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Android: Google plays with the checkbook to avoid the emergence of alternative app stores

Android is much more flexible than iOS for alternative stores. A publisher has every option to bypass the Play Store by offering users to install an APK file at their own risk. By doing so, the developer completely avoids the store’s payment system, which allows Google to earn a commission on all transactions. It’s not that easy though: Epic Games distributed its hit Fortnite outside of the Play Store for a while, but that didn’t last long.

Google has actually multiplied the obstacles and warnings to the user to discourage him from installing APKs (it is also true that APKs downloaded from the Internet are important vectors of infection). Furthermore, Epic returned to the ranks a few months after this experience by once again offering battle royale in the official Android store.

Epic is not the only publisher that wants to do without Google’s payment system. Others just as strong had this desire, and for some of them the search engine played with the checkbook. As part of the lawsuit between Google and Epic, confidential documents have been added to the file, and we always discover interesting things that reveal an obscure part of the small business of apps.

Google has paid money to at least 24 developers to prevent them from competing with the official store. Among the big names mentioned is Activision Blizzard, which received $360 million for not creating an alternative store on Android.

Riot Games was offered $30 million for one year, in exchange for the studio continuing to distribute League of Legends and its other games on the Play Store. The case is not entirely new, we had heard about an agreement between Google and Activision at the beginning of 2020, but the figures were unknown.

We don’t know if Spotify might have been interested at some point in distribution outside of the Play Store, but the fact is that the streaming service’s app is the first to integrate the new User Choice Billing (UCB) feature announced last March year.

Google tests

Google is testing the integration of an alternative payment system with Spotify

This alternative payment system allows the app user to either pay with Play Store (the traditional method) or pay with Spotify (with credit card or PayPal). It has started to appear in more countries, knowing that UCB is available in 35 countries, including Europe and the United States. Spotify will be followed by other publishers in the future.

Although Google has opened the door to alternative means of payment as required by regulatory authorities around the world, the company continues to earn a commission on the sale, and it is not symbolic: the rate will be well reduced, but only 4 percentage points on usual com’ of between 15 and 30%…

Apple will not yet offer such a service to developers, but the manufacturer will likely have no choice in Europe under DMA. The Dutch example, where dating apps can integrate an alternative payment method, could serve as a model: Apple’s usual commission is not 30%, but… 27%.

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