The makers of Fortnite have made the surprising decision to skip the Google Play Store when they ship the Android version of their ridiculously popular game this summer. It’s a bad decision, born out of greed, that has the potential to make millions of kids’ phones and tablets less secure. Let me explain why.
Why will Fortnite not be in the Google Play Store?
Pure, hard economics. Like Apple, Google takes a 30% cut on any app sold in its store.
Isn’t Fortnite free to download? Yes, it is, but Apple/Google also take a 30% cut on in-app purchases such as buying V-Bucks, the in-game Fortnite currency that makes Fortnite all of its money. A hell of a lot of money.
Fortnite is in Apple’s App Store because it has no choice. If you want an app to appear on iPhones/iPads, you have to put in the App Store. The only way around that is to encourage people to ‘jailbreak’ their devices, but it’s complicated and so few people would do it that the app would die a lonely death.
On Android, however, there is another option. You can ‘sideload’ the app onto people’s devices. You download a file from the Fortnite website, click through a couple of security warnings, and install the game in a similar way to installing a game on a PC and Mac, thus avoiding Google’s slice of the cake.
So what’s the problem?
Why’s it dangerous?
To install an app from the outside the Google Play Store you have to lower your device’s security. This can happen in one of two ways.
Users are either encouraged to allow their phone to ‘install unknown apps’, which makes it more likely that rogue apps such as ransomware and other nasty stuff can be installed in the background. Or else there’s a setting – which I hope Fortnite deploys – that allows you to make an exception to install just that app.
Either way, it’s still a bad idea. Getting kids – the primary audience for Fortnite – into the habit of downloading apps from a website is bad. It will lead to a host of fake websites targeting kids with what they think is the Fortnite installer, only to find they’ve downloaded some piece of junk that locks their phone, steals personal data or fills their screen with porn in the hope of embarrassing them into paying a ransom fee to make it go away.
Android is already a big target for such malware. Fortnite’s decision is about to make that a whole lot worse.
How can I stop my kids downloading the wrong thing?
Fortnite’s makers have now put a terrible onus on parents – many of whom are no better informed on this stuff than their kids. So how do you make sure your kids aren’t downloading something they shouldn’t?
First, it’s important to note that Fortnite for Android isn’t out yet, so don’t be fooled into downloading something already. If the kids are offered a Fortnite download, it is fake and should be avoided like Piers Morgan at a dinner party.
When it is released, only download a file from the official Epic Games website. The site has a downloads section, which is where I assume Forntite for Android will be made available.
In the meantime, have this chat with your kids. Tell them not to download Fortnite on their phones or tablets without asking you first, so that you can check where they’re downloading the file from.
Fornite’s makers have put profits over security. It’s a poor decision from a company that’s already made hundreds of millions from the game and one that I hope they reverse.
In the meantime, have that chat with your kids.
Now read this: Is Fortnite Battle Royale suitable for kids?
And from many kids that are under the recommended minimum age of 12 too. Having seen the game, I can see why that age limit is there and I’d like to see Epic Games doing more to take this out of the hands of young children.