Mobile game exclusivity triggers $32m fine for Google

Outdated exclusivity practices are cited as stifling competition

Mobile game exclusivity triggers $32m fine for Google

Tech giant Google has received a hefty $32m fine from South Korean authorities, for allegedly stifling competition and hurting local competitor One Store.

The company was served with a 42.1 billion won fine from the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) according to Reuters. The regulator cited Google’s policy of providing exposure to developers that published their games exclusively to Google Play between 2016 and 2018. Specifically they stated that one alternative storefront this affected was Korean competitor One Store, as well as developers and publishers such as NetMarble, Nexon and NCSoft.

Google was bullish about the fine, and a spokesperson is quoted as saying, "Google makes substantial investments in the success of developers, and we respectfully disagree with the KFTC's conclusions." However, it seems unlikely that parent company Alphabet Inc will be able to contest the fine although a number of courses of action are being considered.

Try Googling “How to avoid a fine”

Google’s infamously deep pockets as one of the most dominant tech companies on the planet are likely to reduce this fine to a relative annoyance. However what it symbolises is likely to have leadership sit up and take notice as it represents a further move to crack down on Google’s perceived negative practices. The company was previously fined a much larger $177m in 2021 for blocking devices from using forks (customised versions) of their Android OS.

While Apple typically receives the brunt of criticism for the iron grip it keeps on its ecosystem, the Google fine is a stark reminder that many of these companies are being scrutinised heavily. The fact that mobile games served as a flashpoint for this fine is at once a marker of their importance and a worrying indicator that exclusivity and publishing could serve as a political football. Something that, when many developers and publishers are buckling down for a more sedate 2023, few will want to deal with it.

Staff Writer

Iwan is a Cardiff-based freelance writer, who joined the Pocket Gamer Biz site fresh-faced from University before moving to the editorial team in November of 2023.