Mar 5, 2024 - Technology

Roblox and Fortnite sued for targeting kids' gaming addictions

The Roblox website on a laptop computer arranged in New York, US, on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. Roblox Corp. released earnings figures on November 8. Photographer: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Roblox website on a laptop computer in New York on Nov. 7, 2023. Photo: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images

An Atlanta-based law firm is going after your favorite video games to save young people from gaming addictions.

Why it matters: Streaming and digital gaming is an increasingly popular pastime for millions of children nationwide, and it's driving debates about the severity of what the World Health Organization has deemed to be a health disorder.

Driving the news: Tina Bullock, the COO and managing partner of Atlanta-based firm Bullock Ward Mason, tells Axios they're suing the companies behind Roblox and "just about everything that you can think of that is a multiplayer game," accusing them of tactics and micro-transactions targeted toward actively engaging children.

Context: Roblox is a California-based social platform for tweens and teens in which users create or visit virtual experiences, usually games, typically designed for multiplayer activities.

  • Nearly half of the game's 71.5 million daily active users are under age 13.
  • Roblox is free to play, but users can spend real money to earn virtual currency, aka "Robux," to get additional features.
  • Consumers purchased $2.39 billion worth of Robux in the first nine months of 2023.

Zoom in: Bullock partnered with attorneys in New York and San Francisco last month to file a class action lawsuit against Roblox on behalf of several parents alleging the company committed labor law violations, false advertising, and fraud by exploiting child labor and offering children "nearly worthless digital currency for their labor."

  • Robux can be converted into real money, but the parents allege the requirements are so high that Roblox ultimately keeps most of the money.
  • For instance, the lawsuit states that $4.99 can buy you 400 Robux, but 1,000 Robux can only be converted for $3.50.

What they're saying: "By the time children or parents learn about the dangers associated with Roblox and its unfair practices taking advantage of children, users are so addicted to the game they cannot stop purchasing and spending Robux to continue gameplay," the lawsuit states.

  • Bullock wants companies to do more to warn families about the risks associated with video games.
  • They're also seeking compensation for the parents involved in litigation.

The other side: Roblox spokesperson Stefanie Notaney told Axios in a statement that they dispute the allegations and will respond in court.

  • "For the experiences that monetize, the majority are created by developers who are over 18 years old. We also maintain community standards, key features and educational materials to promote safety and civility on our platform for our developer and user communities," she added.

Zoom out: Aubrey Quinn, senior vice president of the industry advocacy nonprofit the Entertainment Software Association, in a statement said video games are some of "the most dynamic, widely enjoyed forms of entertainment in the world."

  • "Billions of people globally, of all ages and backgrounds, play video games in a healthy, balanced way," she added.

Meanwhile, Bullock is also involved with an Arkansas-based suit against Call of Duty, Fortnite, and Grand Theft Auto. The companies behind those games declined to comment.

What's next: Bullock firm partner Rachel Minder told Axios they expect Roblox "to come out strong" in court to defend their brand.

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