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Epic Games, Google, and fair competition in the future

Google and Epic Games. Photo credit: The Esports Observer.

Let’s talk about how Google contemplated buying Epic Games. We’ll touch on how this related to immersive soon, but I’ve been following this story closely for some time. Epic Games is challenging both Apple and Google for the same reason: repressing competition while maintaining monopolistic positions, claiming a 30 per cent cut of in-store purchases. This is Epic’s description of the situation, via The Verge: 

  • ‘Google has gone so far as to share its monopoly profits with business partners to secure their agreement to fence out competition, has developed a series of internal projects to address the “contagion” it perceived from efforts by Epic and others to offer consumers and developers competitive alternatives, and has even contemplated buying some or all of Epic to squelch this threat.’

Google denied the claims, citing the necessity of safety standards; again from The Verge: 

  • ‘The open Android ecosystem lets developers distribute apps through multiple app stores. For game developers who choose to use the Play Store, we have consistent policies that are fair to developers and keep the store safe for users.’

In my opinion, 30 per cent is too high. Imagine that close to a third of your revenue is directed to another company, cutting into your profits and making it harder to grow. The app stores have also evolved into a necessity for many people and their businesses, similar to the railway networks of 1800s USA; some level of reform is needed to ensure there is fairness for new businesses that arrive into the world. 

On the one hand, it could be a play to rile up antitrust regulators. Remember, Tim Sweeney holds a controlling stake at Epic Games, and it’s unlikely that Google could orchestrate any sort of aggressive takeover. So the emphasis on the takeover could be Epic’s way of positioning itself against Google, rather than any actual threat in the past. 

We don’t fully know the details of the acquisition discussions. We can spitball on the reasons, but the fact of the matter is that the details remain a secret.  But I raise it today because it comes at a time where people are exploring the metaverse and ensuring it isn’t dominated by just one company. While Google hasn’t announced any plans to enter the metaverse race, Apple is certainly one that can dip its toes in and create a white-walled garden of an Apple ecosystem metaverse. And while a few people might want that, I would much rather have an interoperable world where companies can fairly compete, rather than being priced out by the systems they run on. I might be idealistic, but I don’t want to allow a framework for monopolistic practices baked into future worlds.