Great news for Alphabet's (NASDAQ: GOOG , NASDA: GOOGL ) Google division. Fortnite - the best-selling, battle royale video game - is finally coming to Android after being available on rival Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL ) iOS since the spring. The bad news for Google? Game publisher Epic has confirmed Fortnite for Android will be a direct download, bypassing the Google Play app store.
This means Epic avoids paying Google 30% for in-app purchases. That's not going to meaningfully impact Google revenue, but it sets a precedent that could have long-term implications for GOOGL stock.
Fortnite is Incredibly Popular
Fortnite is a video game that falls under the "battle royale" category, with up to 100 players duking it out for survival. It's free to play, but players can make in-app purchases for cosmetic upgrades. Both the game and those upgrades are incredibly popular.
Despite being initially available to download only by invitation, within the first three months of its availability on Apple's App Store, Fortnite had generated $100 million worth of in-app purchases . And Apple got a 30% cut of that revenue. In July, it was reported that Epic had collected over $1 billion worth of in-app purchases across all platforms from the game.
Android smartphone owners have been eagerly awaiting the release of Fortnite for their devices. As is often the case, iPhone owners have been playing the game for months before the Android release, despite the fact that over 85% of smartphones in use run Google's mobile operating system ( you can read more on why that is the case here ). Fortnite for Android is coming soon, but there's a catch and it's not great news for Google.
Fortnite for Android Is Coming, In Its Way
Game publisher Epic has confirmed that Fortnite won't be released on Google's app store. Instead, players download an installation file from Epic's own servers, then run the installer on their smartphone (adjusting their security setting for the app in order to do so). Once installed it is like any other Android app.
Why would Epic go this route instead of the traditional method of publishing the game on Google Play? It's all about money. Epic told Eurogamer that making the game available as a direct download avoids the 30% "store tax" that is Google's cut of in-app purchases. Epic had no choice for iOS - Apple simply does not allow iPhones to install apps from any other source than its own App Store. But Google made Android a more open platform, and one of the consequences of that strategy is that Google Play can be bypassed.
Implications for GOOGL Stock?
Obviously, Google would love to have the in-app purchase revenue from Fortnite on Android. It's also obvious that the tens of millions of dollars that would likely generate soon after launch is a rounding error in terms of Google revenue.
However, Epic's move is still problematic and sets off a red flag. With such a high profile game going to the direct distribution model, other developers are likely to follow suit. That could start to eat into Google Play revenue in a more meaningful way.
Perhaps worse, if Android smartphone owners become more comfortable with installing apps outside of Google Play - bypassing its security checks - that could make Android as a platform much more susceptible to malware. In the case of Fortnite for Android, concerns have already been raised that eager players may download fake or tampered versions of the game from websites other than Epic's own, giving malware apps security permissions that could wreak havoc on their smartphones and online accounts.
Those scenarios are more serious, and do have long-term downside for GOOGL stock.
Fortnite for Android Release Date
So when can Android smartphone and tablet owners get in on the battle royale action? Epic is still being coy, calling it a "summer" release. However, release plans have leaked and at this point it looks like Fortnite for Android will be an exclusive to Samsung's forthcoming new Galaxy Note 9 on August 24, followed by a full release on Sept. 23.
Just don't look for it on Google Play…
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securitie s.
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