Fortnite, the ultra popular multiplayer battle royale game that's available for iOS devices, consoles, and PCs, is expanding to Android today, but Epic Games is launching Fortnite for Android in a unique way that's worth paying attention to.
As outlined by our sister site TouchArcade, rather than releasing the game on Google Play or another Android marketplace, Epic has created its own Fortnite installer that skirts all fees and eschews the Google Play monopoly on apps, letting Android users install the app outside of Google Play.
Google, like Apple, collects a 30 percent fee for apps (and in-app purchases) released through the Google Play platform, and despite the fees, most developers use Google Play anyway because it's simple, streamlined, and easier in terms of app discovery. But, in contrast to the iOS platform, it is possible for apps to be installed on Android devices without Google Play (or the Amazon Marketplace) and that's what Fortnite has done here.
Fortnite is so popular that Epic doesn't need Google Play to get people to download the game, and thus Google won't be getting a cut of in-app purchases from a mobile game that's already brought more than $100 million in revenue on iOS devices.
Fortnite on Android is being distributed exclusively through Epic's Fortnite Installer, which TouchArcade says is basically a third-party App Store that lets you install one app - Fortnite.
TouchArcade spoke with Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney, and he said that the company was motivated by "economic efficiency." The 30 percent fee charged by open platforms, he says, is "disproportionate" to the services provided.
The 30% store tax is a high cost in a world where game developersʼ 70% must cover all the cost of developing, operating, and supporting their games. Thereʼs a rationale for this on console where thereʼs enormous investment in hardware, often sold below cost, and marketing campaigns in broad partnership with publishers. But on open platforms, 30% is disproportionate to the cost of the services these stores perform, such as payment processing, download bandwidth, and customer service. Weʼre intimately familiar with these costs from our experience operating Fortnite as a direct-to-customer service on PC and Mac.
Sweeney says that right now, Epic Games is focused on Fortnite and there are no current plans for a full Epic App Store that permanently shuts out Google Play, but he didn't rule it out.
Unfortunately for Epic, Apple's mobile platform is more restrictive than Android and there is no way to make a similar move on iOS devices. The only options for skirting the App Store are jailbreaking or distributing outside of the App Store via Xcode, two practices that Apple heavily frowns upon. F.lux, for example, tried using side-loading to release an iOS app back in 2015, and Apple shut it down quickly.
While Epic Games won't be paying fees on Android, Apple will continue getting its 30 percent cut of all Fortnite in-app purchases, at least for now. TouchArcade editor-in-chief Eli Hodapp suggests that this launch has the potential to put pressure on both Google Play and the App Store if Epic Games releases an alternative Android platform that offers more affordable rates. Epic's Unreal Engine Marketplace, for example, offers an 88/12 split, a much better deal than the 30/70 split Apple and Google provide developers.
For more details on how Fortnite for Android will work, make sure to check out TouchArcade's walkthrough following a hands-on demo with the app install process.