The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the UK's independent regulator of the advertising industry, has announced its decision to ban an Electronic Arts Dungeon Keeper free mobile game advert, as it was deemed to be "misleading."
A promotional direct e-mail advertising campaign was put under scrutiny when a complainant accused EA of not clarifying that gameplay would be "severely limited" if no in-app purchases were made. The complaint came from a user who "challenged whether the ad was misleading because it omitted significant information," explained the ASA in its ruling.
"…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. Because the game had the potential to restrict gameplay beyond that which would be expected by consumers and the ad did not make this aspect of the role of in-app purchasing clear, we concluded that it was misleading," wrote the ASA.
EA's argument against the complaint suggested that players could progress for free as they find mechanics to do so, on a par with similar games, during game play and that "the timers and premium currency did not only function as a monetisation strategy, but balanced gameplay and provided players with a sense of progression and enabled resource management." The gaming company went on to state that a timing mechanism would still be present - even if there was no monetisation in the game.
However, EA's points were dismissed and the ASA announced that the "ad must not appear again in its current form." Going forward, "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," the ASA added.
EA CEO Andrew Wilson also admitted at last month's E3 that the company had "misjudged" the game's economy. Calling Dungeon Keeper "a shame," Wilson promised that EA will learn from the feedback given.