As Epic Games continues its legal battles with Google and Apple, court documents are revealing a lot of interesting details regarding conversations behind the scenes. Today, an unredacted document sees a claim from Epic Games that, at one point, Google had apparently considered locking down Android’s ability to sideload apps in response to the Fortnite feud.

Epic Games today re-filed its complaint against Google to court, this time unredacting considerable portions of the complaint, which can be read in full here. Those redactions originally came from Google, with the company’s lawyer saying to Reuters that Epic’s attempt to unredact the documents is “improper,” adding that “Google objects to Epic’s disregard for the court’s protective order and the improper disclosure of its confidential information.” The redactions were removed by order of Judge James Donato who is presiding over the case.

That said, there are certainly some interesting tidbits that were previously hidden behind closed doors. The most interesting, perhaps, comes on Page 37 of the document where Epic recounts the situation with Google, explaining that a senior executive at the tech giant suggested that Google could “lock down Play/Android and not allow sideloading.” It seems that the idea was ultimately not pursued. It was noted in the Epic documents that Google believed it had “good privacy/security arguments” about why sideloading is “dangerous” to Android users.

In another part of this same document, Epic said that Google executives also called the sideloading experience on Android “abysmal.” A Google representative also raised questions about Epic’s interpretations of the events in question, saying that Epic “mischaracterizes our business conversations” in the suit.

Beyond that, another portion of the unredacted document revealed Google’s “Project Hug.” That name was removed entirely from a previous version of the document. “Project Hug” is described as an effort to “mitigate… risk that top game developers de-prioritize Google Play for title distribution,” further detailed as “a surge plan to throw extra love/promotion to top developers and games.” Specifically, the plan would have been to make “secret deals” with the top 20 developers who were “most at risk” of attrition from the Play Store. The documents say that Google signed deals worth “hundreds of millions” with “the vast majority” of developers it had targeted by the end of 2020.

Apparently, “Project Hug” was developed simultaneously with “Project Banyan,” which was designed to limit the reach of the Galaxy Store. Another unredacted part of the document reveals that a Google executive also suggested Google requesting a share of Samsung’s hardware margin in exchange for allowing Samsung owners the choice of using Play Store billing or Galaxy Store billing for in-app purchases. Activision Blizzard was one of the biggest names in question.

Notably, Google has opened up Android in a new way to third-party app stores with the release on Android 12. As announced late last year, Android 12 will make it easier for users to choose alternative app stores. It was later revealed that this includes those app stores not needing constant user interaction to update apps, a core funciton of any app store.

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Ben Schoon

Ben is a writer and video producer for 9to5Google.

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