Dungeon Keeper Ads Misleading, Concludes UK Advertising Watchdog

Dungeon Keeper Ads Misleading, Concludes UK Advertising Watchdog

Dungeon Keeper announcement art

The UK's Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that EA's marketing for the free-to-play title failed to make clear how timing mechanics severely limited gameplay without in-app purchases.

A complaint against Electronics Arts over its advertising for the free-to-play Dungeon Keeper mobile game has been upheld by the UK's independent advertising regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority. The complaint argued that an email marketing campaign that advertised the free game was misleading because it did not make clear that "gameplay was severely limited unless in-app purchases were made." The ASA has ruled that in future advertisements, EA must make clear the limits put on free gameplay and the role of in-app purchases in the game, particularly when it comes to speeding up gameplay.

EA argued against the complaint, stating that players were not required to purchase the in-app currency Gems in order to progress, and that all players could earn Gems through in-game events. The ruling says, "[EA] stated that the average player would expect a free-to-play title to be monetised with countdown timers and premium currency [...] [EA] stated their belief that the mechanics of Dungeon Keeper were well within the average length and frequency for the market and that players of combat simulators would therefore reasonably expect them." EA also argued that the timers provided a sense of progression and resource management, and that even without the monetisation, the game will still have a timing mechanism. In the ruling, the ASA concludes, "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." The contested ad described the game as free, but did not mention in-app purchases.

Andrew Wilson, CEO of EA, told Eurogamer in an interview in June that the company "misjudged the economy" of Dungeon Keeper. "For new players, it was kind of a cool game," Wilson said. "For people who'd grown up playing Dungeon Keeper there was a disconnect there. In that aspect we didn't walk that line as well as we could have. And that's a shame." Players didn't feel they were getting value for their money in Dungeon Keeper, and Wilson admitted that, going forward, "value has to exist" for any business model. After this ruling, we can expect to see disclaimers at the bottom of ads for new free-to-play games, warning players that gameplay progression may be slow without in-app purchases, right beside the little "wireless charges may apply" warning that was included in the original EA ad.

Source: Advertising Standards Authority via Games Industry

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"For new players, it was kind of a cool game," Wilson said. "For people who'd grown up playing Dungeon Keeper there was a disconnect there. In that aspect we didn't walk that line as well as we could have. And that's a shame."

This is the biggest line of BS I've read in a while... okay, a depressingly short while, but still. 'misjudged the economy" might as well be translated as "didn't test game with any accounts that didn't have infinite gems". As for new players finding it cool... I heard not a single positive review.

Pwned.

More seriously, this is a good thing, although I completely expect to see some BS spin on the ruling, such as 'Gameplay may be enhanced by totally optional in-app purchases.'

JarinArenos:

"For new players, it was kind of a cool game," Wilson said. "For people who'd grown up playing Dungeon Keeper there was a disconnect there. In that aspect we didn't walk that line as well as we could have. And that's a shame."

This is the biggest line of BS I've read in a while... okay, a depressingly short while, but still. 'misjudged the economy" might as well be translated as "didn't test game with any accounts that didn't have infinite gems". As for new players finding it cool... I heard not a single positive review.

Not only are there positive reviews, someone actually gave it an 80/100 according to everyone's favourite review site Metacritic.

http://www.metacritic.com/game/ios/dungeon-keeper

Just ignore the small number of negative reviews. Just the vocal minori...majority. Um. *jumps out of window*

EA argued against the complaint, stating that players were not required to purchase the in-app currency Gems in order to progress

In-app purchases aren't required, the game is just heavily balanced against you without them.

[EA] stated that the average player would expect a free-to-play title to be monetised with countdown timers and premium currency

Well of course they would. If bullies steal your milk money every day you start to expect that bullies stealing your milk money is the norm. That doesn't make it right.

I dislike EA as much as the next guy, but this issue is ridiculous and serves only as yet another good example of how the UK has become, or is becoming, a nanny-state. THE GAME IS FREE. Regulation of advertisements is to prevent consumers from falling victim to fraud. How do you defraud somebody when you give them something in return for nothing? If EA was charging money for the game and then pulling a bait and switch, then there would be a need for regulation to insure honest advertisement.

