It was a highly anticipated day in court for Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, who testified Monday at a federal courthouse in San Francisco as part of the company’s legal battle against Google.
The fight between the companies began in the summer of 2020 when Epic, the company behind the popular video game Fortnite, asked Google to stop charging app developers a 30% fee for purchases made on its Play Store on Android devices.
When Google refused, Epic installed its own payment system in the Fortnite app on Android, charging consumers a lower price.
Google responded by removing Fortnite from its Play Store on August 13, 2020. The same day, Mr. Sweeney sued Google, accusing the tech giant of exercising monopolistic control over mobile game developers on its Play Store.
“I want everyone to understand exactly what was happening on these platforms,” Mr. Sweeney said on the witness stand Monday. “I want everyone to see and understand that Google has de facto control over the availability of apps on Android.”
In 2021, a federal judge rejected most of Epic’s arguments in a similar case against Apple. This time, a nine-person jury will decide whether Google violated antitrust laws by exploiting smaller competitors in a trial expected to end next month.
The result could have broad implications. If Epic wins, Google could be forced to allow other companies to offer competing payment systems on the Play Store.
Since the trial began two weeks ago, Mr. Sweeney has sat in the front row of the courtroom almost every day. He was determined to go to trial alone: Google last month announced a settlement with the other plaintiff in the case, Match Group, a dating app company. In September, Google reached a settlement with dozens of attorneys general who sued the company on similar grounds.
In his testimony, Mr. Sweeney insisted that his goal was to distribute the games to more users, rather than seeking damages, and that Google’s fees were preventing Epic from expanding its business. Under cross-examination, Google lawyer Jonathan Kravis said Epic also paid game console companies including Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft a 30% commission and earned 12 billion dollars thanks to consoles together.
Mr. Sweeney agreed with the number, although he said earlier on Monday that Epic was currently losing money.
Mr. Kravis also pushed Mr. Sweeney in his assertion that savings on fees would be passed on to customers. For example, Epic charges the same price for in-game purchases across all platforms, including its own store, where it pays no fees.
“You put the money in your pocket, don’t you?” » asked Mr. Kravis.
Mr. Sweeney did not deny the allegation, but he said Epic saves about 3% by not using a payment processor. In later testimony, he also said that a contract with Sony prevented Epic from selling Fortnite game product for less than its price on PlayStation, and that Apple and Microsoft received nothing when Epic distributed software. such products via the companies’ personal computers.
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