'Fortnite' game: Examining costs, scams, addiction

Experts say parents should pay close attention to children's screen time

By Karen Drew - Reporter/Anchor, Derick Hutchinson

DETROIT - With more than 40 million players worldwide, chances are your children or their friends are spending many hours playing "Fortnite Battle Royale."

The Local 4 Defenders took a look at what you might need to know about the cost, the scams and the addiction associated with "Fortnite."

Why is the game so popular? It's free and most players would agree it's a lot of fun.

But just because it doesn't cost money to play doesn't mean there aren't ways to pay. Children are still spending money on "Fortnite," and many are getting scammed as well.

MORE'Fortnite' fever has parents concerned about gaming addiction

Ross Bailey, 19, walked Local 4 Defender Karen Drew through the game.

"It will show you how many people are in the game, which is 99 currently," Bailey said.

Be the last one standing

The player battles 99 others after jumping out of a plane onto an island to fight and kill each other until only one person is left.

"The main goal of the game is to basically win, but to also try to get as many kills as you can while playing," Bailey said. "This is called the pickax. This is what you break stuff with."

"Fortnite" is a fast-paced game of picking up weapons, building structures to protect yourself and killing the competition. It's important to note that when people talk about gaming addictions, "Fortnite" is frequently mentioned.

The game is free, but parents don't realize how much their children can spend.

"The information that I've seen is that the creators of it are making about $1 million a day off of people playing it," said Scott Bailey, of N1 Discovery.

Scott Bailey is an expert in digital forensics and IT security.

"If you want your avatar character to be in a different outfit, you can pay to get a different outfit for your avatar character," Scott Bailey said. "There's no advantageous benefit to it. It's just your character can look different than the other characters."

READAll the questions about 'Fortnite' you were too embarrassed to ask

Paying money for upgrades

Players convert real money into V-bucks so they can dress up their avatar. It's typically $20 for each new outfit.

"I wouldn't say it's a smart way to spend your money, but a lot of people do it," Ross Bailey said. "You see someone that has something that you don't have and you think, 'Oh, that's cool. I want to be liked, or I want to fit in.'"

Some well-known "Fortnite" players stream their games so others can watch, and those who watch actually donate to the person playing the game so they can get a shoutout.

Mitch Piazza admits he is a "Fortnite" player who buys avatar outfits, but he said he stopped at donating to other players.

"Especially the more popular streams, they have things set up where it's, like, the minimum donation you could make would be, like, $5," Piazza said. "Every time something becomes very popular then the malicious people figure out how to exploit that."

Websites are popping up and telling players if they answer a few questions, they can get free V-bucks.

"It's a scam because you can only get the V-bucks in the game," Scott Bailey said. "The more they learn about you, now they can do a targeted phishing attack against you."

"It is a big scam, yeah," Piazza said.

Children as young as 6 years old are spending many hours playing "Fortnite," so parents need to be informed about the dangers and the possibility of addiction.

Some school districts have blocked the game from their Wi-Fi networks.

Parents should watch for signs of excessive screen time, including slipping grades, missing sleep, less time spent with friends and weight loss.

Several professional athletes, including Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond, have talked about their addictions to "Fortnite."

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