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The Advertising Standards Authority, an independent regulatory body over in the United Kingdom, recently deemed the ads in EA's Dungeon Keeper as misleading.
GamesIndustry.biz picked up the story from a recent ASA report on Dungeon Keeper, a mobile title from EA where the game received scathing review scores and previously had other consumer protection agencies getting involved due to some of the monetization schemes involved.
A lot of the game had restrictions and monetary blockades in place to ensure that players only made acceptable progress if they were paying to succeed. According to the ASA...
“The nature of the timer frequency and length in Dungeon Keeper, in combination with the way it was monetised, was likely to create a game experience for non-spenders that did not reflect their reasonable expectations from the content of the ad. Because the game had the potential to restrict gameplay beyond that which would be expected by consumers and the ad did not make this aspect of the role of in-app purchasing clear, we concluded that it was misleading,"
This issue of misleading ads and a lack of clarity is actually part of a much larger movement taking place in the United Kingdom and Eurasia, where mobile game developers or those creating interactive software titles with in-app purchases, must make clear to their audience exactly what the monetary setup is like so that no one is misled into playing a free-to-pay game. The consumer protection commission board are finally starting to react to many of the cases brought forth from disgruntled consumers about the lack of clarity regarding the requirement of in-app purchases in order to progress effectively in free-to-play mobile titles.
Quite naturally, EA had a rebuttal for the advertising authority, with the ASA mentioning that...
"Electronic Arts also stated that the timers and premium currency did not only function as a monetisation strategy, but balanced gameplay and provided players with a sense of progression and enabled resource management. They said that even if there was no monetisation in the game a timing mechanism would still be present."
One would have to question exactly how the timing mechanism would work without having to pay for cash shop resources to bring the timer down? The game then was naturally made to make people frustrated and hate it?
While I may not be allowed to say it, I can embed a Tweet from Barry Meade, the co-founder of Fireproof Games, who sums up exactly what most of us are thinking.
It wouldn't be the first time, Barry.
It's quite funny because recently EA's COO, Peter Moore, railed on hardcore gamers, saying that the core audience doesn't like accepting change in the gaming industry, even though – especially in this case – even independent regulatory bodies see this “change” as misleading and anti-consumer.
As mentioned before, gamers don't mind free-to-play titles and they certainly don't mind some mobile games, but trying to force-feed the focus of the gaming industry down a path that only benefits the publisher while diminishing the value and integrity of video game culture as a whole, is not something any dedicated gamer would want to stand by and support.
Thankfully, the ASA doesn't like supporting those kind of measures either, and they rejected EA's appeal to keep the ads for Dungeon Keeper as-is, saying...
"The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Electronic Arts Ltd to ensure that future ads made clear the limitations of free gameplay and role of in-app purchasing with regard to speeding up gameplay."
I'm terribly curious to see how the ads for Dungeon Keeper will look with text plastered all over them saying “Your enjoyment will be determined by how much money you feed us”?