UK regulator compels F2P devs to ease up on pressuring kids to pay
British studios 55 Pixels and Mind Candy are amending their (respective) free-to-play games Bin Weevils and Moshi Monsters (pictured) after the UK's Advertising Standards Authority ruled that both games violated its guidelines because they "directly pressured children to make purchases."
This is chiefly notable as a reminder that free-to-play game makers who release their products in the UK should expect to comply with the region's non-broadcast advertising code, which is enforced via ASA oversight of advertisements in various forms of media that now includes games.
Also, as video game law expert (and occasional Gamasutra blogger) Jas Purewal points out, this ruling is interesting because complaints against these games were referred by another UK agency to the ASA -- an advertising regulator -- rather than a consumper protection agency like the Office of Fair Trading, which ordered the online game industry to "get its house in order" last year amid concerns that developers were unfairly pressuring child players to make in-game purchases.
For its part, the ASA says Bin Weevils and Moshi Monsters contained "language and prominent calls to action that put pressure on young players to purchase a subscription," which it perceives to be advertising.
Going forward, the regulator plans to continue "working with the online games sector to remind them of the care it needs to take when providing in-game purchase mechanisms, particularly if their products are likely to appeal to children," and monitoring online games in the UK to ensure they cleave to the ASA's expectations.