Epic and Google are gearing up for another legal battle. You might recall that Google has an in-app billing crackdown coming to the Play Store soon. The new rules require all apps selling digital goods to use Google Play Billing by March 31, so Google gets a cut of the sales. Any app in non-compliance has been unable to ship updates since March 31, but the real deadline is June 1, when these apps will be removed from the Play Store. Epic Games bought the popular independent music site Bandcamp in March, and it’s already taking Google to court over its newest acquisition. Bandcamp isn’t in compliance with the billing rules, so it’s due for a ban in June. As part of its antitrust case against Google, Epic is filing a motion for a preliminary injunction to block Bandcamp’s de-listing from the Play Store.
Epic has attacked Google and Apple over their app store rules and what Epic says are excessive fees. In March, there were a lot of questions surrounding why the creator of Fortnite and the Unreal Engine would buy an independent music site. One line of commentary from Music Business Worldwide founder Tim Ingham seems to have nailed Epic’s strategy. Ingham notes that Epic failed to get Apple to reduce its 30 percent app store cut, in part because the alternative model Epic could demonstrate to the court, the Epic Games Store and its 12 percent fee, wasn’t profitable. Apple’s lawyers argued the unprofitability of Epic’s Games Store justified Apple’s 30 percent fees.
Bandcamp is a profitable digital content business, though. Bandcamp has a searchable content store, and it hosts and delivers the content by charging artists a 10 to 15 percent commission. Ingham predicted Epic would hold up Bandcamp’s business model as a viable alternative to Apple and Google’s app store fees, and that Epic would use its new acquisition to attack app store owners. It looks like we’re seeing the first actions of that plan.