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UK regulatory body rules that free-to-play Dungeon Keeper isn't really free

The Advertising Standards Authority in the UK has banned a Dungeon Keeper advert for misleading consumers about whether the game is actually free or not.

Mike Rose, Blogger

July 2, 2014

2 Min Read

Earlier this year, Electronic Arts found its mobile remake of Dungeon Keeper heavily criticized for its limiting microtransactions. Now the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK has banned a Dungeon Keeper advert for misleading consumers. When the game first launched earlier this year, EA came under fire for microtransactions that severely limit the game unless you pay cash over and over again for premium currency. The ASA received a complaint from a consumer regarding a specific email ad for the game, which stated that players could download and play the game for free. The consumer argued that the ad was misleading, as the game was not in fact free, due to the overwhelming number of in-app purchases. EA argued that it had not misled anyone, and that the game is indeed free to download and play, while the in-app purchases are not required to play the game. However, after consideration the ASA has agreed with the consumer, and has upheld the complaint. "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," reads the assessment. "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." The ASA adds that, due to the significant time constraints in the game, players are likely to reach a position where they have to pay money to see any meaningful progression, thus meaning the game is not exactly free. And the organization notes that the original email ad does not state anywhere that there are in-app purchases in the game. Taking all of this into account, the ASA has told EA that it cannot use the ad again. "We 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," it adds. It's well worth reading the full assessment, as the ruling may well affect how free-to-play studios word their adverts in the future.

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