The developer (Epic Games) of the well-known video game Fortnite has agreed to pay $520 million (£427 million) to settle US regulators’ charges that the game violated user privacy rules and deceived players into making payments.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the company tricked users with “deceptive interfaces” that might prompt purchases even as the game was loading. It also accused it of using “privacy-invasive” default settings.
“No developer creates a game with the intention of ending up here,” the company said. “We accepted this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players.”
Raising Increasing Concerns
More than 400 million people worldwide play Fortnite, a battle royale game that shot to fame after its 2017 release. Although the game may normally be downloaded for free, it is funded through in-game sales of things like costumes and dance techniques.
Even after making improvements to address internal and public concerns, the game’s producers disregarded rules involving parental consent, according to the FTC, despite the fact that it matched strangers from all over the world for interactive battles and was targeted at children and teenagers.
According to the complaint, the company had resisted altering its design to include a separate confirmation step because it was concerned that doing so “would add ‘friction’,’result in a decent number of people second-guessing their purchase’, and reduce the number of ‘impulse purchases'”.
The FTC announced Epic Games would pay $275 million to settle accusations it gathered child and teen data without parental authorization and exposed kids and teens to bullying and harassment by turning on voice and text conversations by default. This is a record fine for the consumer watchdog.
In addition to changing the privacy settings for kids and teenagers, Epic Games agreed to make chat communications off by default. The gaming company will also make a record payment of $245 million to resolve a different complaint over dishonest billing practices. This money will be used to repay clients.
A “counterintuitive, inconsistent, and confusing button configuration,” according to the FTC, caused hundreds of millions of dollars in unauthorized purchases.