UK Cracks Down On In-Game Ads And Microtransactions

UK Cracks Down On In-Game Ads And Microtransactions

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has released new, updated guidance on how game developers and publishers should and shouldn’t advertise in-game premium currencies and other purchases. The ASA is pushing back against in-game timers, labels such as “Best Value!” and more.

As spotted by Eurogamer, the new guidance covers both in-game advertising and general ads you might encounter on TV or while browsing the web. The focus of the ASA’s new rules is to stop ads that might pressure players into a purchase or mislead customers on the existence, purpose, and total cost of in-app purchases.

The ASA is the self-regulatory agency of the advertising industry in the UK.

For games that contain a premium currency only available via real-world dollars, the ASA wants advertisements and pop-ups to include a real-world dollar value. So an ad offering to sell you a new weapon for 500 gems would have to include an actual dollar amount too. If this ad appears in-game, then the ad must reflect how many gems or coins you currently have, how many you’ll need to get the item, and how much that will cost you.

The ASA does understand there is a difference between games that offer ways to earn in-game items for free and games that only offer those items for real-world money. As such, the ASA will treat these games differently. So games that only sell something like gems for money will have to play by different advertising rules than games that offer a free path for in-app items.

Games that include countdown timers in their stores or which make use of labels such as “Best Value!” or “Best Offer!” will also have to knock that off in the UK if they want to comply with the new ASA guidance. The regulatory group did request devs include notifications if a game includes loot boxes, but believes that a larger decision on if loot boxes are gambling should be made by the UK’s Gambling Commission.

While the ASA isn’t able to interpret or enforce legislation or fine companies that break ASA guidance, it can refer serious offenders to other regulators with stronger powers in the UK. And the group’s rules largely line up with UK law.