Fortnite…if you haven’t heard about it then you are probably living under a nice sheltered non virtual rock. The media articles about this hugely popular online game that claims over 125 Million players worldwide, usually lean towards the problems that players have extracting themselves from the game. Some parents are almost tearing their hair out with how obsessed their children are with this Battle Royal style game. Other parents are so concerned by the seemingly addictive nature of this game that some have told me that they have banned this game, without their child even making their first account.
Although most of the negative publicity around this game focuses on the perceived glorification of weaponry, and the shoot to kill game play and the addictive nature of the game, one of the other serious issues I’m hearing about increasingly, is children stealing money from their parents to spend in the game. Several parents have told me recently that their normally well behaved child “stole” their credit card to buy virtual goods within the game. This issue of sneaky spending on what is known as “In-App Purchases” isn’t new, I recall a father a few years ago after one of my parent talks, telling me that his son spent over $40,000.00 Aus on the online game Clash of Clans over a two week period using his credit card, (yes that amount is correct Forty Thousand Smackaroos!!!!) My jaw hit the floor….and although he eventually got the money back, it took months of effort to do so. When I warn parents about their children spending up big on virtual goods without their parents permission at my parent talks, often several parents will admit that it has happened to them also .
What compels a normally honest sweet child to steal a credit card to spend on virtual goods in this incredibly popular game?
Fortnite Battle Royale has what is known as, virtual currency within the game known as V-Bucks. You buy V-Bucks with real world money through credit cards, PayPal, or gift cards. V-Bucks are needed to buy virtual goods like “Skins” (A fancier avatar) or accessories that are increasingly part of the culture of the game. Looking cool and having fun with these virtual add-ons is definitely part of Fortnite’s appeal.
There is a way of earning VBucks by playing one of the other games from Epic Games, but you have to pay over $40.00 to download it. The only way to get the non-default Skins and level up faster through the game is by paying money.
When you first sign up for Fortnite as a new player you are allocated a fairly generic avatar to play as. You don’t get a choice of the one you get. It may be a male or female and there is no way to modify the appearance, or make it your own. Having a default avatar when playing immediately marks you out as a Noobie, (a new player) and can lead to a fair bit of teasing and ridicule at times. So most players want to win or buy a new “Skin” or body so that they can express themselves a bit more uniquely, even if there are many others with the same look. Some “Skins” come in a pack, where you can also buy a few accessories to add to your “Skin” like themed backpacks, pickaxes, gliders and hats ect…Some “Skins” are limited releases, that are only available for sale for a short time, or only to players that have reached a high level in the game. They are the most coveted skins.
The Battle Pass
You can buy new skins and accessories by purchasing V-Bucks with real world money and then purchase a new Skin and accessories in the game store, or you can buy what is known as a Battle Pass around $10.00 U.S for a 10 week subscription upgrade to the game, which gives you extra XP (Experience) points, new skins and ability to participate in challenges to level up in the game. Levelling up when you have a battle pass is faster and gives you more options to get new outfits and accessories.
Play for Hours Or Pay…..
So here’s the thing…most parents are limiting how much their child plays Fortnite of course, they want their child to have a balanced healthy life with varied activities. But this sensible approach also slows the child’s ability to level up, get the cool skins and accessories and all the other extra’s that buying a Battlepass gives them. This game is designed to compel you to play a LOT and spend money, which is why the makers of Fortnite make about 300 Million U.S dollars a month! And your child wants to play as much as possible.
What Can Parents Do?
Parents have to address this dilemma when their child signs up for Fortnite. Are you willing to allow your child to play a lot of Fortnite without spending money to move forward and level up in the game? What is your position on buying virtual goods?
What Is Wrong With Spending In The Game?
Buying virtual goods can be a very tricky trap to negotiate. There’s always a new Skin, a new Axe or a new Emote (dance move) something cool that marks you as a experienced cool looking player. A new battle pass at 10.00 US every 10 weeks. How much money are you happy for your child spend? The battle pass also encourages more play with extra points and challenges to complete, so beware your child will want to be on it even more than before!
On the plus side… you could use the lure of virtual goods to help your child stick within the hours of play you have agreed to, but you also might create a monster! Once you open the virtual Item Store….there’s always one more item.
If you don’t want your child to pay for virtual goods
- Have a conversation about the spending in the game, and your boundaries around not spending money in the game. How is that going to work with limited hours of playing?
- Make sure your child knows that you won’t allow access to your funds for this game.
- Be sure you don’t have your credit card connected to any of their online accounts such as Xbox, Playstation, iTunes ect..Use gift cards instead for subscriptions or Family Sharing Accounts.
- Set boundaries around the amount of time and when they can play Fortnite
- Use rewards for time adhered to, offline rewards.
Allowing In-App Purchases
The alternative is that you allow the purchasing of virtual extras in the game, or buy a Battle Pass. If you do, keep your credit card out of it. Using a “gift card” or pre-loaded temporary credit card, is a much more secure and safer way to do it.
- Xbox Live Gift card if playing on Xbox
- iTunes gift card if playing on an Apple mobile device like a phone or iPad
- P.C Windows or Mac is difficult to do with any gift cards as Epic Games has not yet made any gift cards available, you can purchase VBucks from EBGames outlets and receive a receipt to enter in the game. You can also buy a preloaded temporary credit card from retail outlets. Use that rather than your credit card, or PayPal.
You could encourage your child to earn these gift cards with co-operative play. If they stick with your screen time boundaries they earn points towards a gift card or pre loaded credit card for e.g Or using their own money from part time jobs or pocket money only.
What ever you decide, you absolutely need to have a conversation about the extra in game purchases and what your child’s expectations might be. If your child is willing to play without spending, then good. But beware that it can be very frustrating due to the nature of the game to keep playing with a beginners avatar, and of course it’s a much slower process to levelling up without spending money.
In App Purchases and Virtual Goods Are Growing In Popularity!
No doubt other game companies are watching Fortnite’s success very closely and many are already talking about following the example that Fortnite and similar games are setting. Virtual goods or “In App Purchases” make gaming companies a LOT of money. If you don’t pay for the game, you can be pretty sure that there are constant prompts to get extras and accessories within the game.
There are more and more reports of scams both inside and outside of online games like Fortnite and Roblox for in game currency. Children are being promised game currency for giving away their log in details, or by entering fake competitions or falling for even more devious methods including extorting nude video and photos from children. Please warn your children not to fall for any scams where they are promised currency for doing a task or giving away personal details. If your child falls victim to a scam, report it to the police if it falls into the category of a crime, and report it to the platform it happened on. Not all of the scams emirate from the gaming platform they are appearing on social media platforms as well.
Battles go for around 20 minutes so keep that in mind when scheduling time to get off. You may have to pull your child out during a game, or doing a challenge.
Check the settings on your child’s mobile device and ensure that that access to “In App Purchases” is disabled and locked down with a pin code. For Apple devices go to
- Restrictions – set a pin code to enable
- Scroll down to “In-App Purchases switch to the “Off” position
More information and privacy and security settings for Fortnite in my Manual. Click Here To View.