Epic Games Fined Over $1 Million for Fortnite Item Shop Practices

avatar-user Ava Reynolds 2024-05-16
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Epic Games, the creator of the immensely popular battle royale game Fortnite, has found itself in hot water with The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM). The regulatory body has slapped the gaming giant with a hefty fine of €1,125,000 (approximately $1,221,545). This penalty comes after an investigation into how the in-game store markets items to younger players, specifically focusing on children. It turns out that certain marketing tactics used in Fortnite were deemed to exploit the vulnerabilities of children, prompting this significant fine.

The investigation, conducted by ACM, revealed that the design and advertising choices in Fortnite's item shop were problematic. The primary issues centered around two specific practices. First, call-to-action prompts like "Get It Now" or "Buy Now" were found to constitute aggressive commercial behavior. These types of prompts were seen as pressuring children into making purchases they might not otherwise consider. For this, Epic Games received a fine of €562,500 ($611,311).

The second violation involved countdown timers that created a false sense of urgency and scarcity. These timers suggested that items would no longer be available after a certain period, which was often not the case. This tactic was found to manipulate the fear of missing out (FOMO) among younger gamers, leading to impulsive purchases. This deceptive practice led to an additional €562,500 fine. Interestingly, the ACM has given Epic Games until June 10, 2024, to comply with its directives and amend these practices.

In response to these findings, Epic Games has already taken some steps to address the ACM's concerns. Countdown timers have been removed from the worldwide item shop, and players under 18 in the Netherlands now see items available for at least 48 hours. However, despite these changes, Epic Games has announced plans to appeal the decision. They argue that the ACM's findings contain significant factual errors and that the mandated changes would result in a poorer experience for players.

This situation highlights a growing concern within the gaming industry regarding microtransactions and their effect on younger audiences. As games like Fortnite continue to attract a large number of young players, regulators are increasingly scrutinizing marketing practices. This case serves as a reminder for other game developers to carefully consider how their in-game stores operate. It also underscores the importance of creating a fair and transparent gaming environment for all players, especially children.

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