While the news around the Epic antitrust legal battle have been dropping for months now, it is just now that the court documents have been shared in an unredacted form.
This has resulted in an abundance of new facts showing the truly global scale of the love-hate triangle between Epic, Apple and Google. Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Valve, Nvidia, and, arguably most surprisingly, Tencent have all been dragged into the competition drama at some point.
It’s no secret that Google gave some thought to buying Epic. This could have helped stop Epic from trying to bypass Google Play via its own launcher. Google considered the launcher a “contagion risk,” something that could prompt other developers to launch their apps outside Google’s app store. It was pretty clear, though, that Epic was not going to accept Google’s offer. That’s where Tencent was almost brought in. It turned out that Google considered approaching Tencent about buying their 40% stake in Epic Games or even possibly joining forces with Tencent to orchestrate a hostile takeover of Epic Games. “A senior Google executive proposed that Google ‘consider approaching Tencent,’ a company that owns a minority stake in Epic, ‘to either (a) buy Epic shares from Tencent to get more control over Epic’, or ‘(b) join up with Tencent to buy 100% of Epic,” one of the documents reads.
And that’s kind of ironic because it was Tencent that inspired Epic to try and bypass Google Play in the first place. “This is exactly the process Tencent followed to bypass Google Play with WeChat, which they soon opened up as a game distribution platform. The sooner we can free ourselves from the App Store distribution monopolies, the better,” wrote Sweeney in 2018 (via The Verge).
Curiously, even Tim Sweeney himself acted surpised by the plan for Tencent-backed takeover. “It appears, sadly, that Google was indeed contemplating a coordinated, multinational hostile takeover attempt of Epic in response to Fortnite launching outside of Google Play,” Epic Games CEO wrote.
While the takeover never materialized, Google found another to contain Epic’s “contagion risk.” To prevent developer attrition from Google Play, the company entered into preferential deals with around 20 publishers, including Activision Blizzard.
By the way, as revealed in the 2020 presentation, Microsoft believes Tencent to be its biggest competitor with an estimated annual revenue of $20 billion.