Epic Games Settles with FTC for $520 Million | Most Anticipated Games of 2023
- Epic Games settles with FTC for $520 Million over exploitive payment practices.
- Most Anticipated Games of 2023: Diablo IV, Hogwarts Legacy, Starfield, & more
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Epic Games Settles with FTC for $520 Million Publisher vows to improve policies and better protect vulnerable gamers
Epic Games and the FTC have reached an agreement to settle for $520 million a case over the publisher's predatory payment and privacy practices in its hit game Fortnite. Epic also promised to do better by reforming its policies.
Lay of the Land
Fortnite is a free-to-play battle royale that boasts a low barrier to entry, helped by a cartoonish art style and "T" rating (13 & up). In other words, kids like the art style, and parents appreciate the free startup cost and less violent gameplay.
Aside from being one of the most played games currently, it was revealed by Epic’s litigation with Apple that Fortnite produces the overwhelming majority of the company's income.
- 2018: Fortnite accounted for $5.5 billion of Epic’s $5.7 billion revenue
- 2019: Fortnite accounted for $3.7 billion of Epic’s $4.2 billion revenue
- Revenue is primarily driven by the purchase of microtransactions in the form of cosmetic skins for characters
- Epic Games also runs the Epic Games Store on PC and licenses out its Unreal Engine to developers
- Fortnite often serves as a testbed and showcase of Unreal Engine’s latest bells and whistles
Where Epic ran afoul of the FTC was in targeting children in its pursuit of ever more revenue. Taken in the context of Fortnite’s appeal to younger gamers, it’s hard to see Epic’s conduct as anything other than a disturbing feature – not a bug.
- Charging the parents of children for accidental or unapproved purchases
- Freezing the accounts of those disputing credit card charges for unwanted purchases
- Collecting information on Fortnite players under age 13 without parental consent
- Enabling voice chat and text chat for children under 13 by default
- Epic made the option to disable ingame communication hard to find, despite harassment of younger gamers
The money from Epic’s settlement will be split between the FTC and those impacted by its conduct. The agreement also laid out several reforms.
- $275 million fine for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act
- Largest fine ever levied by the FTC for violating that law
- $245 million in refunds to injured customers from 2017-2022
- Epic will offer “an explicit yes or no choice to save payment information”
- Enabling ingame communication for children gamers will require affirmative consent
To Epic’s credit (or shame), the company is very boldly trying to spin the settlement into a positive. Despite the game’s purposeful appeal to younger audiences, the publisher insists “no developer creates a game with the intention of ending up here.” Epic also claims it is accepting the settlement in order to “be at the forefront of consumer protection” – as if gamers should be thankful that Epic will stop exploiting vulnerable customers.
What’s It to Other Publishers?
Plenty of gaming companies will claim that Epic was its own special case, a bad apple. But with ever-growing interest from publishers in games-as-a service, esports, and the gambling it will bring, the industry must be more proactive if it wants to avoid regulatory attention.
-Avery Bissett, Head Writer
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Most Anticipated Games of 2023: To give us all a break from the end-of-year wrap ups and summaries, let's see what we have to look forward to in the coming year:
Diablo IV - Any entry from hit-maker Blizzard to its universe of IPs is bound to summon an audience, and with fans already reminiscing of fondly darker times with Diablo II's remaster, Diablo IV's promise of nightmarish dungeons is giving players plenty to dream about. (Due June 2023)
Hogwarts Legacy - Since its debut, fans of the Harry Potter franchise have yearned for a game that allows you to truly experience the world carved out in the books and films. While the movie game tie-ins and AR mobile title have allowed glimpses, Hogwarts Legacy from Warner Bros Games aims to allow Wizards and Muggles alike to finally step into the Wizarding World. (Due February 2023)
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom - One of the longest running, and most beloved franchises in gaming history returns with Tears of the Kingdom, Nintendo's follow up to the hugely successful Breath of the Wild in 2017. Details remain scarce, but Zelda's track record of titles will no doubt have players returning to Hyrule next year. (Due May 2023)
Starfield - Promoted by cherished memory-maker Bethesda as its first new universe in 25 years, Starfield has astronomically high expectations from those who have spent countless hours exploring the vast worlds of both Elder Scrolls and Fallout. (Due TBD 2023)
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor - For a cultural phenomenon of a franchise that has been considered hit-or-miss on its video game entries, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order delivered a certified hit in 2019. The sequel from Electronic Arts, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, will bring players back into a galaxy still dealing with the aftermath of a fallen order. (Due March 2023)
-Dustin Downs, Editor
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The Tap: News to Go
- GPU: MSI will not launch its version of AMD's Radeon RX 7900 XT & XTX until Q1 2023, which is later than expected after AMD's Dec 13 launch of RX 7000 (courtesy of Videocardz).
- VR: Influential virtual reality leader John Carmack resigned from Meta over the company's "self-sabotage" of virtual reality development (courtesy of gamesindustry.biz).
- Mobile Gaming: Valve is considering a a new Steam Controller and hinted that the Steam Deck's successor will maintain similar performance, according to an interview with The Verge.
- Industry: When it comes to advertising for video games, Google Ads and Facebook have the largest reach, while Twitch and Twitter have the most conversions, according to a report form Gamesight.