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Judge Calls Out This Shady Fortnite Practice

The intense Epic v. Apple court proceedings are just getting started, and yet there have already been several big headlines from the trial. As reported by The Verge, things kicked off with young "Fortnite" players accidentally jumping on the call to yell out support for their favorite game, but now those young people are at the center of the case itself.

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers has called out Epic's encouragement of impulse purchases, noting that the player base of "Fortnite" might be too young to make those kinds of decisions freely. Adi Robinson, a senior reporter for The Verge, live-tweeted the court proceedings, and managed to get most of the conversation in detail. According to Robinson, one of the big issues of the second day of the trial concerned how players could purchase V-Bucks, the in-game currency of "Fortnite." 

Apple strictly manages how customers make purchases through apps, with payments typically going through Apple first. Epic argued that those practices made it difficult, or at least less convenient, for players to easily purchase V-Bucks.

Judge Rogers jumped in at this suggestion, asking, "Isn't that a responsible way to deal with a young client base? Why should we want them to have the ability to just impulse buy something?" Robinson reported that Epic CEO Tim Sweeney responded by saying that "customer convenience" was the main factor at play.

Epic, Apple, and the problems with purchasing

The case took a few more interesting turns as Epic's team called in-app purchases an "existential" issue and Tim Sweeney discussed "Fortnite" as a larger, inclusive "metaverse" (bigger than just a game), but the most profound moment of the day was Rogers' questioning regarding the player base of "Fortnite." The increasingly young demographic of "Fortnite" has driven away popular streamers in the past, including Ninja, but Judge Rogers' implications highlighted a different issue, one that paints Epic in a shady light.

Epic has argued that in-app purchases are about convenience, and that logging in to an Apple account, or even Epic's website, might discourage potential buyers from snatching up V-Bucks, but Judge Rogers questioned if that was such a good idea. After all, should children have that much purchasing power? Though the day's proceedings never fully answered Rogers' question, it gave voice to an issue many gamers have already noticed in the "Fortnite" world: there are a lot of kids playing the game, and "Fortnite" has no issue with taking their money.

Clearly, Epic is willing to play the long game, spending millions now in order to build itself up in the future. It regularly does this with its own platform, where the company purchases exclusivity rights for games, only to give them away for free, and all in an effort to gain new accounts. As the trial shakes out in the coming days, observers will likely see more discussion of in-app purchasing.