Epic Games pays up $520M

Epic Games, maker of the popular video game Fortnite, has agreed to pay US$520 million to resolve two US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaints.

Driving the news: Epic was dinged for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and for its use of so-called “dark patterns”—tactics like using confusing selection options and obscuring refund features to trap or trick players into unwanted transactions. 

  • The complaints found that Epic collected info about players under 13 without parental consent and enabled real-time voice and text chat for children and teens by default.
  • Epic also ignored over one million user complaints about unwanted charges and locked the accounts of users who contested them with their credit card companies.

In Canada, Epic’s also in hot water. A Québec Superior Court judge recently approved a class action lawsuit claiming Epic purposefully designed Fornite (the same game relevant in the FTC complaint) to addict child players, leading to excessive spending and health issues.

Why it matters: Other game makers that similarly target kids with purposefully addictive games that are free to play, but incentivize spending and the exchange of personal information might reconsider their approach after seeing Epic pay out such hefty fines.

Epic released a statement about the settlement that read: “The old status quo for in-game commerce and privacy has changed… many developer practices should be reconsidered”.