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Epic Games Paying $520 Million to Settle FTC Charges on Fortnite

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Epic Games will pay $520 million to settle charges from the United States Federal Trade Commission, aka the FTC, over it’s popular title Fortnite, according to an official announcement issued by the FTC.

Per the announcement, Epic Games will pay $275 million for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and another $245 million for design relying on dark patterns “to dupe millions of players into making unintentional purchases”.

Some of the privacy violations included collecting personal information from children under 13 without parental consent or notification, as well as enabling voice and text chat for children and teens by default.

The FTC stated that employees at Epic Games had pushed for the company to make voice and text chat an opt-in feature as early as 2017, however Epic Games slowed on making changes despite reports of online harassment and sexual harassment towards children while playing Fortnite.

FTC also added that when Epic Games did add a button to turn off voice chat, they made it hard to find for users.

Additionally, the FTC (dark patterns complaint) referenced “counterintuitive, inconsistent, and confusing button configuration” and single-button purchases that meant users could accidentally buy something when trying to wake the game from sleep mode or while on a loading screen. Epic Games also put the button to preview an item in Fortnite adjacent to the purchase button, and Fortnite allowed children to purchase the V-Bucks virtual currency without parental consent or card holder action until 2018, and it locked the accounts of users who disputed unauthorized charges through their credit card companies. resulting in accidental purchases.

The FTC also determined that Epic Games ignored millions of user complaints about the wrongful charges and then used internal testing that made the cancel and refund features far more difficult for users to locate.

Epic Games said it would be “moving beyond long-standing industry practices.”

“No developer creates a game with the intention of ending up here,” the company said in an official statement. “The video game industry is a place of fast-moving innovation, where player expectations are high and new ideas are paramount. Statutes written decades ago don’t specify how gaming ecosystems should operate. The laws have not changed, but their application has evolved and long-standing industry practices are no longer enough. We accepted this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players.

“Over the past few years, we’ve been making changes to ensure our ecosystem meets the expectations of our players and regulators, which we hope will be a helpful guide for others in our industry.”

 

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Riot Games Victims of Cyberattack

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Riot Games issued a statement on Wednesday saying that they  received a ransom email after hackers stole source code for League of Legends and Teamfight Tactics, with the attack also targeting its legacy anticheat platform, according to an official release.

“Needless to say, we won’t pay,” Riot said in the statement.  “While this attack disrupted our build environment and could cause issues in the future, most importantly we remain confident that no player data or player personal information was compromised.”

Riot Games continued by saying that it’s been working to assess the leak’s impact on anticheat as “any exposure of source code can increase the likelihood of new cheats emerging.” The company added that “experimental features” were also exposed, saying that “most of this content is in prototype and there’s no guarantee it will ever be released.”

Riot Games first announced the hack back on January 20th, saying it was a “social engineering attack.”

 

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Squanch Games CEO Justin Roiland Resigns

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Squanch Games

Squanch Games CEO Justin Roiland has officially resigned from his position at the company after news broke that Adult Swim would be parting with popular series ‘Rick & Morty’, according to an official announcement.

Per the company, Roiland’s resignation was received on January 16th, and the company added that it will continue to support High on Life, which released on December 13, 2022, and “keep developing games we know our fans will love.”

Roiland, who is the studio’s co-founder, was charged with felony domestic battery with corporal injury and false imprisonment by menace, violence, fraud, and/or deceit earlier this month.

“Adult Swim has ended its association with Justin Roiland,” Adult Swim/Cartoon Network/Boomerang senior vp communications Marie Moore said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, ‘Rick & Morty’ will continue, but with new voice actors cast in the iconic roles voiced by Roiland.

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Washington Post Set to Shut Down Gaming Section

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The Washington Post is reportedly gearing up for a round of layoffs and as part of those cuts they will be shutting down their video game label Launcher and student focuses section KidsPost, according to Axios’ Sara Ficher.

According to the report, Washington Post executive editor Sally Buzbee sent a memo to staff today informing them of the upcoming changes, explaining that the media brand will be laying off 20 people from the newsroom.

While the memo does not make a mention of Launcher, the report cited two sources with saying that the Washington Post plans on axing Launcher.

When the Washington Post initially brought Launcher live back in 2019, they hyped it as “a dedicated section that aims to recalibrate the conversation with classically trained journalists who were raised on games.”

Unfortunately, the Washington Post is just the latest video game news media brand to impost layoffs, much like IGN, GameInformer, Vice, G4 (which was shut down entirely), and Polygon, among others.

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