Update 2, August 3, 1:25pm ET: As Epic prepares to roll Fortnite's first Android version out in the very near future, the game maker has responded to rumors and leaks by confirming that this version will entirely bypass the Google Play app store. Fortnite players on Android will have to take the uncommon step of going straight to a website, downloading an "APK" file, and opening up Android's permissions to approve the game's install.
Epic's FAQ on the matter is currently hosted exclusively at Eurogamer, as written by Epic CEO Tim Sweeney, and the developer has apparently written its own questions to answer. The most intriguing one, "Is this just a way for Epic to keep the 30 percent that Google would take if you were on Play," receives a frank answer:
Avoiding the 30 percent "store tax" is a part of Epic's motivation. It's a high cost in a world where game developers' 70 percent must cover all the cost of developing, operating, and supporting their games. And it's disproportionate to the cost of the services these stores perform, such as payment processing, download bandwidth, and customer service. We're intimately familiar with these costs from our experience operating Fortnite as a direct-to-customer service on PC and Mac.
An additional question doubles down on Epic wanting to reclaim that 30 percent fee for the sake of development costs and server overhead—though it does not address Google Play's guarantees of malware scanning for any app downloaded. (Sweeney wouldn't have to look hard to find exceptions to Play's malware-free promises, but he doesn't mention any here.)
Epic's FAQ also includes questions about unwitting users installing malware as a result of opening up Android's security permissions, which will be required for Fortnite's Android sideloading process. Sweeney responds by reminding gamers that the "freedom" of an open platform like Android "comes with responsiblity" and that the per-app permission process within newer Android versions is superior to "entrusting one monopoly app store as the arbiter of what software users are allowed to obtain."
The lengthy FAQ can be found at Eurogamer—but it doesn't include an answer to the million-dollar question of exactly when Fortnite will launch on Android for public consumption, nor exactly which hardware it will be compatible with at launch. (The site says it received a Galaxy S9+ smartphone with the game's preview build installed for the sake of testing under embargo.)
Reports estimate that Epic Games' free-to-play shooter Fortnite racks up millions of dollars per day, and that number may continue to grow with the game's promised expansion to Android devices. Rumors have begun to heat up about exactly when Android players will get to play, but one interesting tidbit has already escaped from Epic's servers: how they'll play the game.
XDA got the scoop on Sunday by digging into the source code of Fortnite's mobile create-an-account page. The code the site pulled up included Android-specific instructions, and these call for sideloading the app directly from Epic's site instead of redirecting users to a Google Play Store installation. XDA combined that source code with an apparent image leak from Epic's servers to put together the following instructions:
Download and install Fortnite through your browser. Once you download, you will be prompted with some security permissions. This is necessary to install any app outside of the Play Store.
Ars was unable to confirm the legitimacy of the image, but XDA's report cites the final sentence about app installation by reprinting the source code that it pulled up on Sunday. (That sentence does not appear in the site's source code as of press time.) We have reached out to Epic to ask about the legitimacy of XDA's report. The existing source code does refer to many specific Android models as opposed to offering a blanket "not on Android yet" response to general Android browser metadata. But that's not necessarily a hint to specific Android device support.
Fortnite's biggest potential competition on Android, PUBG Mobile, does not ask its users to veer outside of the Google Play interface.
1 versus 30 (percent)
These kinds of instructions are necessary to run Android apps that wholly bypass the Google Play storefront—and, crucially, its requirement that app makers cough up 30 percent of any in-app purchases. Fortnite's "1 vs. 100" battle royale mode does not require any payment to start paying, but its paid "battle pass" system lets players unlock a litany of cosmetics on top of pay-as-you-go purchases for outfits, dances, and other cosmetics.
Considering the estimates for how much money Epic is making off the iOS version of Fortnite—roughly $27 million in June alone, according to Sensor Tower—it's unsurprising to see hints that Epic would take advantage of Android's support for app installs outside the Google Play interface. Most of Fortnite's other platforms do not offer similar in-app purchase workarounds, but Epic set a precedent with the game's PC launch in 2017. Epic's own game launcher includes its own payment interface, which was established years prior to handle payments for Unreal Engine 4's marketplace.
However, this workaround may expose a lot of Fortnite's younger players to the idea of sideloading apps, which requires disabling certain default Android protections. Scammers have taken advantage of reckless Fortnite players on PC who have installed cheating patches.
Amazon has pushed multiple apps to Android users in similar fashion, including the Android marketplace for Android app purchases and the original Amazon Video app. Amazon Video on iOS similarly dodges paying Apple a cut by forcing users to switch to a Web interface should they attempt to watch paid videos outside of any Amazon Prime subscription perks.
Epic CEO Tim Sweeney has long crusaded against closed platforms, and it's arguable that Epic's PC-games storefront was born from frustrations with Microsoft's mid-'10s emphasis on the Universal Windows Platform. Around the same time, Valve co-founder Gabe Newell similarly crusaded against Microsoft's closed-platform plans—and rolled out a lukewarm Steam Box initiative to try to combat it.