JarinArenos:

"For new players, it was kind of a cool game," Wilson said. "For people who'd grown up playing Dungeon Keeper there was a disconnect there. In that aspect we didn't walk that line as well as we could have. And that's a shame."

This is the biggest line of BS I've read in a while... okay, a depressingly short while, but still. 'misjudged the economy" might as well be translated as "didn't test game with any accounts that didn't have infinite gems". As for new players finding it cool... I heard not a single positive review.

There are plenty of positive reviews. The game even had (possibly still does have) a fairly decent community revolving around it that varies between the hardcore players and the relatively-casual players. After spending a little time there, it was actually pretty easy to forget just how toxic the generally gaming community is towards anything new and different in way that doesn't agree with the way they prefer to play games.

90sgamer:
I dislike EA as much as the next guy, but this issue is ridiculous and serves only as yet another good example of how the UK has become, or is becoming, a nanny-state. THE GAME IS FREE. Regulation of advertisements is to prevent consumers from falling victim to fraud. How do you defraud somebody when you give them something in return for nothing? If EA was charging money for the game and then pulling a bait and switch, then there would be a need for regulation to insure honest advertisement.

I like that our legal system is calling out the game industry on stuff like this, it shows that actually some parts of the law are on our side and keeping companies like EA in check. UK isn't as strict as Australia with their ban restrictions and then you have the US condemning gaming as the reason for all crime in the world ever.

It's misleading in that it leads you to to believe it's a game.

90sgamer:
I dislike EA as much as the next guy, but this issue is ridiculous and serves only as yet another good example of how the UK has become, or is becoming, a nanny-state. THE GAME IS FREE. Regulation of advertisements is to prevent consumers from falling victim to fraud. How do you defraud somebody when you give them something in return for nothing? If EA was charging money for the game and then pulling a bait and switch, then there would be a need for regulation to insure honest advertisement.

So? The game is also a pile 'a wank, just because something is free doesn't automatically excuse it from misleading advertisement hiding shitty game mechanics. "Free" or no, fraud is fraud. I suppose it's time to bring up good old Sale of Goods Act 1979 that clearly states that heavily misleading advertising is illegal, regardless of what the advertisement is for, god forbid they actually enforce a law that's been around for ages. The act isn't *just* for fraud, it's so people know what the fuck they're even buying. 'S not hard to understand why an advertising watchdog would be concerned.

Why is it Europe seems to be more FREE than the USA?

My country REWARDS companies for being jerks, while most European nations PUNISH them.

>_>

I like that EA admits that people didn't get their money's worth...for a free game.

WhiteTigerShiro:
The game even had (possibly still does have) a fairly decent community revolving around it that varies between the hardcore players and the relatively-casual players. After spending a little time there, it was actually pretty easy to forget just how toxic the generally gaming community is towards anything new and different in way that doesn't agree with the way they prefer to play games.

I've noticed this being a pattern among mobile game communities, actually. I've found myself wishing PC gaming could import more of that player attitude, while leaving the game economics behind. .. and yes, I'll admit I'm sometimes in the problem category myself. I do restrict myself to venting at the bad business practices though, rather than my fellow gamers.

This game was an absolute abomination, so this is very deserved indeed. Well done ASA.

Chalk up another 1 for the consumer ladies and gents.

90sgamer:
I dislike EA as much as the next guy, but this issue is ridiculous and serves only as yet another good example of how the UK has become, or is becoming, a nanny-state. THE GAME IS FREE. Regulation of advertisements is to prevent consumers from falling victim to fraud. How do you defraud somebody when you give them something in return for nothing? If EA was charging money for the game and then pulling a bait and switch, then there would be a need for regulation to insure honest advertisement.

I kind of agree, but examples must be set with this kind of thing. EA and other companies need to realise how far they can go with their restrictions on "Free to play" games. Or at least advertise them more accurately.

CriticalMiss:

JarinArenos:

"For new players, it was kind of a cool game," Wilson said. "For people who'd grown up playing Dungeon Keeper there was a disconnect there. In that aspect we didn't walk that line as well as we could have. And that's a shame."

This is the biggest line of BS I've read in a while... okay, a depressingly short while, but still. 'misjudged the economy" might as well be translated as "didn't test game with any accounts that didn't have infinite gems". As for new players finding it cool... I heard not a single positive review.

