Confirmed: Fortnite for Android will risk players' security by sidestepping Google Play

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Fortnite for Android is one of the most eagerly-anticipated game launches of recent times, but the impending release could turn out to be something of a security nightmare. Following on from recent rumors, Epic Games has confirmed that Fortnite will not be made available through the Google Play Store.

Instead users will have to download the game directly from Fortnite.com -- something which means they will have to lower the security settings for their phone by allowing the installation of apps from unknown sources. Despite the security risks involved in this, Epic is eager to avoid paying a 30 percent cut to Google for Play Store distribution; but how long before the plan backfires?

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While we still don't know exactly when the Android version of Fortnite will be released, it is widely thought to be linked to the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Note9 -- and possibly temporarily exclusive to the handset.

But whenever the launch takes places, anyone looking to get their Fortnite fix will not find what they are looking for in the Play Store. In an email to the Verge, Epic CEO Tim Sweeney said that his company "wants to have a direct relationship with our customers on all platforms where that's possible". He goes on to criticize the cut Google takes from sales of apps through its store:

The 30 percent store tax is a high cost in a world where game developers' 70 percent must cover all the cost of developing, operating, and supporting their games. There's a rationale for this on console where there's enormous investment in hardware, often sold below cost, and marketing campaigns in broad partnership with publishers.

So in order to avoid paying this fee, Fortnite will be made available as a direct download, and would-be gamers will have to allow their phones to install third party apps from unknown sources. By going down this route, Epic is opening up a big can of worms labelled "Security Problems".

Firstly, by requiring users to lower their security settings, Epic opens up Fortnite users to installing potentially-malicious apps they would otherwise have been protected against. While seasoned Android users will be aware of the security risks involved in using third party apps, this will not be the case for everyone. Learning that there is an untapped vein of exciting software out there, many people could be lured into installing all manner of dangerous apps.

Secondly, the fact that Epic has chosen to skip Google Play will not stop people using Google Play as their first port of call for the game. People who follow technology news will be aware that Fortnite is only being made available as a direct download, but most people don't follow technology news. After years of using Google Play to download every app and game under the sun, it's only natural that's this is where people will look for Fortnite, particularly when word of its release starts to spread. It's hard to imagine that a raft of fake Fortnite apps won't appear in Google Play -- just as happened with Super Mario Run -- and this will open people up to installing pointless, malicious, ad-laden crapware.

But, hey... Epic's saving a bit of money, so that's cool, right?

Sweeney says third-party markets like Steam have already proved successful:

We're confident Android will be similarly successful. Most importantly, mobile operating systems increasingly provide robust, permissions-based security, enabling users to choose what each app is allowed to do: save files; access the microphone; access your contacts. In our view, this is the way all computer and smartphone platforms should provide security, rather than entrusting one monopoly app store as the arbiter of what software users are allowed to obtain.

Sweeney can try to justify Epic's decision as much as he likes -- there's no getting away from the fact that it's a move that put people at risk.

Image credit: Rokas Tenys / Shutterstock

55 Responses to Confirmed: Fortnite for Android will risk players' security by sidestepping Google Play

  1. Kevin Daire says:

    Some call it "risking players' security". I call it "fighting against the walled garden and the absurd 30% tax that is becoming standard on every platform today". The thing is that not everyone wants to use Google services. And if people choose not to, they shouldn't be locked out of all popular software. Monopolies are always bad. They lead to less choice, more bogus restrictions (just look at how many programs aren't allowed on Iphone!), and higher prices for consumers.

    Somewhat related; the primary reason I stopped buying PC games is because they come wrapped in intrusive, totalitarian software like Steam and Origin today. And Microsoft is desperate to get the Windows Store moving, so they can establish a similar walled garden on Windows while helping themselves to that aforementioned nice 30% cut of all sales.

    The thing is that we have been installing/running software on PCs without walled gardens for decades now (since day one of the PC actually), and the universe has yet to implode because of it. If users get malware, that's because they lack the basic computer skill of properly acquiring software. And malware can (and does) show up in these stores from time to time.

    • async2013 says:

      I love linux. Your post reminds me of why i switched years ago. Stop moaning and do the walking

    • realDonaldTrump says:

      Only an idiot would distribute Android apps outside of the Play Store. People that actually have a brain in their head know that the 30% tax is worth every penny because it's the only way to keep Android phones secure from malware.

      • Order_66 says:

        "it's the only way to keep Android phones secure from malware"

        And the play store has failed countless times at keeping malware off the store.

      • John says:

        True, the Play Store isn't infallible like any other Store however @somebody999:disqus is correct.

  2. Troy Janda says:

    Clickbait to instill fear in the masses. There are many apps that are not offered via Play Store that are just as secure. Just enabling unknown sources does not create a security hole in it self, and once he app is installed you can again disable it. So tired of these powder puff posts only written as scare tactics. BTW if your using a rooted phone, running a custom recovery, or a any non official rom, your already installing stuff from unknown sources. Does this mean that your phone is less secure, on the contrary some developers actually patch security holes several weeks even months before Google Developers do.

