Fortnite Skipping Google Play to The Detriment of User Security

Epic is skipping Google’s Android app store (the advertising publisher calls it Google Play as if that meant anything) for their upcoming Android version of the free-to-play Fortnite (which is already on iOS and almost every gaming and computing platform.) There’s a beta signup here and the compatibility situation on Android is already a nightmare, check out the list of supported devices. It is extremely specific and the few Android devices I have aren’t supported.

Epic’s Tim Sweeney was pretty straightforward about why they’re avoiding Google’s app store in this interview with Dean Takahashi:

There’s typically a 30/70 split, and from the 70 percent, the developer pays all the costs of developing the game, operating it, marketing it, acquiring users and everything else. For most developers that eats up the majority of their revenue. We’re trying to make our software available to users in as economically efficient a way as possible. That means distributing the software directly to them, taking payment through Mastercard, Visa, Paypal, and other options, and not having a store take 30 percent.

I’m not sure how well this is going to work out for people playing Fortnite. Google’s app store security is awful and routinely distributes software that compromises user privacy and security already, but at least they can moderate that. To get started with Fortnite on Android users are going to have to disable built-in security functionality that disallows third-party apps. Sideloading applications is useful and should be possible on any computer we use, but there are going to be negative consequences for users who don’t fully understand the risks involved.

Parents and tech savvy folks helping their friends and family are going to be busy when they realize their devices are compromised by installing a phony version of Fortnite, or a version that works but steals their credit card data. Try searching your favorite web search engine for the premium currency in the game, “Fortnite Free V-Bucks”, those scammers are oiled up and ready for anyone who falls into their trap.

Julia Alexander investigated the versions of these “V-Buck” scams that run on YouTube:

Since Fortnite’s meteoric rise, there have been multiple YouTube videos running as ads that pitch Fortnite players easy ways to get free V-Bucks. (V-Bucks are Fortnite’s premium in-game currency, which lets them purchase limited-edition skins, gear and weapons.) Search “free V-Bucks” in YouTube’s search bar, and more than 4.3 million results will populate.

Alex St. John vs Everyone Who Has Actually Worked in Games

While I was working for the defunct social network, hi5, a new CEO took over, Alex St. John. He’s written this article for Venture Beat about his feelings on game developers complaining about their poor working conditions.

I won’t speak ill of his article here. Instead, this is what everyone else is saying about this article:

Steven Hansen for Destructoid:

In it, St. John hand waves away deplorable industry conditions like 80-hour work weeks with a bullshit argument: developing video games isn’t a real job. If you agree with the premise, then the industry gets away with side-stepping workers’ rights that your parents (or grandparents) fought for (like the 40-hour work week). Suddenly the labor standards held at other jobs don’t “count,” because those are real jobs, and video games are a wonderful fantasy land where some poor asshole has to spend 16 hours a day, 5 days a week over at EA modelling the taint of GoldenEye: Rogue Agent’s protagonist until it’s just right.

Jason Schreier for Kotaku:

Some have called on game developers to unionize; others argue that smart scheduling and good project management can help protect the quality of game-makers’ lives. St. John, on the other hand, says it’s all part of the fun, writing that he tells people who are unhappy with crunch to go make their own games.

“To my great shock and disappointment, they never respond to this feedback with any sort of enlightenment or gratitude for my generous attempt at setting them free – usually, I just get rage,” he writes, in a paragraph that might read like satire if it weren’t written with such candor.

Actual game developer, Rami Ismail from Vlambeer:

Don’t listen to this person. Please be in the games industry if you want to make games and care. I don’t care if you want to make games for 2 hours every night after work, or for 40 hours for a paycheck, or for 80 hours as an entrepreneur. Just don’t make others pay with their health for your shitty scheduling.