California Man Sues Epic Games Over Predatory Loot Boxes
The parents of a minor child in California have filed a lawsuit on his behalf that claims Fortnite Save the World’s blind-draw loot boxes were unfair and deceptive. Epic effectively did away with blind-draw boxes when it introduced the “X-Ray Llama” back in January with patch 7.30. Up until that time, the lawsuit claims, Epic made off with loads of cash via deceptive business practices.
To be clear, Epic has already ended the practice of blind-draw loot boxes, and they only ever existed in Fortnite’s original “Save the World” co-op mode, not the popular Fortnite Battle Royale mode that rocketed the game to fame. But the plaintiff is arguing that they and hundreds of thousands of other players were tricked out of their money by Epic’s business practices.
In the complaint, the plaintiff argues that the chances of a Llama loot box dropping a rare item are slim. They claim that by not disclosing the rates at which the in-game items drop, Epic Games are deceiving consumers, and that the company is engaging in “predatory” business practices that convince young players that they will “get lucky” and receive more valuable pieces of loot.
Up until January of this year, there was no way to know what items would be inside before you purchased and opened a loot llama, and Epic Games did not disclose the odds. However, that changed in a recent update to the game that now shows the contents of loot llamas in Save the World before they are purchased with V-Bucks.
Though the lawsuit does not mention this (admittedly recent) change, it does focus on the ties between loot boxes and gambling, as well as the targeting of minors. The plaintiff alleges that Epic deliberately designed Save the World to hinder a player’s progress if they didn’t spend real money, and that Epic has “made a fortune on in-game purchases, preying in large part on minors who are especially susceptible to such predatory tactics.” It also states that purchasing loot llamas is akin to “playing a slot machine.”
“[The] Plaintiff, like hundreds of thousands of consumers, fell for Epic’s deceptive sales practices and purchased Epic’s Llamas hoping for rare and powerful loot. [The] Plaintiff did not receive that desired loot and never had a realistic chance of doing so.”
They claim that had Epic made the odds for rare drops known, the plaintiff would never have bought the loot boxes in the first place.
The filing did not explain how the plaintiffs or attorneys determined that the odds of receiving rare loot were unrealistically low. Without a clear argument on how they discovered the odds, they will have a hard time convincing the courts that they were cheated. Remember, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff.
The lawsuit accuses Epic of violating California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act (protecting consumers from unfair business practices), False Advertising Law, and Unfair Competition Law, as well as accusing them of unjust enrichment. The plaintiff is requesting that the court prevent Epic from selling similar, odds-less loot boxes in the future, as well as declare such loot boxes unlawful, and refund the money the plaintiff spent on them in addition to damages and fees.
The suit also requests R.A. be appointed as a class representative in an effort to open up the complaint to a class action suit for anyone in the state of California who has purchased a loot llama within a certain period in the game’s Save the World mode.
It’s going to be an interesting case since we’re pretty sure the user agreement you have to agree to before playing the game covers Epic from any wrongdoing, and they might be able to get out of this lawsuit simply by saying the parent and the kid should have read the agreement before playing the game and hooking up a credit card to the account to purchase boxes in the first place. Then again, there are a lot of people looking for a reason to get a focus on loot boxes as a form of gambling in the U.S. and want them to be done away with entirely, so don’t expect the attorneys for this one to just roll over if it gets dismissed. Ultimately, no one knows how a California court will rule in this matter, so this is going to be one of those wait-and-see cases.