    • PC_Tool says:

      Yep.

      One: The malicious apks for fortnite are already out there. (Damage is already done)
      Two: the FUD presumes the users will magically become more likely to install more apks from the web.

      Nothing the FUD-spreaders claim is going to happen isn't either already happening, or isn't based purely on baseless speculation.

      Some folks ability to reason just can't get past the whole emotional knee-jerk reaction of "some CEO is doing something different!! CEOs are teh Evil! Oh NOES!!" BS.

    • TechFan says:

      I think once they allow unknown sources, it will just take malware writes almost no time at all to get people to click some link from a text, or email, or web link when browsing. There is a reason Android has this option disabled.

      There are security holes once a phone is rooted. To say it's there are not, would be you don't understand the OS and security levels well.

      • Troy Janda says:

        I did not say that rooted phones were more or less secure I stated that if a person was running a rooted phone, or had a custom recovery they were already installing stuff from unknown sources.

        I have a rooted phone and run a custom rom, and kernel and the developer many times patches security holes before the Google developers do. I do know the OS and understand it and as with anything it can and will at some point be compromised. My point was you can enable unknown sources to install app and then disable again once it has installed.

        I have several apps that I do not offer via the Play Store, who really wants to give up 30% of possible earnings. Google has a vetting problem with the verification process and allows malicious apps all the time. Look at all the Cyptominers -but this is a whole other topic- that people have discovered, So to say enabling unknown sources will compromise your device is just cause for mass hysteria, I have also heard the same powder puff posts in the past saying the same thing about Rooting.

        It really does not matter, someone will find away to exploit security vulnerabilities, even if the phone is the securest phone on the planet.

      • realDonaldTrump says:

        No, nobody patches Android security holes faster than Google. Don't spread delusions.

    • realDonaldTrump says:

      There's not a single Android app distributed outside of the Play Store that is secure. Not one. So tired of idiots like the developers at Epic lying about how apps outside of the Play Store are secure.

  3. Order_66 says:

    Once again, Sweeney tells it like it is, and big brother and their supporters don't like it.

    Google play has a long history of malware being spread, their vetting process is horrible, just install a good android av (bitdefender has been flawless for me over the years) and don't worry about the FUD being spread about leaving big brother in search of freedom.

    Enjoy your fortnite on android.

    • Ace Rimmer ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ says:

      A smartphone that needs an AV. /SMH

    • TechFan says:

      I agree - for 30% of the cut they should be doing more.

      Also fully agree with Tim Sweeney on his take on Stores getting 30% - 'It’s disproportionate to the cost of the services these stores perform, such as payment processing, download bandwidth, and customer service.'

      This is one reason, although stupidly too late, Microsoft has change their cut, many cases giving 90% back to the developer.

      • Order_66 says:

        Microsoft changed their cut because they have an incredibly tiny number of decent developers and their store sucks.

      • Ace Rimmer ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ says:

        Of course Order_66 would try to spin that lower cut as a negative. 🙄

      • TechFan says:

        I'm sure that is one reason, but to my point above, 'stupidly' late, they should have just started with 10% cut, and IMO, 0% when people buy stuff like Movies, Books and Music.

      • realDonaldTrump says:

        Tim Sweeney is a whining crybaby.

    • realDonaldTrump says:

      Lots of people on here that aren't very smart. The Play Store is more secure than any other method of distributing Android apps. With Google's current security measures there is less malware in Play Store apps than any other app distribution method. You should really use your head as should Epic.

      • Order_66 says:

        "Once again, Sweeney tells it like it is, and big brother and their supporters don't like it."

      • realDonaldTrump says:

        Big brother and their supporters don't like it because Sweeney's distribution method increases the chance of malware getting onto people's phones. Duh.

  4. TechFan says:

    This could be the death of Android - at least any most advanced countries.
    Epic/Fortnite starts this, others will follow.

    Which in the end, get's people to lower their Android security (which means even the wrong text could take over your phone), back to the pain in the butt of knowing where you downloading what and from where.

    Maybe Google should mimic Microsoft new Store/Developer fee structure (giving the developers are lot more for their work).

    • 10% tops. Brick and mortar rarely gets 30%.

      • Ace Rimmer ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ says:

        You would be surprised. For some industries and items brick and mortar can inflate prices by 300% or more.

      • Oh, I know, there are exceptions and boutique cases. Best Buy sells VGA cables, cheap ones, for $25 for example.

        But if you were looking at a something similarly scaled, like a large retail chain, say Wal-Mart, it would be a lot less than 30% markup.

