One of the biggest video games of the last five years is now the target of a class action lawsuit. Here’s a look at the game, the lawsuit and what it could mean for the gaming industry.
What Happened: A group of parents in Canada have filed a class action lawsuit targeting “Fortnite,” the popular battle royale style game released by Epic Games in 2017.
Epic Games is one of the largest video game companies in the world and counts Sony Group Corp SONY and Tencent Holdings TCEHY as investors, with the latter owning a 40% stake.
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A class action lawsuit from three parents in Canada claims the game was so addictive that their children stopped sleeping, eating and showering to play the game more frequently.
The lawsuit against Epic Games claims the video game company knew how addictive the game was and tried harder to make it even more addictive, as reported by BBC.
One of the parents said their child played the game for 7,700 hours in less than two years. With 17,520 hours in a two year time span, the child spent 44.3% or more of their time playing the game according to the report, not counting school, sleep or any other activities.
Epic Games, which plans to fight the case in court, touted its “industry-leading parental controls" to help parents supervise their child’s "digital experience.”
"Parents can receive playtime reports that track the amount of time their child plays each week, and require parental permissions before purchases are made,” the company said in response.
A judge has agreed to hear the case saying they did not believe it was “frivolous or ill-founded.”
The lawsuit compared the addictive nature of the video game to the tobacco industry with gamers “severely dependent” on needing to play the game.
Consumers who live in Quebec and played “Fortnite” since Sep. 1, 2017 can join the lawsuit if they believe they had symptoms of addiction.
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Why It’s Important: Released in 2017, “Fortnite” has turned into one of the most played games around the world with over 350 million people playing the game online in its history and an average of 30 million players daily.
While the lawsuit will center around Canada, it could have a lasting impact for the overall video game industry.
Free-to-play games like “Fortnite” have built large followings with younger players among the target demographic. Thanks to social media, sites like Twitch that stream matches and social chatter, young people sometimes play games that are being played by friends or popular online.
There have been numerous lawsuits over the use of in-game currency and loot boxes in many countries as a way to capitalize on younger people’s spending to get items that can offer advantages in the game or make them stand out from friends and competitors.
Gaming company Roblox Corp RBLX could be closely watching the lawsuit and the impact it could have on how video games are classified when it comes to kids. Roblox counts a large portion of its user base as kids and earlier this year faced accusations of not doing enough to put safe guards in place for its younger user base.
Epic Games recently announced the launch of cabined accounts for users under the age of consent in their home country. Cabined accounts will be available for “Fortnite,” “Rocket League” and “Fall Guys” initially.
“We believe that creating a rich experience within the same overall game or product is the best way to empower younger players to meaningfully participate without compromising on safety or privacy,” the company said.
Users will need a parent or guardian’s email to begin the parental consent process.
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