Google just did the right thing with Fortnite on Google Play

Commentary: This one little message could make a big difference.

Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Sean Hollister
2 min read
Screenshot by Sean Hollister/CNET

"Fortnite Battle Royale by Epic Games, Inc is not available on Google Play." 

That's the message you'll get if you type "Fortnite" into the Google Play Store on your Android device today. That's not news, of course -- the fact that the insanely popular game won't be available on Google's own Android storefront has been a controversial topic for well over a week!

But the message itself is news, and good news, because it means Google is doing the right thing. It's steering people away from fake and possibly dangerous apps that might try to cash in on the confusion of Fortnite not being in the one place you'd really expect it to be.

It's Google doing the right thing even though the company could potentially make more money by letting competitors advertise rival games. As (Fortnite developer) Epic Games's own CEO Tim Sweeney has pointed out in a recent Twitter thread, Apple's iOS App Store does things a little differently:

Sweeney and Epic have been under fire for forcing some users to potentially open up their phones to malware in order to download Fortnite for Android, a move that I argued was particularly risky because so many kids play Fortnite; kids who may not know how to tell fakes from the real thing. (Honestly, how many adults know the difference?)

Google's warning doesn't fix that. It doesn't point directly to the right place to get Fortnite, which means some kids might still go searching for the game and wind up getting malware instead. But as of today, Google searches for Fortnite are indeed pointing to the right places, and Google's storefront message means that fakes probably won't reign on Google Play.

When I reached out to Epic CEO Tim Sweeney for comment, he didn't praise Google's action, but did call it "reasonable." 

"The "Fortnite is not available in Google Play" message is reasonable," Sweeney told CNET. "Since those search results are curated algorithmically, the message guards against the case where another developer submits an app that's confusingly similar."

Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Update, 1:18p.m. PT: Added Epic CEO's comment.

Watch this: Fortnite makes its Android debut exclusively on Samsung phones