Court documents reveal Google considered partnering with Tencent to take over Epic

Court documents reveal Google considered partnering with Tencent to take over Epic

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Fortnite maker’s second antitrust lawsuit began earlier this month.

Promotional artwork for Fortnite's Chapter 4, Season 4, showing a number of characters running into the foreground while a building explodes behind them.

Image credit: Epic Games

Court documents from the ongoing Epic Games vs Google antitrust case reveal the internet giant wanted to take over the Fortnite and Unreal Engine developer, and was willing to work with shareholder Tencent to complete a buyout.

A quick reminder of how we got here: in August 2020, Epic implemented a method to circumvent Apple and Google fees on in-game payments in the iOS and Android versions of Fortnite. The two platform-holders swiftly retaliated by pulling the game from their storefronts. Epic subsequently filed lawsuits against both Apple and Google, and the case against Apple was settled in September 2021 in favour of Apple on nine of 10 counts. Earlier this year, the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the rulings after appeals from both parties.

Now Epic is back in court to wage its case against Google. While the court battle between Epic and Apple brought us the bizarre moment in which banana mascot Peely’s decency was questioned in (apologies, in the tuxedo he’s known as Agent Peely), so far the proceedings with Google have been revealing in a slightly different way.

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As spotted by The Verge, unredacted documents reveal Google’s “Project Elektra” strategy from 2018 in fresh detail, including the idea that Google would seek ownership or a controlling stake in Epic to make Fortnite the “leading business driver” for itself. An internal email from Google’s president of global partnerships Don Harrison in July 2018, stated that “investment was the only way people could realistically think of to sway them on Epic’s approach to Android”. Google internally proposed an investment of around $2bn for a 20 percent stake of Epic.

In an email from the same day, former Google exec Dave Sobota stated ex-Stadia head Phil Harrison had alternatively proposed approaching Tencent to achieve its takeover to either buy its own shares of Epic, or join up with the company to buy 100 percent of Epic.

The Epic vs Google trial began on 6th November and evidence will continue to be heard until early December. The trial is expected to reach a verdict before the Christmas holiday period.

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