In what could go on to be a landmark incident, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has disallowed a series of advertisements for EA’s mobile game Dungeon Keeper on the grounds that calling it ‘free-to-play’ is “misleading”.
The Dungeon Keeper app received more than its fair share of negative press upon release for taking the already questionable ‘freemium’ payment model to outright loathsome new extremes. So extreme is the restrictive nature of its pricing model, in fact, that the ASA has deemed that EA cannot run its intended advertisements for it without informing the consumer of exactly how much in-app-purchases limit the game.
EA even went as far as to challenge the ruling, stating that the level of progress depicted in the ads could be achieved without spending a real-life penny. The ASA stuck to its guns, however, and maintained that whilst it was technically possible, it was both highly unlikely as well as disingenuous to imply that doing so is a common or easy feat.
On a more specific, technical level, EA was in breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1, 3.3 and 3.9 (Misleading Advertising). This means that “the ad must not appear again in its current form. We [the ASA] told Electronic Arts Ltd to ensure that future ads made clear the limitations of free gameplay and role of in-app purchasing with regard to speeding up gameplay”.
You can read the entire case here in surprisingly plain English on the ASA’s website. You might also get a chuckle from seeing a UK regulatory body chatting about ‘slapping imps’, too, so it’s worth a read either way.