back to article Epic lawsuit's latest claims: Google slipped tons of cash to game devs, Android makers to cement Play store dominance

Epic Games' objections to Google's business practices became clearer on Thursday with the release of previously redacted accusations in the gaming giant's lawsuit against the internet goliath. Those accusations included details of a Google-run operation dubbed Project Hug that aimed to sling hundreds of millions of dollars at …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "and a so-called Premiere Device Program that bunged device makers extra cash if they ensured users could only get their apps from the Play store"

    Haha, who would buy a device like that?

    ... oh yeah, all the millions of consumer fscktards. Honestly it is really us plebs that are at fault. We have made it so easy for Google, Apple and many others to monetize us it is embarrassing. We should really just sue ourselves.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      People generally just want a device that "does stuff" and they don't really care about what goes on behind the scenes. You and I might understand sideloading and what apk means, but I'd imagine the majority of people at work who use their phones for What's App and Instagram won't have any idea what those things even mean.

      We're talking about an environment where even Microsoft failed to make an appreciable dent, because with the two behemoths able to sling vast amounts of money around and make notably better deals for those who stay faithful to The One True Way (thus cutting out competition via the back door), it's damned near impossible to be a useful third platform. Perhaps in places like China and India where people's needs are different and the lack of Google Play less of an issue, but in the West, they're the big two. And pretty much the only two. And, surprise! Dirty tricks and dirtier deals. If I try really hard I might be able to pretend I didn't see it coming. Something else I don't see - viable alternatives.

      1. b0llchit Silver badge
        Alert

        People generally just want a device that "does stuff" and they don't really care about what goes on behind the scenes.

        You seriously overestimate the people. Most of the gadgetry and "stuff" are carefully designed to create a dopamine kick. The devices and software are designed to encourage instant gratification and suppress rational thinking as well as the ability to appreciate delayed gratification. The devices and the software are technological drugs and the pushers (aka tech companies and devs) know this all too well.

        So, the addicts do not care about side-loading as long as front-loading (aka app store(s)) keeps one from going cold turkey; damned the costs.

        1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          There is a term - heroinware - that describes this. I think there should be regulation for apps just like there is for gambling and apps should be banned from using addiction forming patterns or at very least display warning messages that describe how exactly they are manipulating the consumer, so at least you can make an informed decision whether you want to be subjected to that.

          1. b0llchit Silver badge

            The term heroinware is mostly associated with computer games. The problem is much bigger in the world of apps and a multitude of online interactions. Partly this is due to gamification, but also website design, (web-)store design and (instant) messaging services take advantage of the susceptibility of the human mind to be directed in ways no sane person would want on a conscious/sane level.

    2. MacroRodent Silver badge

      Who would indeed?

      > Haha, who would buy a device like that?

      Aren't all Apple iPhone and iPad devices like that? I hear they sell well.

  2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    "Another Google executive...is said to have argued for discontinuing sideloading or making it very difficult."

    Strange you should say that, because Google is doing away with APKs for the Play Store.

    1. bbj

      Yes they are + replacing them with a file format that only Google are able to sign (locking in even more), where developers have to hand over various digital keys for + that developers cannot actually test sensibly - e.g. cannot test directly from development device tethered to Android device without jumping through lots of hoops... i.e making sideloading very difficult for developers that vaguely know what they are doing let alone the general public.

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        I haven't got that far and I'm putting it off a long as I can. (Existing apps can delay till November.) My build process still churns out debug APKs. I agree it's a pain you won't be able to directly test them in release configuration.

        1. Irongut

          It is really simple to produce an APK from your AAB. One command in fact.

          Or you could build both.

          APKs do not stop the sideloading of apps. What they do achieve is a 50% download size reduction for your users (imo ymmv).

          1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

            If you wanted to be helpful, you could have told me which command. Stackoverflow suggests getting a single, universal signed APK takes a little fiddling.

            If AABs achieve 50% reduction in size, they are deleting something important from my app. The only thing there for them to cull is splashscreens and icons. Anyway, I've reverted because of API compatibility issues.

