Fortnite is one of the most successful video games of all time, not least because the Battle Royale doesn’t cost its more than 400 million fans a penny to jump out of the flying bus and plunge into battle.
Nevertheless, many of the players invest huge sums in Fortnite to buy colorful costumes, fun emotes or other cosmetic items. However, because Fortnite’s microtransactions are anything but fair and countless children play the Battle Royale whose data was collected without authorization, Epic Games had to dig deep into their pockets.
Epic Games: Collected data costs the mega corporation a fortune
The Federal Trade Commission, an independent US agency for consumer protection, got involved and asked the industry giant behind Fortnite to pay. Epic Games has agreed with the FTC to pay a $520 million penalty, which again consists of two parts.
275 million US dollars were due because Epic Games is said to have repeatedly violated the privacy of particularly young players and also changed the default privacy settings in Fortnite. On the other hand, the group had to pay 245 million US dollars for opaque microtransactions that are said to have brought users to “unwanted purchases”.
On the agency’s official website explains more details about the huge fine: Epic is said to have broken the so-called COPPA rule by collecting the data of children under the age of 13 without informing the parents or obtaining their consent. Allowing real-time voice and text chat for children and teens by default is also a violation, the FTC said.
Fortnite: Unwanted One Touch Purchases
With regard to microtransactions, one speaks of the so-called dark patterns, with which players are tempted to make purchases and children in particular have charged their parents’ credit cards. One method of these dark patterns is the ease with which players can make unwanted purchases:
“Fortnite’s counterintuitive, inconsistent, and confusing keybindings have led players to make unwanted purchases by pressing just a single button. For example, players were being charged for attempting to wake the game from sleep mode while the game was in a loading screen or for pressing an adjacent button while simply looking at an item.”
What else does the penalty mean for Epic Games?
Aside from the considerable sum that Epic Games had to pay to the FTC, violating the agency’s rules has other consequences. The company behind Fortnite must ensure that voice and text communication is switched off in the future in the default settings to increase the safety of children playing. The 245 million US dollar penalty for dark patterns also goes as repayments to gambling customers and the use of these manipulative methods must be prevented in the future.
Lina M. Khan, Chair of the FTC, explained the background to the measures against Epic Games in an official statement: “Protecting the public and especially children from attacks on their online privacy and from dark patterns is the top priority for the authority and the required actions should make it clear to companies that the FTC will crack down on such unlawful practices.”