Home   >   Features

Was the ASA right to call out EA on F2P?

And how many acronyms can we get in one headline?
Was the ASA right to call out EA on F2P?

EA recently had its knuckles rapped in the UK by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), with an email ad for free-to-play release Dungeon Keeper branded 'misleading'.

On a practical level, commentators have been quick to suggest the ASA is something of a red herring here – it can only act retrospectively when a complaint is made about an advert, and this was not a ruling about F2P games in general, just one specific promotion.

So, we asked our Mavens:

Do adverts and general promotions for F2P games need to be clamped down on? Should the authorities action a change in name – is 'free-to-play' even a valid term?

Oscar Clark

Oscar Clark

Chief Strategy Officer at Fundamentally Games

Advertising is a 'promise' to the audience even if it happens to be a credulous or naive half-promise.

We all know not to expect the real hamburger to look quite so fresh or healthy as the advert when we order it; but we do expect to get a beef patty, lettuce and that curious gherkin in our seeded bun...

The idea of 'mere puff' is an essential part of how we define this wiggle room; images and comments made which are not intended to be legally binding. It's a way to understand how advertising is often focused on the best of possible perspectives about what is being promoted and usually we can accept that.

However, if the beef patty cost us extra we would right complain about false advertising.

Dungeon Keeper is bad example of monetisation and that's been widely acknowledged.”
Oscar Clark

A free-to-play game that restricts play so much that you can't really play it to a reasonable extent means using the term 'free' stops being appropriate.

No-one will reasonably complain if you charge extra for additional toppings or larger portions of fries. Similarly there is not a problem if there is extra content or supplementary value offered through an in-app purchases; as long as they don't break the game as you promised in the promotion.

There will be a lot of people saying emotive things about F2P following this, but I actually think this is a good call. My views if Dungeon Keeper are on record (I'm not a fan!). It's a bad example of monetisation and that's been widely acknowledged.

I'm sure there was a game in there; it's a shame the monetisation was so poorly implemented you couldn't find it and the ASA in my opinion rightly condemned the way it was advertised.

John Ozimek

John Ozimek

Co-founder at Big Games Machine

Well reading the ASA ruling, they took issue with the fact the advert created the impression that a non-paying player was just as able to progress through the game without significant gameplay barriers, when in fact the F2P design of the game made reasonable progress almost impossible.

I got the impression that the ASA was actually quite mature in its view of F2P generally, and its ruling indicated that it felt that consumers also had a good understanding of F2P.

So in this instance, it was EA’s implementation of the F2P mechanic that was the problem, not the fact that the game was itself F2P.

If I recall correctly, did this all stem from a single complaint? I seem to remember it was something like that. Storm in a teacup? Although I do think the ASA was right in its ruling…