Rise of Kingdoms (ROK) is a video game made by Lilith Games (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. and Shanghai Lilith Network Technology Co., Ltd. The complaint for this class action alleges that the companies have “perfected a predatory scheme whereby [they] exploit players, including minors, by inducing them to make in-game purchases using deceptive and misleading representations.”
The class for this action is all current and former players of Rise of Kingdoms who made in-game purchases in the US, at any time between December 17, 2015 and the date of class certification in this case.
Players can play ROK for free but are offered in-games purchases for which they must pay. This is profitable for the game company because it leads to a steady stream of revenue.
Among other things, players can buy loot boxes, which “contain a random selection of items,” the complaint says. Players don’t know what they’ll get, but the boxes only “on a very low percentage of occasions will contain rare and valuable in-game digital goods.”
The complaint alleges that the odds of receiving something really good are “abysmal” and that the companies disclose the odds of winning some prizes but not others. The complaint also alleges that they provide a false impression of the odds of winning some prizes—for example, with a spinning wheel with twelve possible items, giving the impression that the odds of winning the most valuable item are one in twelve, when that is not true.
The complaint alleges that players are limited in their ability to progress in the game unless they make in-game purchases. Also, when they do buy an item, they may immediately be hit with an ad offering an additional item for a higher cost.
A number of means of winning loot boxes are reviewed, with the complaint concluding that the company is running “an illegal and unregulated gambling enterprise” within the game.
The complaint quotes a Hawaii state legislator as saying that “loot boxes and micro transactions are explicitly designed to prey upon and exploit human psychology in the same way casino games are so designed.” That is, players have already made an “investment” in the game, which is incentive to keep going so as not to waste the money already spent.
Another charge is that the companies permit cheating by some players because it profits them to do so. One way of doing this is with players sharing accounts, which gives them outsize financial resources and the ability to attack and steal from other players.
This practice, the complaint alleges, is forbidden by the game’s Terms of Service (TOS), but the companies actually profit from it. When players are attacked by a very strong adversary, the game offers them a variety of “Fate Changer” bundles, which can help them stave off the attack, survive it better, or replace lost resources. These bundles all cost money.