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Google allegedly paid Activision Blizzard and Riot to not create mobile app stores

A lawsuit from Epic Games alleges Google paid millions to ensure its Google Play Store had less competition in the mobile games market.

The unredacted copy of a 2020 lawsuit from Epic Games (obtained by Reuters) alleges Google paid 24 developers to not establish their own mobile app stores. These payouts, reportedly in the millions, were allegedly made to ensure the Google Play Store would have less competition in the mobile games space. 

Two of the developers specifically named in Epic's lawsuit were Activision Blizzard and Riot Games. It's claimed that Activision Blizzard was paid $360 million by Google spread out over three years, while Riot was paid $30 million over a single year. Nintendo and Ubisoft were also named in the suit, though payment amounts weren't disclosed.

Last year, Epic similarly accused Google of offering financial incentives for developers to keep their titles on the Google Play Store. These incentives, part of Google's "Project Hug" program, were allegedly offered to Epic for Fornite, and said to be done in an effort to lessen the impact of the tech giant's 30 percent pay cut of app transactions. 

Both Activision Blizzard and Riot have mobile spinoffs of their respective flagship franchises Call of Duty and League of Legends, and the titles have been big revenue drivers for their publishers.

Google told Reuters that Epic's claims were "baseless," and that its deals made both reflected the spirit of competition and kept developers satisfied. Similarly, Riot said that it was looking over the filing. 

Though Activision Blizzard didn't provide a comment to Reuters at time of writing, its CCO and executive VP of corporate affairs Lulu Cheng Meservey took to Twitter to dispute the claims in Epic's suit. 

"Google never asked us, pressured us, or made us agree not to compete with them - and we’ve already submitted documents and testimony disproving this nonsense," she wrote. 

The inclusion of Activision Blizzard in this suit puts some of the moves Microsoft is making into perspective. As it attempts to acquire the Call of Duty publisher, Microsoft has also disclosed it wants to use the publisher's mobile presence to create an Xbox store for mobile games. 

Since Microsoft has no real presence to speak of in the mobile space, that means it's free to make its own choices. 

In fact, Microsoft specifically said at the time that it wants an Xbox mobile store to "convert App Store and Google Play users over to its mobile platform...by offering well-known and popular content."

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