Google allegedly stopped OnePlus and LG from pre-installing Fortnite on their phones

OnePlus Nord vs. OnePlus 8
OnePlus Nord vs. OnePlus 8 (Image credit: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Court documents from Epic Games' lawsuit against Google claim the search giant blocked a pre-install deal between Epic and phone manufacturers.
  • The deal would have seen the Epic Games app installed out of the box on OnePlus and LG devices.
  • With the deals nixed, Epic Games introduced Fortnite on the Play Store earlier this year.

Epic Games rolled out an update to Fortnite that allowed players to buy in-game currency directly from Epic, in contradiction to Play Store's guidelines. As a result, Google removed Fortnite from the Play Store, leading to Epic suing the search giant.

Interestingly, the court documents claim that Google blocked a deal between OnePlus and Epic that would have seen the Epic Games app — the conduit for installing Fortnite — pre-installed on OnePlus phones. The filing alleges Google was worried about the app "bypassing the Google Play Store," essentially serving other games to users outside the purview of the Play Store.

Google does not allow apps that can install other apps, and while there are alternative store fronts on Android like Samsung's Galaxy Store, in this instance Google was able to kill the deal.

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The documents allege that Google also thwarted a deal between LG and Epic to pre-install the Epic Games app on its phones. When Fortnite launched two years ago, Epic did not make the game available on the Play Store. It instead directed users to its website to install the Epic Games launcher, which installed the game on Android. But with Google issuing security warnings for sideloaded content, Epic turned to inking deals with manufacturers to get its app installed out of the box.

The Epic Games app is available on the Samsung Galaxy Store, and by securing deals with OnePlus and LG, Epic would have had a viable alternative to getting users to sideloading Fortnite. But once those deals were history, Epic wound up releasing Fortnite on the Play Store earlier this year.

From the lawsuit:

Epic recently reached an agreement with OnePlus, an OEM, to allow users of OnePlus mobile devices to seamlessly install Fortnite and other Epic games by touching an Epic Games app on their devices—without encountering any obstacles imposed by the Android OS.In conjunction with this agreement, Epic designed a version of Fortnite for certain OnePlus devices that delivers a state-of-the-art framerate (the frequency at which consecutive images appear on the device's screen), providing an even better gameplay experience for Fortnite players.Although the original agreement between Epic and OnePlus contemplated making this installation method available worldwide, Google demanded that OnePlus not implement its agreement with Epic with the limited exception of mobile devices sold in India.OnePlus informed Epic that Google was "particularly worried that the Epic Games app would have ability to potentially install and update multiple games with a silent install bypassing the Google Play Store".Further, any waiver of Google's restriction "would be rejected due to the Epic Games app serving as a potential portfolio of games and game updates". As a result, OnePlus mobile device users in India can install Epic games seamlessly without using the Google Play Store, while users outside India cannot.

Mishaal Rahman of XDA found evidence of Epic Games being pre-installed in the OxygenOS open beta 14 for the OnePlus 7 Pro in India, but the feature never made it to the public build:

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Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.