The ax has fallen for Fortnite and Epic Games is condemned to pay a simply insane fine.
After the filing of complaints launched in 2019, a lawsuit had been hanging in the face of Epic Games for a while and was only recently accepted. There followed a long debate between Epic Games and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) which ended with an agreement between the two parties.
Fortnite accused of abusing its youngest users
On the main lines, Fortnite was accused of pushing young users into buying and having a purposely inconsistent interface to facilitate unwanted transactions. As a bonus, the Epic Games game is criticized for endangering players, children and adolescents, by connecting them, for example, automatically, and without their consent, to online text and voice chat. Which, according to the FTC, would have already caused a lot of harm such as “harassment and verbal or sexual assault”.
Finally, the FTC condemns Epic for knowingly using the personal data of very young users without parental consent, which is also normally required here. In other words, Fortnite is in the sauce and now Epic must answer for its actions. What he agreed to do.
After several days of debate, the sentence has finally fallen for the industry giant and Epic Games will therefore have to pay a fine of 520 million dollars. Yes, half a billion dollars of which 275 million will be allocated to reimbursements of players to be dealt with by the FTC a little later. The American commission is also pleased to have achieved a veritable tour de force, since this agreement is the largest ever recorded by the organization. It must also be said that there were many complaints.
Epic Games’ response to microtransactions…
For its part, Epic Games split a press release to take stock and clarify certain points. The giant says in particular that it accepted the FTC agreement to serve as an example to the rest of the industry and will seek to strengthen and change some of its methods. The first changes should also arrive shortly.
No developer creates a game with the intention of finding themselves in this situation. Laws written decades ago do not specify how gaming ecosystems should operate. The laws have not changed, but their application has evolved and long-standing industry practices are no longer sufficient. We agreed to this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players.
Saving default payment information is a common way to make the process more convenient, so players don’t have to re-enter their details every time they make a purchase. We have agreed with the FTC to change this practice, and we now offer an explicit “yes or no” choice for recording payment information.
Pushing a single button to make a quick purchase is one of the most commonly used mechanisms in the industry and one of the easiest to make online purchases. However, we don’t want players to pay for something they didn’t intend to pay for. We’ve updated our payment methods with a new option that asks the player for confirmation again before making a purchase. This acts as an additional protection to avoid unintended purchases. It will also be possible to cancel instant purchases and self-service refunds.
… and when it comes to protecting young players
On the other hand, Epic Games refutes certain accusations from the FTC, in particular those concerning the use of personal data and the protection of young players, although it affirms that there are still great efforts to be made on this side. He also explains that he has implemented many parental control options and a large number of protection settings on Fortnite.
Young players interested in certain popular games can always find ways to access them. Developers need to proactively create age-appropriate ways for gamers to enjoy their games. We recently launched a new type of Epic account that offers a tailored, safe and inclusive experience for young players. Players under the age of 13, (age depends on the laws of their country), will be able to play Fortnite, but will need to seek parental consent. They will then be able to play the game in a personalized environment where certain features, such as chat and purchases, are disabled. In September, we implemented high default privacy settings for players under 18. And players under 16 also have a censorship filter enabled by default for text chat.
The old status quo regarding commerce and private data in video games has changed, and many developer practices should be reconsidered. We share the underlying principles of fairness, transparency, and privacy that the FTC upholds, and the practices referenced in the FTC’s complaints do not alEsports Extraswith the way Fortnite operates. We will continue to be honest about what players can expect when making purchases, ensure cancellations and refunds are simple, and put in place safeguards that allow our ecosystem to keep it safe and fun for audiences of all ages.
The condemnation (or the agreement according to the points of view) of Epic Games should indeed serve as an example for the rest of the industry and could even have repercussions on other games in the medium or long term. It remains to be seen whether this will allow certain practices to disappear, or at least to become totally transparent.
However, this is not the first time that a game has caused a scandal because of its practices deemed dubious or simply inadequate.
We still remember the catastrophic launch of Star Wars Battlefront 2 and its loot boxes, or more recently the controversies surrounding Diablo Immortal and, to a lesser extent, Overwatch 2. If the law, the FTC or any other organization have not necessarily leaning on the subject each time, the players simply can’t take it anymore and are less and less tolerant of this kind of content. Paradoxically, microtransactions, season passes and other battle passes have never been so numerous and popular. So maybe a middle ground should be found.