The free-to-play titles aren’t necessarily used just for what they were meant to be – other people have used Fortnite and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (shortened to CS:GO onwards) for other reasons.
Financial Times reports that criminals have used their illegally acquired money in Epic Games‘ and Valve‘s successful games to make them clean by using the games’ microtransactions – they use the dirty money to trade CS:GO’s weapons (or their skins) or Fortnite’s emotes, victory dances.
In October, RUSI, a UK-based defence and security organisation, published this report, in which they express how the virtual items gained via microtransactions (such as the ones mentioned a paragraph above) have real value, and thus, crimes can be committed with them. Gabe Newell’s company, Valve, quickly responded by shutting down the key business within CS:GO, as they did not want to provide a platform for the criminals. The game has a lot of money in it, as this screenshot shows:
There is a high demand for rare skins, and that is a reason why the prices are ridiculously high as seen above. Mind you, this is just a small excerpt of the list of available skins, so there is a lot more than these.
On Independent, we can read about the other game, Fortnite – Sixgill, a cybersecurity research company, analysed the game’s currency, V-Buck. They say it is sold at a reasonable price on the dark web, and the in-game items had a few that were sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars on eBay. The developers and publishers don’t seem to care much about it, and they don’t tend to put an end to the laundering, as they believe the microtransaction items are used for self-expression. (And there are more games than these two – even FIFA and World of Warcraft could be named.)
Stepping up against the loot boxes seems to be slow (in Europe, just two of the three Benelux states, namely Belgium and the Netherlands, have banned them!), but until they stop being profitable (for Electronic Arts, they got 650 million dollars a year, 30% of their digital revenue), they will be here to stay.
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