Dungeon Keeper Ads Are “Misleading,” UK’s ASA Rules
That’s in large part thanks to EA’s mobile remake, which was rooted so heavily in microtransactions that it’s almost impossible to carve out a single room without charging your credit card. Gamers were fed up with the practice right away, but now the United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority agrees, upholding a complaint that Dungeon Keeper ads are “misleading” and omit key information on microtransactions.
To clarify, here’s the text of offending ad, as recorded by the ASA:
GET DUNGEON KEEPER ON MOBILE FOR FREE! … DIG. DEVISE. DOMINATE. Build the most badass dungeon ever! Raise an army of diabolical minions and lay twisted traps to destroy any opponents foolish enough to set foot in your lair. MASTER THE HAND OF EVIL Cast powerful spells, pillage and plunder other players’ dungeons, and slap your imps around to make them work harder. A world of wicked fun is right at your fingertips. What are you waiting for, Keeper? Get it for FREE!
A footnote then reads “WIRELESS FEES MAY APPLY”.
The ASA responded that while the game itself was free, many of its action mechanics were incredibly slow and could only be sped up using premium currency. The ruling also adds that players would likely find themselves “extremely likely” to run out of meaningful actions in a short period, increasing the need to open their wallets as the dungeon grew.
We noted that the ad did not include any reference to in-app purchases or the role they would play. Although we acknowledged that a disclaimer about the inclusion of in-app purchases was placed on the product page on the stores in which the app appeared, we noted that this was not within the body of, or linked to, the original ad, and that it did not make the nature of these purchases clear. While we understood that the average consumer would appreciate that free-to-play games were likely to contain monetisation functions, we considered that they would also expect the play experience of a game described as ‘free’ to not be excessively restricted. Similarly, although we acknowledged that a timer mechanism could be a legitimate part of gameplay experience, the nature of the timer frequency and length in Dungeon Keeper, in combination with the way it was monetised, was likely to create a game experience for non-spenders that did not reflect their reasonable expectations from the content of the ad….
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1, 3.3 and 3.9 (Misleading Advertising).
Not that we weren’t aware of this already, but it’s nice to have an official agency actually back us up on it.