Epic Games was found guilty of violating competition law by exploiting consumers through a digital loot box system in Fortnite. The FTF levied $245 million fines on the developer, requiring them to provide refunds and compensation to players who were affected. While this may be a financial setback for Epic Games, it will hopefully serve as a reminder to other developers that competition must be balanced with ethical treatment of players.
Epic Games addressed these complaints with the release of Fortnite Season 5, which introduces a new button configuration that requires players to press multiple buttons in order to interact with in-game items and rewards. This change is intended to increase player trust by limiting the ability for users to make frictionless, unauthorized purchases without sign off from their parents. Overall, Fortnite’s inconsistent button configuration continues to frustrate players and challenge conventional game design wisdom.
Critics of the GDPR said that the $245 million settlement is not enough to punish companies that have violated the regulations. They argue that regulators need to increase fines to a level where companies are forced to change their ways and pay customers back in full. The GDPR requires companies to obtain affirmative consent before installing or using marketing tracking tools, but critics argue that consent forms are often difficult and confusing to complete, leading many customers to decline consent.
The Epic Games Inc. (EPIC) $275 million settlement with the FTC follows a $3 million ACCOUNTING ADJUSTMENT FINE for illegally collecting personal information from under-13s in December, as well as a $7.25 million COPPA PENALTY. The proposed settlement grants EPIC amnesty from COPPA regulations governing the collection of personal information from children, and it must appoint an independent privacy monitor for a period of five years to ensure compliance with the law and guard against future violations.
The proposed order from the Department of Justice will send a message to all online providers that collecting children’s personal information without parental consent will not be tolerated. This includes companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple who have been caught collecting information on kids without their parents’ permission. These companies have likely been doing so in order to create better user experiences and target ads, but they must remember that children are minors and need parental consent to collect their data.
Epic Games has been working to make it easier for younger players to stay safe in online multiplayer games. Cabined accounts, which were added into Fortnite, Rocket League and Fall Guys, help make sure that players are grouped together and can monitor one another’s progress. This feature is designed to keep players from getting lost or alone in the game world and gives parents peace of mind when their children are playing online.
The decision to ask all players around the world for their date of birth comes as Epic looks to improve safety and security for its players, who it says are its “number one priority.” Parents who do not want their children playing Fortnite should encourage them to get a cabined account, which will allow them access to limited features while they wait for approval from a parent or guardian.
As concerns over kids’ safety continue to mount in the wake of various tragic incidents involving children and online gaming and social media, companies have yet to create reliable systems for tracking users’ ages while still allowing access to the online virtual spaces where they will inevitably spend time. Some creative solutions are being put into place, such as protections relying on users self-reporting their own age, but these measures are not foolproof and may not be adopted by all platforms. More dramatic changes may be required if we want to ensure that kids are protected while enjoying digital content with friends.
Epic Games is focusing on building an engaging digital experience for young children, a move that could rival Roblox. LEGO and Epic have teamed up to create a metaverse where kids can play together in creative ways. This could be a major threat to Roblox, which has struggled to keep up with the advances of its rivals.