Activision Blizzard planned to launch an Android app store

The plan was to launch an app store or use the threat of one to pressure Google into a deal

Activision Blizzard

Thanks to the ongoing Epic v. Google antitrust trial in the U.S., we now know about Activision Blizzard King’s (ABK) plan to launch an app store for Android and, eventually, iOS.

As detailed by The Verge, internal emails and documents revealed in court detailed ABK’s plan to build an app store, either alone or in partnership with Epic Games and Supercell (the publisher of the popular mobile game Clash of Clans).

The store would be downloadable from a website and would rely on Android’s sideloading capability for installation. Once downloaded, people would be able to use the store to purchase, download and patch games. In emails to Epic’s CEO Tim Sweeney, ABK CFO Armin Zerza described the app store, dubbed ‘Project Boston,’ as the “Steam of Mobile.”

Moreover, documents indicated the ABK store would charge a transaction fee of 10 to 12 percent, lower than the 15 to 30 percent fee charged by Google on the Play Store (and many other companies, including Apple, Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, and Steam).

If ABK’s Project Boston worked, the company planned to try to do the same with the iPhone. However, the company had a whole other plan that, if successful, would kill the first plan: get a favourable deal with Google.

While ABK had Project Boston ramping up, it was also negotiating with Google for a deal valued at over $100 million USD (about $136 million CAD). In court, there was reportedly significant debate over whether ABK actually planned to launch an app store or if it used Project Boston as a ploy to pressure Google.

Testimony from the search giant indicated the company believed there was a threat of an app store from ABK but at the same time, one of ABK’s listed goals for Project Boston was to “put pressure on Google (ongoing negotiations).” And the project had a small crew of 45 to 70 employees, with ABK’s CFO admitting in court that it was a low number to actually ship a project like that.

Whether the app store was real or a ploy, ABK’s venture was successful and in January 2020, it signed a deal with Google that, according to Google’s head of partnerships, Don Harrison, meant “billions of dollars flowing between the two companies.”

However, it’s certainly an interesting exercise to picture what the mobile world could look like now if ABK had followed through on Project Boston and launched an app store on Android. It’s even more interesting now that Microsoft owns ABK, which could turn competing app stores into a clash between tech titans.

Source: The Verge

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