New guidance for advertising in-game purchases released

Games will have to start telling you how much in-game currency is worth IRL

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has released new guidance for in-game advertising.

“The ASA (one of the UK’s advertising watchdogs) has issued its new guidance on advertising in-game purchases. This is huge and will require significant shifts in current industry practice,” wrote legal partner Peter Lewin.

“Remember, although the ASA doesn’t have fining powers it has operated successfully to-date on a name & shame basis (and can refer serious offenders to other regulators with stronger powers).”

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“The guidance newly clarifies several means by which advertisers of games with in-game purchasing should seek to ensure that their ads are not misleading,” starts the report.

There’s a lot of discussion about whether loot boxes should be classed as gambling. The report noted, “where there are readily accessible opportunities to cash in or exchange those awarded in-game items for money or money’s worth, those elements of the game are likely to be considered licensable gambling activities.”

Because of this, the report suggests that all in-game currencies should also display their real-world value and show the individual prices for any items included in a bundle.

“(We) were concerned that the combination of proprietary virtual currency, bundling, and odd-pricing may have a serious impact on the ability of consumers (particularly children or vulnerable people) to understand how much real-world money they are spending on in-game items and, therefore, impact on their ability to make an informed decision about a purchase. ”

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There’s also guidance about seasonal items and time-sensitive purchases.

“Advertisers should take care not to imply that an item is only available for a specific time or through a specific purchase route if it will later be made available again or more generally.

“Marketers should take care not to imply that purchase for real-world money is the only way to obtain this currency or item if that is not the case (e.g. if the items can be accessed through wait timers or free-to-play game mechanics),” the report continues.

The lengthy document, which can be read in full here, was written following public consultation and includes feedback from various organisations, including Gambling Health Alliance, The Video Standards Council and Parent Zone.

“(We) are mindful of the need to avoid unintended consequences of introducing new guidance and to ensure that it is effective. As such, the guidance will be subject to review after 12 months,” concludes the report.

In other news, artwork for Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League has been released ahead of the game’s reveal next month at the virtual DC Fandome event.

The game, developed by Batman: Arkham series creator Rocksteady Studios and released in 2022, is a genre-bending action-adventure shooter set in an open-world Metropolis.

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