      • Ace Rimmer ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ says:

        Wal Mart neighborhood market has a mark up between 100%-300% across much of the store. The larger stores have a similar markup on those same items where there is an inventory overlap. I don't know about the rest of what they carry so I won't speculate on that.

      • Never been to a Wal-Mart neighborhood market. That's their version of the corner 7-11?

      • Ace Rimmer ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ says:

        It's their version of a grocery store.

        Also, most restaurants have a mark up around 70%.

      • Oh, restaurants are higher than that. My partner is in the business. Markup is 100% or more for food and easily 200% to 400% for alcohol.

        I think I was trying to compare a large discount enterprise with small staff to customer ratio to the online app stores with very small staff to customer ratio. Anyway, if they want 30%, they need to be doing a lot better job of policing their stores. Too much sketchy/scammy crap and too much malware.

      • Ace Rimmer ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ says:

        I was thinking fast food. High volume, low staff. I read an article about kitchen automation where they mentioned that most fast food places take 70%.

      • Fantasm says:

        I once worked for a store inventory company...

        We'd routinely be amazed by the info on the scanners....
        One example was a chain drug store selling women's hair dye.
        Price $7.99
        Cost $0.28

      • Yep, drug stores are pretty bad.

        In any event. I withdraw my comment. Brick and mortar frequently gets a good market up.

      • TechFan says:

        Walmart is in a league of their own - They pretty much tell you what they are going to buy it at and then you are correct, low margins but high volume. Of course it depends want section, as I bet cloths are still marked up a lot.

    • Order_66 says:

      "This could be the death of Android"

      Wow lmao

      • TechFan says:

        So you are saying it's great and really easy for non-tech people (most of world) - to have go to each developers site to download the app they bought, manually go there to get updates, enter all their info (included credit card) and remember for their free apps to go to Google Play.

      • Exactly like PC users have done for decades :)

      • TechFan says:

        That doesn't equal - better or easier, just because we did it for decades. That is like saying it's better to go back to paying bills manually, with an envelope and stamps, vs online bill pay.

      • Fantasm says:

        Honestly, I'd rather download from the software manufacturers site than from some 'online' store....
        It's worked out ok for years for PC users....
        At least a source run by the manufacturer is going to be easier to maintain and less likely to have issues.
        An online store deals with thousands of "apps" and it would be easy for something(s) to slip through the cracks....

      • TechFan says:

        Things have changed -
        1 - Steam came along and I haven't bought one PC game if it's not offered on Steam. Steam proved a single store is awesome. Even more so if you have to nuke your PC and do a clean install. I go there, click my current games I play and they all down load at once.
        2 - In the old days, minus a games, people only had 4-5 programs they bought, simple to track. Now people buy a ton of 1 dollar programs.
        3 - Cyber Hacking - I would rather just a few vendors vs many.

        This my opinion of course, but also looking how much Google and Apple have made, it seems most people like the benefits of a store. But yes, it worked for decades until the Internet took off, and it really became a pain vs buying a physical copy.

      • Order_66 says:

        "1 - Steam came along and I haven't bought one PC game if it's not offered on Steam. "

        That's your loss, I've purchased from steam, origin and GoG and fortnite is available for free from the epic games launcher.

      • Ace Rimmer ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ says:

        So you do support the concept of stores. Interesting.

      • TechFan says:

        You are right - I do lose out from time to time - as I really wanted to play StarCraft II. But it's all good.

      • realDonaldTrump says:

        Epic and that moron Tim Sweeney don't know what's best for their app obviously.

  5. psycros says:

    Alternative app stores are Google's biggest fear because a reputable company with the resources could easily produce a better one than Google's own. I bet the only reason that Android phones don't already ship with other stores is because Google has made not including them a condition of the Android license.

    • Now doesn't Samsung have their own app store?

    • TechFan says:

      About 3 years ago, Amazon came out and talked about this - as they are probably the 2nd biggest Android Store. They didn't want to agree to all the BS Google required, and lose of control, so they made their own. But the point of the story was how they regret it, as it's a small fortune to run an Android Store. They had like 250 people, which also included the team to minimize malware on the store. In short, each store would need a pretty good size team. As for malware detection, I disagree, as it's only as good as your team. Now, if Google shared day zero, malware they find so other stores could remove it, but why would they do that.

    • realDonaldTrump says:

      Amazon tried producing their own app store. Even with all of the free apps they gave away it wasn't as successful as Google's Play Store.

  6. TechFan says:

    Here is my problem with this - As an end user, the price (what comes out of my wallet) is the same regardless of where I buy it. To me, why would I take the risk of changing security settings and downloading elsewhere. While I see Epic's point, no advantage to me in the end.

  7. So, now we see that Samsung has the Android version of Fortnite to themselves for at least a little while. That's how Fortnite will bypass the Google Play Store? A lot of perfectly good FUD wasted here.

  8. Roman Montemayor says:

    It sucks i cant put it

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