Not only are there positive reviews, someone actually gave it an 80/100 according to everyone's favourite review site Metacritic.

http://www.metacritic.com/game/ios/dungeon-keeper

Just ignore the small number of negative reviews. Just the vocal minori...majority. Um. *jumps out of window*

No in fact most of the Reviews were rigged
http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2014-02-10-ea-filtering-out-less-than-5-star-reviews-of-dungeon-keeper-on-android

90sgamer:
I dislike EA as much as the next guy, but this issue is ridiculous and serves only as yet another good example of how the UK has become, or is becoming, a nanny-state. THE GAME IS FREE. Regulation of advertisements is to prevent consumers from falling victim to fraud. How do you defraud somebody when you give them something in return for nothing? If EA was charging money for the game and then pulling a bait and switch, then there would be a need for regulation to insure honest advertisement.

The ASA is nothing to do with the government it's run by advertising firms so that the government does not need to monitor adverts.

When advertisers think your advert is full of shit what does that say about your ad!

Also a F2P game isn't free if it's full of 24 hour cooldown timers.
.

"[EA] stated that the average player would expect a free-to-play title to be monetised with countdown timers and premium currency [...] [EA] stated their belief that the mechanics of Dungeon Keeper were well within the average length and frequency for the market and that players of combat simulators would therefore reasonably expect them."

This has less to do with the case and more about the game in general, but while that may be true with 'combat simulators' some younger/mobile gamers may not realize it but those types of games have been out for a long time, well before the FTP model came about. I forget the website, but back in the late 90's I spent time with two browser based war games, I believe Earth 2025 and Utopia. There was no graphics interface, but it was the same deal. You build up your buildings/army, attack other players to steal land, and lose land when others attack you. Earth utilized a 'turns' style, where every day you recieved a set amount of turns used to build buildings, claim land, and launch attacks. You would basically log in every day, spend 20 minutes making your turns, and that was it. Utopia was a fantasy version that came later and was a little more involved, you were sorted into 'kingdoms' with other players and had to work together, and when you 'attacked' your army would leave and you wouldn't know the results for a set amount of hours.

So yeah, basically predecessors for all the modern 'combat simulator' games, except it was an actual free game and you couldn't spend money to 'speed up'. The point I'm getting at it these games had an existing core with a 'wait' mechanic that worked as a game before the mobile/Facebook scene started and more shrewd business people figured out you could get people to pay you to speed things up. Why the hell did EA think they could just take a PC strategy game and cram in the same mechanics?

youji itami:

90sgamer:
I dislike EA as much as the next guy, but this issue is ridiculous and serves only as yet another good example of how the UK has become, or is becoming, a nanny-state. THE GAME IS FREE. Regulation of advertisements is to prevent consumers from falling victim to fraud. How do you defraud somebody when you give them something in return for nothing? If EA was charging money for the game and then pulling a bait and switch, then there would be a need for regulation to insure honest advertisement.

The ASA is nothing to do with the government it's run by advertising firms so that the government does not need to monitor adverts.

When advertisers think your advert is full of shit what does that say about your ad!

Also a F2P game isn't free if it's full of 24 hour cooldown timers.
.

It's a private agency? Did this editorial indicate that? I must have missed it. OK, UK, you are forgiven. For now.

90sgamer:
I dislike EA as much as the next guy, but this issue is ridiculous and serves only as yet another good example of how the UK has become, or is becoming, a nanny-state. THE GAME IS FREE. Regulation of advertisements is to prevent consumers from falling victim to fraud. How do you defraud somebody when you give them something in return for nothing? If EA was charging money for the game and then pulling a bait and switch, then there would be a need for regulation to insure honest advertisement.

I think the point was that customers come up against an very hard to circumvent pay-way almost immediately after they begin to play. The ASA seems to think that advertising something as a functional free game and then bombarding the player with incredibly long time-outs that can only be avoided by paying cash does not live up to the promise of a "Free game".

EA ARE charging money for the game, an almost unlimited amount, to make it playable. They come out with the defense that is theoretically could be completed without monitory investment but the economy is so stacked against the player it is unreasonable to achieve.

