Epic Games has confirmed that it won’t be distributing Fortnite’s upcoming Android release through Google’s official Google Play Store. Instead, Android users will be tasked with downloading the game directly from Epic’s website, something possible but not explicitly common for major Android apps.
On Android, would-be Fortnite players will need to navigate to Epic’s website to download an APK that will prompt users to adjust their security settings specific to that one file and then download the game in full. All in all, it's similar to Epic’s decision to distribute Fortnite through its own launcher on PC and Mac rather than through popular game platforms like Steam.
In a Q&A with Eurogamer, Epic’s Tim Sweeney dished on the company’s reasoning for doing so. As you’d expect, he mentioned that avoiding the 30 percent cut platform owners like Google typically take from game revenue was a motivator behind the decision.
“The 30 percent store tax is a high cost in a world where game developers' 70 percent must cover all the cost of developing, operating, and supporting their games,” said Sweeney. “There’s a rationale for this on console where there’s an enormous investment in hardware, often sold below cost, and marketing campaigns in broad partnership with publishers. But on open platforms, 30 percent is disproportionate to the cost of the services these stores perform, such as payment processing, download bandwidth, and customer service.”
Android, like PC and Mac, also has the bonus of being an open platform, something that makes Epic’s unusual release plan possible for Fortnite mobile. While Fortnite made its mobile debut on iOS earlier this year, Apple is notoriously more strict about games hosted outside of its official App Store and that’s likely why the game took a more traditional route on iOS.
Open platforms come with a higher risk of malicious files infecting players devices under the guise of games or cheats, however. It’s been an issue with Fortnite on PC for some time already, according to the owners of a streaming platform that tracked and took down one major piece of adware targeting Fortnite users this summer, but Sweeney told Eurogamer he wasn’t concerned that Fortnite’s unusual Android release will make players susceptible to the same practices on mobile.
“You should look carefully at the source of software you’re installing, and only install software from sources you trust,” said Sweeney. “Gamers have proven able to adopt safe software practices, and gaming has thrived on the open PC platform through many sources including Steam, Battle.net, Riot Games, Good Old Games, and EpicGames.com. We’re confident Android will be similarly successful.
“Most importantly, mobile operating systems increasingly provide robust, permissions-based security, enabling users to choose what each app is allowed to do: save files, access the microphone, access your contacts. In our view, this is the way all computer and smartphone platforms should provide security, rather than entrusting one monopoly app store as the arbiter of what software users are allowed to obtain.”