Fortnite maker Epic Games reaches $520M FTC settlement
Epic Games, the Cary-based maker of the popular video game Fortnite, agreed to a record settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. Epic will pay $520 million to settle allegations that it duped millions of players into making unintentional purchases, and that it did not do enough to protect children and teens from online harassment.
Epic will pay a $275 million fine for violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, and pay another $245 million to refund customers for its design tricks — known as dark patterns — and billing practices. Both are record amounts, according to the FTC. Epic also agreed to strengthen its privacy default settings.
Fortnite is free to play, but users make in-game purchases like costumes or dance moves. The Justice Department also alleged the game's default settings allowed children to be bullied and harassed while playing Fortnite.
News: Fortnite maker Epic Games will pay $520 million to settle claims it "violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and deployed design tricks, known as dark patterns, to dupe millions of players into making unintentional purchases" via FTC— Jason deBruyn (@jasondebruyn) December 19, 2022
In a statement released by Epic on Monday morning, the company said, "No developer creates a game with the intention of ending up here. … We accepted this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players."
Fortnite is a popular game, with more than 400 million users worldwide. The game catapulted Epic Games into the upper echelon of video game makers. It employs more than 3,000 workers in the Triangle, according to Triangle Business Journal data. It has also grown its footprint, including by purchasing Cary Towne Center with plans of making it a new sprawling headquarters.
Company CEO Tim Sweeney is a noted preservationist who has acquired large tracts of land in North Carolina with the intention of leaving them undeveloped.
In the settlement, Epic did not admit wrongdoing. "Statutes written decades ago don’t specify how gaming ecosystems should operate," according to the company's statement. "The laws have not changed, but their application has evolved and long-standing industry practices are no longer enough."