Epic Games will give Fortnite players 1,000 V-Bucks if they ever purchased an in-game loot box, presented within the game as “loot llamas” containing randomized items, as part of a proposed class action lawsuit settlement to be approved later this week.
While Fortnite’s massively popular battle royale mode has never contained randomized loot boxes, the game’s cooperative survival mode, “Save the World,” did — at least until 2019 when Epic changed its loot box system to allow players to see the item inside prior to purchase.
Now, anyone who purchased a randomized loot box prior to their discontinuation will have the 1,000 V-Bucks (roughly $8) deposited automatically into their accounts over the next two to three days. The decision is part of a broader move from Epic to settle blind draw loot box lawsuits it’s faced over the last few years.
We believe players should know upfront what they are paying for when they make in-game purchases. This is why today we only offer X-Ray Llamas that show you the contents before you purchase them in Save the World.
— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) February 22, 2021
In this case, the developer on Monday received confirmation from a judge of preliminary approval for its class action settlement in the Superior Court of North Carolina, which is why Epic says it will begin distributing the rewards today. The move is unusual, as class action lawsuit settlements typically require claimants to file claims to receive benefits. But Epic says it’s giving out benefits early because it feels its current position on loot boxes is the right one, and that its players are owed something for having bought randomized ones in the past.
“For one, it’s the right thing to do and we feel strongly about random item loot boxes. And two, we feel good about the settlement,” said Jeffrey Jacobson, a partner at the law firm Faegre Drinker representing Epic, tells The Verge in an interview. “We hope our players agree with us.” A final approval hearing is scheduled for May, and lawyers representing both Epic and the plaintiffs expect the settlement to be approved as is.
Epic says that while the settlement affects only US players, it’s deciding to award the 1,000 V-Bucks to all players of Fortnite globally, so long as they purchased at least one of its randomized loot llamas. The proposed settlement also includes Rocket League players who purchased in-game items like event crates or keys to open loot boxes in the game, and affected players will be given 1,000 credits to be distributed automatically this week in similar fashion. Epic acquired Rocket League developer Psyonix in 2019.
Epic says with regard to the scope of the US settlement, the V-Bucks benefit will go to 6.5 million players who bought a random item loot llama in Fortnite and 2.9 million Rocket League players who purchased an event crate or a key that was used to open a crate.
“We stopped offering random item loot boxes like Fortnite Loot Llamas and Rocket League Crates because we realized that some players were repeatedly disappointed by not receiving the random items they hoped for,” said Epic CEO Tim Sweeney in a statement to The Verge on Monday. “Players should know upfront what they are paying for when they make in-game purchases.”
The proposed settlement also provides up to $26.4 million in additional cash and other benefits for Fortnite and Rocket League players “to resolve claims arising from players’ loot box purchases,” in other words refunds on prior purchases that go beyond the standard settlement terms. This pool includes both sides’ attorney fees, according to Epic. But the preliminary settlement also includes a provision that would allow for players who think they were subject to legal harm as part of randomized loot box purchases to argue for money back.
This benefit pool is available to minors in California who used their own money, and not the money of a parent or guardian, to purchase Epic loot boxes, which qualifies them for benefits under the state’s contract disaffirmation law. It also includes any US Fortnite or Rocket League player who thinks they were subject to legal harm, such as fraud, by purchasing randomized loot boxes from Epic. In each case, a player can submit a claim to be investigated by a neutral administrator, with a potential refund award of up to $50 in refunds.
For non-minors filing claims regarding legal harm, Epic will award either up to $50 or 13,500 V-Bucks (or 13,000 Rocket League credits) depending on which benefit the claimant prefers, if the claim is approved. US residents who believe they’re entitled to these extra benefits can file claims at www.epiclootboxsettlement.com, which Epic put live Monday afternoon.
Epic stopped selling randomized loot boxes in 2019, replacing what were once “V-Buck Llamas’’ with “X-Ray Llamas” in Fortnite’s “Save the World” game mode. At the time, these blind draw llamas ran users 50 V-Bucks (at the time around 50 cents) and contained a random assortment of skins, weapons, or other loot. Later that year, Rocket League removed loot boxes as well, months after Epic acquired its creator Psyonix. According to Jacobson, Epic’s lawyer, the class action settlement is “an exclamation point on a position we first announced two years ago.”
Loot boxes have come under fire from lawmakers and regulators around the world who claim selling random chances at rare or coveted in-game items is akin to gambling. Especially concerning to critics of the practice is that many of the players engaging with loot box systems are children, sometimes using their own money but often with access to a parent or guardian’s credit card.
Many of the biggest games of the last decade, including entries in Electronic Arts’ FIFA franchise and Blizzard’s Overwatch, sell blind draw loot boxes for real money, and the business practice has proved lucrative for game developers. In some cases, game companies make more money on in-game microtransactions, like loot boxes, than they do on selling games outright.
In 2018, Belgium ruled that randomized loot boxes constituted illegal gambling and were subject to the country’s gaming law, forcing many prominent developers to either discontinue the practice in the country or alter how they allow players to buy and spend in-game currency at the risk of steep fines.
Though the US has laws around online gambling, it does not consider loot boxes as such, meaning many games continue to offer them in the US. Bills have been introduced in Congress, such as Sen. Josh Hawley’s (R-MO) proposed Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act, but none have passed.