EA is not the only player in the free-to-play market, but it is notable that its Dungeon Keeper game has been slapped by the British Advertising Standards Authority. The ASA will no longer allow EA to advertise Dungeon Keeper as free-to-play due to its use of timers and in-game transactions.
“The ASA noted that the game software was available to download for free, and that it was possible to play the game without spending money. However, we understood that several mechanisms within the game took a significant amount of time to be completed, and that these would only be speeded up by using the premium Gem currency. We noted that, although some of these actions could be done simultaneously, there was a limit to how many actions could happen at the same time and that the length of the countdown timers increased according to how far the player had progressed in aspects of the game. We therefore 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. Although some of the features in the ad did not require waiting for a timer, we noted that these were either incidental or brief (such as ‘slapping’ the imp characters) or were dependent on other actions that were gated by a timer.”
Keep in mind that the ASA’s ruling only regards how the game is advertised not how it is monetized. EA will most likely appeal the agency’s decision but in the meantime will have its marketing department rework the ads so that it can continue to market Dungeon Keepers and other games.
With so many games using the free-to-play scheme, especially on mobile platforms, it will be interesting to see if this decision has any further ramifications. Even console and PC games like Warframe and DOTA 2 use the free-to-play model and this decision may impact how they market their games. It is too early to tell if it will have any affect on how in-game transactions are handled but it may be something to keep an eye on.
Being a cheapskate, I enjoy playing free games but find some aspects of the free-to-play model aggravating, if not stupid. When a “free” game has an in-game $100 purchase available, I take serious question as to the legitimacy of the game being “free”. Perhaps you always have to be mindful of the fine print and watch what you are getting yourself into. As much as we chide our government officials, maybe they are on our side every once in a while.
Paul Novak is a self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing in the west side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet. Found here at What’s Your Tag? and on the Twitter @dudewantshisrug. Game on with Team XBRO!