Google vs Epic Games Antitrust Trial: Jury hands Epic a win cover image

Google vs Epic Games Antitrust Trial: Jury hands Epic a win

Google had an illegal monopoly in the Play Store and Billing services.

The jury has handed Epic a win in the Google vs Epic antitrust trial. A unanimous jury decision ruled that Google operates an illegal monopoly in the Play Store and billing service. Google intends to appeal the verdict.

Almost three years after Epic sued Google for illegal app store monopoly, Epic has secured its first legal win. The jury answered ‘Yes’ to every question in the ruling, effectively declaring Google used anticompetitive means to secure an advantage. The jury also ruled that Google’s actions harmed Epic Games. They also voted yes to Google having entered into one or more agreements that unreasonably restrained trade in a relevant antitrust market.

Epic Games wins Google Antitrust trial

Epic Games released a statement after the antitrust trial victory ruling highlighting the verdict as a win for all app developers and consumers.

Today’s verdict is a win for all app developers and consumers around the world. It proves that Google’s app store practices are illegal and they abuse their monopoly to extract exorbitant fees, stifle competition and reduce innovation. [...] From the CEO down, Google employees willfully re-directed sensitive conversations to chat, knowing that their contents would be deleted forever.

Epic Games

The CEOs of both companies, Tim Sweeney (Epic Games) and Sundar Pichai (Google) met earlier on December 7 to try to reach a settlement. The Judge ordered settlement talks attempt was unsuccessful.

The Fortnite maker lost a similar antitrust trial against Apple two years ago. The key difference in this trial was that Google had secret deals with certain developers, emphasizing that Google did not treat all developers fairly. Apps such as Spotify, Netflix, and more had secret dealings with Google that allowed them to bypass Play Store commissions or pay lower commissions on their sales. Google also did not force its own app - YouTube - to use Play Store billing when it was clearly enforcing the same on other developers. 

Google plans to appeal the verdict

We plan to challenge the verdict. Android and Google Play provide more choice and openness than any other major mobile platform. The trial made clear that we compete fiercely with Apple and its App Store, as well as app stores on Android devices and gaming consoles. We will continue to defend the Android business model and remain deeply committed to our users, partners, and the broader Android ecosystem

Google

This Google vs Epic Games ruling is a jury ruling unlike the one in the Epic vs Apple trial which saw Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers rule in favor of Apple. In this instance, U.S. District Court Judge James Donato will decide the remedies.

What is Project Hug?

One of the key differentiators for the Google vs Epic trial was Project Hug. Apple manufactures its own handsets and has a relatively closed ecosystem. However, Google’s Android ecosystem allows other companies to manufacture hardware as well as create their software. 

When Epic Games allowed Fortnite players to bypass Google Play Store billing, the Mountain View company launched Project Hug. Project Hug, later known as ‘Apps and Games Velocity Program’ was specifically intended to retain Google’s dominance in the Apps market. There were concerns other Android App marketplaces such as Samsung and Amazon might move to follow Epic Games’ lead which would result in substantial revenue loss to Google. Google takes a nearly 30% cut in every sale on the Play Store.

Google vs Epic Games Verdict

We have listed the 11 questions that the jury voted on below for your reference. You can also check out the jury form embedded below.

1. Did Epic prove, by a preponderance of the evidence and in accordance with the instructions given to you, the existence of a relevant antitrust market?

Yes

2. If answered Yes to Q1, please specify each relevant product market and associated geographic market that Epic proved.

Relevant Product Market
Relevant Geographic Market
Android App Distribution Market
Worldwide excluding China
Android in-app billing services for digital goods and services transactions
Worldwide excluding China

3. Did Epic prove, by a preponderance of the evidence and in accordance with the instructions given to you, that Google willfully acquired or maintained monopoly power by engaging in anticompetitive conduct in any market that you specified in response to Question 2?

Yes

4. If you answered “yes” to Question 3, please specify each relevant product market and associated geographic market for your answer:

Relevant Product Market
Relevant Geographic Market
Android App Distribution Market
Worldwide excluding China
Android in-app billing services for digital goods and services transactions
Worldwide excluding China

5. If you answered “Yes” to Question 3, did Epic prove by a preponderance of the evidence and in accordance with the instructions given to you, that it was injured as a result of Google’s violation of the antitrust laws?

Yes

6. Did Epic prove, by a preponderance of the evidence and in accordance with the instructions given to you, that Google entered into one or more agreements that reasonably restrained trade in a relevant antitrust market?

Yes

7. If you answered “Yes” to Question 6, which of these agreements did you find to be unreasonable restraint(s)  of trade in accordance with the instructions given to you?

  • DDA Agreements
  • Agreements with Google’s alleged competitors or potential competitors under Project Hug or Games Velocity Program
  • Agreements with OEMs that sell mobile devices (including MADA and RSA Agreements)

8. If you answered "Yes" to Question 6, please specify each relevant product market and associated geographic market for your answer.

Relevant Product Market
Relevant Geographic Market
Android App Distribution Market
Worldwide excluding China
Android in-app billing services for digital goods and services transactions
Worldwide excluding China

9. If you answered "Yes" to Question 6, did Epic prove, by a preponderance of the evidence and in accordance with the instructions given to you, that it was injured as a result of Google's violation of the antitrust laws?

Yes

10. Did Epic prove, by a preponderance of the evidence and in accordance with the instructions given to you, that Google unlawfully tied use of the Google Play Store to the use of Google Play Billing?

Yes

11. If you answered "Yes" to Question 10, did Epic prove, by a preponderance of the evidence and in accordance with the instructions given to you, that it was injured as a result of Google's violation of the antitrust laws?

Yes

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