            And the point is its being hidden away and made less obvious.

    2. RegGuy1 Silver badge

      Well IMHO install Firefox and nothing else. Then just use the browser as you would on a laptop. I know this is not perfect, but with adblockplus and no script you can tell much of the world to fuck off.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Even that has limits since the mobile version of Firefox curates add-ons...and it won't allow the use of one of my desktop favorites, ForgetMeNot.

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          I've stuck with version 62, which tries to tell me there are practically no compatible add-ons available, but once you've managed to download the install archive, it'll install them just fine.

          I'm running Cookie AutoDelete, Cookie Manager, Display #Anchors, Don't Track Me Google, RSS Preview, Smart Referrer, and UBlock Origin. Pretty much all of which the add-on site told me earlier wasn't compatible. All work fine.

          It's just Mozilla shooting themselves in their feet...

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            I wish I could use an older version, but important sites I frequently visit balk when I try.

  3. JassMan Silver badge

    Sounds like this case could lead to bigger things

    "After a meeting involving senior executives of Google and Apple, notes of the meeting were exchanged between the two companies," Epic's filing says. "The notes reflect: 'Our vision is that we work as if we are one company.'"

    If this turns out to be true, it sounds like they are operating a cartel. This could lead to some very large fines from the EU and probably many countries where the politicians haven't been bought.

    Other parts of the story show that Apple & Google are abusing their near monopoly positions, again maling the need for some serious fines and hopefully prison for top execs.

    1. Wade Burchette

      Re: Sounds like this case could lead to bigger things

      Prison. Phaw! I suggest we target the top execs where it really hurts: their wallet. Make them pay a fine equal to a year's salary, BEFORE taxes, and then they will weep. And they will also think twice before even thinking about pulling a dirty trick again, and then think thrice before actually doing it.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Sounds like this case could lead to bigger things

        As if they pay any substantial tax anyway. Execs are paid differently precisely to avoid paying high taxes designed to milk the "pleb".

        I think a criminal record, at least a year in prison and forfeiture of all assets acquired during their time working with the cartel should do.

        They don't play with us, so why should we.

      2. Eguro

        Re: Sounds like this case could lead to bigger things

        Actual prison would work a lot better as a deterrent I think.

        Oh no, a fine the size of my yearly salary? No problem, since I'm mostly paid with bonuses, stock options, and with other non-salary compensation.

        3 years in actual physical jail? No phone, no laptop, no PA, no nothing.

        That'll hurt.

    2. RegGuy1 Silver badge

      Re: Sounds like this case could lead to bigger things

      where the politicians haven't been bought

      Oh dear. We have Boris, and Dildo Harding.

      1. a pressbutton

        Re: Sounds like this case could lead to bigger things

        And the loser employs which of those two gifted individuals?

  4. vichardy

    Wasn't Google's initial call to goodness: "Do no evil"?

    Now that's rich!

    1. The Dogs Meevonks
      Big Brother

      They dropped the 'don't be evil'

      A long time ago, google quietly did away with the 'don't be evil' motto.

      It's now 'Don't get caught doing evil' and they keep getting caught being utter dickwads.

      I wish it was, but it's not an attempt at a joke, or even sarcasm.

    2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      If you wanted to do evil, the first thing you would do is to announce that you are not going to do any evil.

  5. cyberdemon Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    WTF

    "a senior Google executive proposed that Google 'consider approaching Tencent,' a company that owns a minority stake in Epic, 'to either (a) buy Epic shares from Tencent to get more control over Epic,' or '(b) join up with Tencent to buy 100 per cent of Epic.'"

    ^ If that's true, it is monopolistic practice right there.. (although M$ somehow managed to get away with it when they pulled this trick and worse against Nokia, but then again they are sponsored by satan himself ever since win95, so they can get away with anything)

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: WTF

      Did MS buy Nokia phone business because it was a treat to its WinCE dominance in the phone market?

      You're right about the monopolistic behaviour, but if you needed a stab at MS too. this time you were really off target.

