Codenamed Project Boston, the plan was to make more cash from Activision Blizzard’s mobile games by changing its relationship with Google. It would have given Activision Blizzard its app store on Android.
According to internal emails and documents made public in the Epic v. Google trial, the company decided to dual-track two intriguing parallel plans.
The first plan was to build its mobile game store -- either in partnership with Epic Games and Clash of Clans publisher Supercell or all by itself -- to bypass the Google Play Store. You'd download it from a website and sideload it onto your Android phone, and then you'd be able to purchase, download, and patch games like Candy Crush, Call of Duty: Mobile, and Diablo Immortal.
Epic CEO Tim Sweeney and Activision Blizzard CFO Armin Zerza pitched it as the "Steam of Mobile" -- a single place to buy mobile games with a single payment system. Documents suggest the store would charge a transaction fee of 10 to 12 per cent, lower than the 30 per cent fee Google (and Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, and Steam) impose on gaming transactions.
According to the Verge, Activision Blizzard planned to do the same thing with the iPhone. According to the documents, the “end state goal” was to put all of Activision, Blizzard, and King’s titles, and possibly third-party games, on Android first and force“Apple iOS to follow.”
Meanwhile, the company negotiated with Google for a deal valued at over $100 million designed to “capture stronger economics for ABK across mobile, YouTube, advertising, media spend, and cloud.”
Either way, Activision Blizzard would make more money than simply sitting back and paying Google’s 30 per cent fee.
In the December 2019 “Project Boston” document, it was clear that Activision Blizzard only intended to pick one of these two plans ultimately. “Should we secure real savings with Google, we would deprioritise path 2,” the company wrote in bold letters. Path 2 was listed as “Build own mobile store,” just to be crystal clear.
If Activision Blizzard had embarked on the “build own mobile store” path, we would have seen the store launch in 2019 or 2020 without much fanfare.
But that store never happened because Activision Blizzard signed Google to a deal worth more than $100 million. In January 2020, it signed an agreement that, according to Google partnerships boss Don Harrison, now means “billions of dollars flowing between the two companies.”