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Road to Connects London: Wiggin's Isabel Davies on F2P regulations

Wiggin LLP's Isabel Davies presents a sneak-peak into her PG Connects talk on F2P regulations
Road to Connects London: Wiggin's Isabel Davies on F2P regulations
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Pocket Gamer Connects London is fast approaching, and is excited to share insight into the panels and presentations on offer from the speakers themselves.

Isabel Davies, video games and entertainment lawyer at Wiggin LLP, discusses her presentation, Regulation of F2P (free-to-play) and what it means for video games, which will explore the future of marketing and monetisation of F2P games amidst the increase in political awareness and regulations.

The full list of Pocket Gamer Connects London speakers and presentations is available through this link.

Can you give us a brief teaser of what you’ll be discussing at Pocket Gamer Connects London?

The theme of the talk is regulation of free-to-play games, particularly in terms of developments in the last year and going into 2022 and their impact on mobile games, digital storefronts, and surrounding material. F2P is something UK regulators have been looking at in earnest since the early 2010s, but various types of monetisation are being observed by regulators and I’ll discuss how that may set the tone going forward and what mobile games may offer consumers.

It’s a 20-minute talk so it’ll be whistle-stop. But it will be a very useful, high-level summary of what mobile designers, producers, and business leaders need to consider when designing their games and how they want to operate moving forward.

What should the audience know coming into the talk?

It should be pretty accessible, but do come along knowing it will be English/UK law-focused. This is just one market, but the UK has made a number of developments in the games space compared to many other countries and regulators, and some may take inspiration moving forward. But if you’re releasing your game globally, you need to be aware of regulation elsewhere too.

At the Wiggin Game Summit in December, one talking point was how COVID delayed some advances in UK regulation. What do you expect to be the long-lasting impacts from the pandemic?

I think the timing was fortuitous for some companies, as it’s possible that some practices have been able to continue for longer than if the UK regulations had come into play sooner. A good example is the loot box consultation, which happened at the end of 2020, which we had expected more information on at the tail-end of 2021. I suspect this delay came from the both the impact of COVID-19 and the replacement of the Minister for Culture, Media and Sport.

As the UK government is still tackling the issue of loot boxes, nascent topics like NFTs are unlikely to be a focus soon. There were also various rumblings in 2019 about game addiction and similar topics, and there haven’t been, as far as we’re aware, any direct developments since. Some of the impetus to investigate game addiction has perhaps dimmed - that’s not to say it won’t come back, but the momentum slowed during the pandemic.

Are you detecting a greater eagerness or awareness from regulatory bodies, which may not have as nuanced an understanding of the mobile games industry as we would like?

The Children’s Code is a great example of regulation that is continuing to be shaped by games; the UK Data Protection Authority (ICO) has been very involved with the UK games industry in the progress of that Code, and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is also becoming more involved in the games industry. I’ll be discussing a couple of the CMA’s investigations in my talk.

It’s also worth noting that the EU is also actively looking into the games space. There was an update to legal guidance at the end of 2021 on the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive which specifically called out video games and digital practices. Germany, in particular, is active on the games front: for example, Nintendo recently lost a case regarding pre-order rights.

You can read all Road to Connects interviews and articles through this link.