against Apple and Google, and the case against Apple was settled in September 2021 in Apple’s favor on nine of ten counts. Earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the rulings after appeals from both sides.
Epic is now back in court to fight its case against Google. While the legal battle between Epic and Apple brought us the bizarre moment where the decency of banana mascot Peely was called into question (apologies, in a tuxedo, he is known as Agent Peely), so far the procedure with Google has turned out in a slightly different way.
As spotted by The Verge, unredacted documents reveal Google’s 2018 “Project Elektra” strategy in greater detail, including the idea that Google would seek ownership or a majority stake in Epic to make Fortnite the “primary business driver” for itself. An internal email from Google’s president of global partnerships, Don Harrison, in July 2018 stated that “investment was the only way people could reasonably think of to influence them on Epic’s approach to Android.” Google has internally proposed an investment of around $2 billion for a 20% stake in Epic.
In an email the same day, former Google exec Dave Sobota said that former Stadia exec Phil Harrison had alternatively offered to contact Tencent to complete its buyout, or buy its own shares of Epic, or join the company to buy 100% of Epic. .
The Epic vs. Google trial began on November 6, and evidence will continue to be heard until early December. The trial is expected to reach a verdict before the Christmas holidays.