Last Month in Games 09/17 – FTC Settles with CS:GO Gambling Website Owners, PUBG Sets Records

“Last Month in Games” looks at notable news or events from the past month. I’ll break down their significance to the game industry and community.

FTC and YouTubers Settle Complaints on Skin Gambling Website

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and two YouTube influencers settled a case over the undisclosed promotion and use of a digital item based gambling website.

In-game items and cosmetics obtained through randomized crates in Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) turned into a form of currency. Players with rare weapon skins or character cosmetics gambled them against other players using websites like CS:GOLotto. Theses websites featured luck based games like coin flips, wheels spins and weighted roulettes. Winners could then cash out the skins via PayPal or sell them on the Steam marketplace.

Some streamers and YouTubers within the community promoted and used these gambling websites in video content. When YouTubers TmarTn and Syndicate promoted and gambled on CS:GOLotto, community members discovered their ownership of the website. Both influencers never disclosed their ownership.

The failure to disclose ownership during promotion hides TmarTn’s and Syndicate’s financial benefit. An even larger issue involves gambling on the website they own. Other competing players don’t know if the game favours the owners. TmarTn and Syndicate gambling on their own website is just like a casino boss gambling and winning at the blackjack table.

TmarTn and Syndicate settled with the FTC and dropped the potential fines. Because of the FTC Act, the FTC cannot enforce penalties for first time violations. Until the FTC decides on the final details, future violations may carry a penalty of up to $40,654.

While this ruling doesn’t bring the jailtime or fines some community members hoped for, it at least brings greater attention to Steam gambling. This CSGOLotto incident also scared influencers into disclosing sponsored streams, free items and paid trips. These disclosure rules existed within journalism for decades, but the newness of independent video creators left them without clear regulations.

CS:GO gambling still exists despite Valve’s attempt to close popular websites. Last year, Valve issued 23 cease-and-desist letters for the commercial use of Steam accounts. Although the gambling slowed, community members also bet on pro player matches using these skins. As long as the Steam Marketplace operates, players will look to profit from their digital inventories.

PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS Sets Steam Record for Most Concurrent Players

Since the Early Access release in March, PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS (PUBG) exploded in popularity. The free-for-all, battle royale style shooter broke the 1 million concurrent players barrier on Steam.

PUBG surpassed DOTA 2 – a game situated at the top of the charts for years. PUBG’s 1.4 million concurrent players peak overtakes DOTA’s record of 1,295,114.

The development team at Bluehole have sold over 12 million copies of their game on Steam thus far.

All this success comes during the Early Access phase of development, which excludes both content and game optimization. Bluehole and Microsoft also plan to release an Xbox One version later this fall.

Few battle royale style games exist on the market, especially in the console space. On PC, players can choose from a small list of games including titles like H1Z1: King of the Kill, Rust and ARMA 3. None of these games saw global success. When PUBG releases on Xbox One this fall, expect many more millions of players.

The novelty of the mode will also inspire many developers to replicate and release their own version. For Epic Games’ Fornite, its free-to-play battle royale mode saw 1 million players on the first day.

The single life in each map puts a lot of pressure on the player to perform. If they fail, the other remaining players in the 100-slot match fight for the top spot.

Few games offer the same heart pumping, growing intensity of a PUBG match. Until more games offer a better experience and feeling, PUBG will continue to set records.