      Satan this days is far cozier with Apple and Google... after all, which company has the apple logo? They just forgot to add the snake...

      1. cyberdemon Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Did MS buy Nokia phone business because it was a threat to its WinCE dominance

        Worse than that. Before the buyout, they installed a stooge CEO (Stephen Elop - ex VP Microsoft, and a major MSFT shareholder) at Nokia to kill off both Symbian OS and Nokia's new Debian GNU/Linux-based mobile OS Maemo, which was used on N770,N800,N900 (best phone ever), and the then-upcoming N950 which Elop cancelled. Elop declared that from now on, all Nokia phones would run Windows Mobile.

        The Nokia developers had a revolt, many walked out, the share price crashed, and then having made themselves a cheap deal, Microsoft moved in for a buyout.

        It was horrific, I have no idea how the hell they got away with it.

        See: https://www.theregister.com/2018/02/15/elop_and_the_fall_of_nokia_revisited/

        And no, I disagree. Satan is pretty cozy with apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook these days, but Microsoft is still his number one. Everyone seems to be jumping on the Evilcorp bandwagon these days, but MS were evil before it was cool.

        Just consider: Microsoft owns both LinkedIn and GitHub. Its cloud analytics and data platforms are used by everyone who is not Google, Amazon or Facebook, and 90% of computer users run its increasingly spyware-laden OS. Microsoft have a vast share of the Surveillance Capital.

        Almost every 'white-collar worker' on the planet are forced by their employer to use Microsoft Teams, Office 365, etc which analyzes their productivity for their employer, and for Microsoft.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Did MS buy Nokia phone business because it was a threat to its WinCE dominance

          Nokia as a phone company was already dead and Maemo wouldn't have saved it - too little, too late.. Again, MS did not buy it to eliminate a competitor threatening its dominance in that sector - so any link to the actual Epic/Google situation is totally off-target.

          The clever guys were those shareholders who sold MS a dud. Think, MS bought Danger too.... another evil M&A to kill a dangerous competitor?

          "but Microsoft is still his number one. "

          Keep on believing it while the others take your soul.... really, you've been brainwashed to hate MS n the past and being blind to what's really happening today.

          "Microsoft owns both LinkedIn and GitHub"

          Sure. You can avoid both of them easily. It's far more harder today to use a phone that doesn't run iOS or Android.

          "analyzes their productivity for their employer"

          You may find it strange, but employer use many ways to analyze the productivity of their employees and rightly so. Which may be not how many characters you type but the quality of your document. Think I have to file appraisals of my team members every year.... their bonuses depends on that.

          1. cyberdemon Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: Did MS buy Nokia phone business because it was a threat to its WinCE dominance

            > " Maemo wouldn't have saved it"

            I totally and utterly disagree. Maemo would have made a real alternative to that most evil of duopolies that you cite. I think it absolutely WAS a competitor to Windows Mobile, because Wince/WM was both shit AND evil, whereas iOS/Android were just evil. Even if maemo was "shit" in your opinion, it certainly wasn't evil. They actively encouraged open source app development, and there were Maemo ports of desktop communications software like Mumble, along with a desktop-style browser that actually supported Text Reflow, something that the evil duo have banned on mobile for some unfathomable reason. And it ran X11! I could SSH from my phone to my university's Linux cluster and bring up full-fat Matlab, with plots, on my phone. It was an incredibly powerful mobile OS, one that was focused on serving the user, not the corporations who want to 'own' the user. So therefore IMO Microsoft WAS trying to kill off the competition, and so IS relevant to the Epic/Google situation.

            > " It's far more harder today to use a phone that doesn't run iOS or Android."

            Yes, because Microsoft assassinated Symbian and Maemo, while trying to foist their own shitty OS that nobody on the planet wanted. That duopoly is Microsoft's fault, imo.

            > "You may find it strange, but employer use many ways to analyze the productivity of their employees and rightly so. Which may be not how many characters you type but the quality of your document. Think I have to file appraisals of my team members every year.... their bonuses depends on that."

