Google Pulls an Apple with Play Store Rules

Posted on September 25, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Google, Mobile with 76 Comments

It looks like Google is fully committed to copying Apple as much as possible, and whether it’s for good or for bad. In this case, it’s for bad: The search giant plans to push Android app developers to give the company a cut of any in-app purchases through its Play Store, according to a new Bloomberg report.

Google will issue revised Play Store guidelines for Android app developers as soon as next week, the publication claims, requiring most apps to use Google’s billing service for in-app content downloads, game upgrades, and subscriptions. As is the case with Apple’s unfair policies on iOS, this system gives the company a 30 percent cut of any purchases inside of mobile apps on Android.

Bloomberg notes that Google has technically required this for years, but as is so often the case on Android, major developers—including Epic Games, Netflix, and Spotify—have been able to circumvent the rules by simply taking direct credit card payments, bypassing the Google vig.

The change—or, clarification, I guess—comes in the wake of Epic implementing in-game purchases in Fortnite on both Android and iOS, triggering both Apple and Google to ban the app on their respective platforms. Epic launched lawsuits against both companies for these actions. But Apple to date has had much stricter rules for app makers. And it’s been more aggressive about policing its rules, no matter how bad it makes the firm look to the public. Apparently, Google wanted a piece of that attention.

“As an open platform, Android allows multiple app stores,” a Google statement notes. “In fact, most Android devices come with at least two stores right out of the box, and users can install others. For developers who choose to distribute their apps on Google Play, our policy has always required them to use Play’s billing system if they offer in-app purchases of digital goods. We are always working with our partners to clarify these policies and ensure they are applied equitably and reasonably.”

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