EA can call its mobile abomination Dungeon Keeper “free-to-play” as much as it likes, but that doesn’t make it true. You can only play for so longer until you are forced to drop money on something, making it more of a “free-to-download, pay-to-play” kind of game. Wouldn’t you know it, the British Advertising Standards Authority agrees.
The board has ruled that EA can no longer advertise the game as a “free-to-play” because of timer events that become “excessively onerous” and force gamers to cough up money before they can continue. This is ruled to have been misleading to customers, and advertisements must change in the future.
“We regarded it as extremely likely that players would reach a position where they would be unable to take any further meaningful or progressive action in the game until a timer had finished or been skipped, and that these periods would become longer and more significant, and the cost of skipping increasingly higher, as the player progressed,” reads the ASA’s statement.
“From the information available in the ad, players would expect the gameplay progression and their ability to advance to be unhindered by unexpected and excessively onerous delays, and we therefore considered that the length and frequency of these countdown events was beyond that which would be reasonably expected by players.”
“While we understood that the average consumer would appreciate that free-to-play games were likely to contain monetization functions, we considered that they would also expect the play experience of a game described as ‘free’ to not be excessively restricted.”
EA replied to the ruling, reminding everyone that the ads were not misleading and you do not have to pay to play the game. You can just opt to wait for the timer to run down before jumping back in, and this money system adds an extra level of resource management to the core gameplay. EA claimed that the game would still have the countdown timer even if the microtransaction to make it go away didn’t exist.
Okay, I’ll believe that when I see it. You understand now why gamers are afraid of change, Peter Moore?
From now on, the ASA states that EA must mention the microstransactions in the game’s ads.