Given its huge level of popularity at the moment, it’s no surprise Fortnite is getting released on Android later this year. After all, the game’s done hugely well in the last year or so, with 125 million players having experienced on across the various platforms it’s been released on, and the title became a household name virtually overnight as a result.
Having it available for the world’s most popular smartphone OS only seems like the next logical move here.
Above: Presumably it’ll look like the iOS version shown here
Except here’s the thing:
Fortnite is not being released on Google Play. Nope.
Instead, anyone who wants to play it from Android has to download the installer from Epic Games’ website, then add it to their phone from here. It’s nothing too complicated here (just a generic APK file that you run like any other ‘unofficial’ Android app), but it’s an interesting set up none the less.
This is because (according to Epic Games), Google’s 30% cut of the Play Store profits is too high for what they actually do, meaning it makes more business sense to distribute it independently and cut out the middle man.
It’s an interesting decision by the company, and one we’ve generally not seen app developers make before. But is it a good one?
Well to be honest, we’re not that sure. Firstly, how many people actually download apps from websites rather than stores nowadays?
We’d hazard a guess and say ‘very few’. Indeed, as a rule of thumb, most people tend to stick the app stores where apps for smartphones are concerned, with only a small percentage using unofficial app stores or sideloaded apps on their phones.
Hence by putting the game on their website rather than Google Play, Epic may be risking a decent chunk of their potential audience, especially the less savvy ones not used to installing apps downloaded from random websites.
And that’s not all either. No, they’re also likely to lose a few players who may have otherwise seen it on the popular apps list the store has to. It’s probably not a huge amount (especially considered Fortnite’s popularity and general brand recognition), but it’s a percentage of possible players none the less, and those have now lost another chance to notice the game.
So it’s likely the game’s popularity on the system will be a bit less than it would be otherwise due to users being unfamiliar with unofficial app installs.
But the biggest issue isn’t related to any of that. Or heck, even Fortnite or Epic Games specifically.
It’s the question of whether this is a precedent we really want to set.
Remember, these app stores exist for a reason. They exist to limit malware and keep less tech savvy users from downloading apps that may be dangerous for their phone. And while Google definitely sucks at quality control, in the ‘this app is not a virus’ sense, they do succeed in completing the Play Store relatively clean.
That’s how (even with its huge level of popularity), Android generally hasn’t become as much of a malware magnet as Windows has, as well as how your average Joe hasn’t accidentally wrecked their machine with a dozen questionable apps from dodgy websites.
Yet Fortnite now threatens to destroy that model. It threatens to take us back to a world where people are downloading random programs from the internet, and running them without any assurances they’re actually safe.
Which may or may not be a good lesson to teach people. Yeah, we don’t want platform owners to have a monopoly, and the freedom to install apps from the developer’s website is nice to have, but it also opens up risks that many people may not be ready for.
Especially on Android where there’s all the incentives in the world to release malware and trick people into installing dodgy software.
So, while Epic’s logic is sound here (the whole 30% revenue cut Google takes does seem to be pretty pointless, and Android does need to be treated as a bit more of an open platform), we’re not sure this is the best way to go about it.
Still, what do you think? Is Epic Games making the right move by having Fortnite downloadable from their website rather than on Google Play? Should other companies publish their mobile apps directly on their websites rather than app stores?
Or do you feel it opens up too many risks for the user, and sets a bad precedent?
Tell us what you think here in the comments or on the Gaming Latest forums today!