            Rightly so? Says who? My performance should be measured by a manager who actually does his job, not by some pointy-haired boss (you?) who just reads and obeys the output of some creepy machine tracking my every keystroke/email/search term.. If you want to analyse the quality of a document that I wrote, how about READING it??

            I noticed recently that I CANNOT turn off the new "connected experiences" in Microsoft Office, such as uploading and automatically tagging every image I insert into word, and logging my searches in Outlook, and analysing my 'productivity' into a nice little report - (even if I disable it in 'privacy center' it seems to be overridden by Group Policy - so again, they work for the corporations, not the users).

            My workaround: Use LibreOffice. Fuck them. If my employer asks why is MS Office is telling them I am being unproductive by not producing enough data for them to mine, then I will tell them why. If they want to force me onto Teams-for-Desktop and MS Office, then I will find a new employer.

            1. LDS Silver badge

              "Maemo would have made a real alternative"

              You're a Linux worshiper I guess.... Yes, the truth is Maemo appealed only to Linux worshiper - most phone users didn't and don't care about being able to run a bash shell and open a SSH session from that, or run an X11 session. Really, almost nobody cares about that features. They are not killer ones. Apple and Google knew it... they are where they are, and Nokia phones doesn't exist anymore but as a pale brand on somewhere else's hardware.

              It was too little and too late - with little appeal but to a restricted target. You can keep on dreaming Maemo and Linux would have conquered the world, but the ugly truth is Nokia phones were already dead - Blackberry too stabbed them before going nowhere too - and getting eight billions from MS was the clever move.

              The very fact you talk about porting desktop applications shows you don't understand phones need true mobile app (the reason why WinCE failed), and open source would have not helped at all when mobile developers could make nice money selling on Apple and Google stores.

              So what competition was MS needing to kill? That in the 1% market left by the others?

              > That duopoly is Microsoft's fault, imo.

              ROFTL!!!!! Yes, their fault was to fail miserably in the mobile market. But if it was successful you were accused them for being successful - when blinded by hate, using the brain is out of question.

              > Rightly so? Says who?

              Of course. You're paid to work, what do you believe? Good companies doesn't like to pay lazy workers.

              > not by some pointy-haired boss (you?)

              Sorry, I'm a developer and not a pointy haired boss. While you looks someone who doesn't want others to know how much works or doesn't work... met several of them in my long careers, they can deceive pointy-haired bosses, but not fellow developers... I don't really need any automated tool.

              > it seems to be overridden by Group Policy - so again, they work for the corporations, not the users

              Of course. It's not your software and it's not your hardware. If you don't like it you're free to build your own company. For the matter, reports that tell me if people are stopping to share documents through emails and are switching to use other collaboration tools available are welcome. But you'd need to have managed something big and complex enough to understand the difference...

              But keep on hating MS alone - you're being screwed by the others and probably never understand it...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Did MS buy Nokia phone business because it was a threat to its WinCE dominance

          Almost every 'white-collar worker' on the planet are forced by their employer to use Microsoft Teams, Office 365, etc which analyzes their productivity for their employer, and for Microsoft.

          If they really want to f*sk their employees they make them use G-Suite - Same tracking, half the functionality

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Anti-Fragmentation Agreements"

    sounds like an open-and-shut Anti-Trust case to me.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: "Anti-Fragmentation Agreements"

      Now people who are in charge of prosecution have to withstand the temptation of accepting the money under the table.

      Given how wealthy the indicted companies are, it's probably open-and-shut case, but not the way most people would expected it to be.

  7. MachDiamond Silver badge

    delete mobile

    If people are so keen to play Fortnite, maybe they'd be willing to only play on desktops/laptops and game consoles. That would avoid the whole appstore crap altogether.

    I hate having to access anything from an "official" app store. I see it as being funneled through a portal for easier surveillance. I'm more than happy to pay developers for software, but if they want me to pay them through a third party, I'm not interested.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: delete mobile

      I don't even understand how they do it.

      I can't play an FPS game if I don't have my trusty keyboard+mouse.

      Not to mention my 28" screen.

  8. PeterGriffin
    FAIL

    Epic bluster

    The idea that Epic is a worthy company being subjugated by bigger businesses is laughable. Look at the current state of Fortnite. They've wholesale plagiarised the game mechanism, maps and gameplay of Among Us. Near wholesale facsimile. They lifted game mechanics from Minecraft and PubG previously. So, Epic, please have a word with yourself about your own propriety...

    1. exovert
      Flame

      Re: Epic bluster

      It's still possible to wish for a conflagration that costs all three, and of those three, epic are the only one I don't have to care about.

      After all, if they here are the minnow it's only because of the sheer obscenity in wealth and control the other two have been given, and i suspect it's the public trawling of their businesses they'll be most rueful over long term, after they inevitably settle for a clean cash backroom handout.

    2. captain veg Silver badge

      Re: Epic bluster

      That may well be true; I have no idea. It doesn't change in the slightest the case against Google and Apple.

      -A.

  9. HAL-9000
    IT Angle

    Rumble in the bazaar

    Epic seems to be enjoying the process of washing everyone's dirty laundry in publlic, and I must say this latest one is hardly surprising since bits of the Play store seem to be dropping off for no apparent reason, other than a lack of interest from the paying public. Apple holds developers to ransom, Google bribes developers to stay loyal.... I wonder what mischief Epic have been getting themselves into, I sincerely doubt they are entirely innocent in all of this. Mud slinging generally leaves everyone splattered, wryly noting that `He who slings mud generally loses ground`

    1. Irongut

      Re: Rumble in the bazaar

      Epic bribes developers to release exclusively on their store, adding console style fragmantation to the PC games market that it didn't have before. I think Epic are projecting a lot of the time when they talk about shady practices on app stores.

      1. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: Rumble in the bazaar

        Indeed, Epic's entire business model has been to very openly bribe as many people as possible to release their games as exclusives locked to Epic's store, even to the point of breaking previous contracts and outright lying to their own customers about where games would be available. It's a bit odd to see Epic complaining about Google doing the same, when the only difference appears to be that Google didn't brag about it quite as openly.

        That said, I'm not sure "They did it too" is a defence that would hold up in court. Google are the ones currently under scrutiny in court, and while Epic very happily admit that they're guilty of exactly the same thing, nothing will happen to them unless someone actually takes them to court about it.

  10. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Cartel

    Given these corporations operate in the UK, everyone can report this to CMA:

    https://www.gov.uk/cartels-price-fixing/report-anticompetitive-activity

  11. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Not only games

    "...and a so-called Premiere Device Program that gave device makers extra cash if they ensured users could only get their apps from the Play store"

    It was possible to get the Firefox nightly build apk directly from Mozilla - now even that is only from the Play Store. Any connection with the $$$ that Mozilla gets for making Google the default search engine in Firefox?

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Not only games

      Look a little harder...

      https://archive.mozilla.org/pub/mobile/releases/

      You'll need to know which apk is required, and any and all updates are manual. Store takes care of this so it's easier, but if you want the underlying apks, they're still available.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As I said before..

    .. Google uses the Microsoft playbook of old.

    They just found a way to go even lower.

    1. cyberdemon Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: As I said before..

      Trust me. Microsoft would go that low (and lower) if they thought they could get away with it without an outright revolt.

      Google can get away with this because many people still have this image of a nice cuddly company that lets people sit on beanbags and used to say "don't be evil".. Google could NEVER do evil things.

      So why did they drop "Don't be Evil" from their corporate charter?

  13. Potemkine! Silver badge

    "Don't be evil", they said

    "a senior Google executive proposed that Google 'consider approaching Tencent,' a company that owns a minority stake in Epic, 'to either (a) buy Epic shares from Tencent to get more control over Epic,' or '(b) join up with Tencent to buy 100 per cent of Epic.'"

    Is this the Google's version of "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse" ?

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