Advertising a free game and then doing everything possible to trick and frustrate the player into paying money to make it function is very much a consumer protection issue. So much so that they are being pulled up for false advertising.

The Wykydtron:

90sgamer:
I dislike EA as much as the next guy, but this issue is ridiculous and serves only as yet another good example of how the UK has become, or is becoming, a nanny-state. THE GAME IS FREE. Regulation of advertisements is to prevent consumers from falling victim to fraud. How do you defraud somebody when you give them something in return for nothing? If EA was charging money for the game and then pulling a bait and switch, then there would be a need for regulation to insure honest advertisement.

So? The game is also a pile 'a wank, just because something is free doesn't automatically excuse it from misleading advertisement hiding shitty game mechanics. "Free" or no, fraud is fraud. I suppose it's time to bring up good old Sale of Goods Act 1979 that clearly states that heavily misleading advertising is illegal, regardless of what the advertisement is for, god forbid they actually enforce a law that's been around for ages. The act isn't *just* for fraud, it's so people know what the fuck they're even buying. 'S not hard to understand why an advertising watchdog would be concerned.

My comment was based on the assumption that this article was naming an actual government entity. I'm informed since then that's it's actually just a private company reviewing ads. Thankfully, no regulation involved. Anyway, any definition of fraud requires the victim to have been harmed in some way (hard = some kind of loss, such as money). When you download a game for free, it's shit, and you sue for fraud, what damages are you going to allege to fulfill the element of "harm"?

It seriously isn't fraud. Just shitty business practices.

If each and every waiting time in that game for whatever purpose, was simply reduced to zero right now this instant, would it be a good game?

I imagine that devs in design meets sat around a conference table discussing how long everything should take in real time. Surely "mining" the resources and a brief delay is enough resource management? Aren't there better ways to monetise a F2P game, like selling stuff available for in-game currency for those "in a hurry", or unique/exclusive/cool things that aren't game breaking but fun and tempting?

Scrumpmonkey:

90sgamer:
I dislike EA as much as the next guy, but this issue is ridiculous and serves only as yet another good example of how the UK has become, or is becoming, a nanny-state. THE GAME IS FREE. Regulation of advertisements is to prevent consumers from falling victim to fraud. How do you defraud somebody when you give them something in return for nothing? If EA was charging money for the game and then pulling a bait and switch, then there would be a need for regulation to insure honest advertisement.

I think the point was that customers come up against an very hard to circumvent pay-way almost immediately after they begin to play. The ASA seems to think that advertising something as a functional free game and then bombarding the player with incredibly long time-outs that can only be avoided by paying cash does not live up to the promise of a "Free game".

EA ARE charging money for the game, an almost unlimited amount, to make it playable. They come out with the defense that is theoretically could be completed without monitory investment but the economy is so stacked against the player it is unreasonable to achieve.

Advertising a free game and then doing everything possible to trick and frustrate the player into paying money to make it function is very much a consumer protection issue. So much so that they are being pulled up for false advertising.

This following question can only be answered yes, or no.
Can the game be acquired and played from beginning to end without paying for it?

You know the answer is yes. It also happens to be a shitty experience when played that way, but calling it "free to play" is still accurate. Right? I haven't played the game, but based on overall reviews it does indeed frustrate the player in an attempt to generate revenue. I am not familiar with any other allegations that the game tricks players into paying. Can you elaborate?

90sgamer:

Scrumpmonkey:

90sgamer:
I dislike EA as much as the next guy, but this issue is ridiculous and serves only as yet another good example of how the UK has become, or is becoming, a nanny-state. THE GAME IS FREE. Regulation of advertisements is to prevent consumers from falling victim to fraud. How do you defraud somebody when you give them something in return for nothing? If EA was charging money for the game and then pulling a bait and switch, then there would be a need for regulation to insure honest advertisement.

I think the point was that customers come up against an very hard to circumvent pay-way almost immediately after they begin to play. The ASA seems to think that advertising something as a functional free game and then bombarding the player with incredibly long time-outs that can only be avoided by paying cash does not live up to the promise of a "Free game".

EA ARE charging money for the game, an almost unlimited amount, to make it playable. They come out with the defense that is theoretically could be completed without monitory investment but the economy is so stacked against the player it is unreasonable to achieve.

Advertising a free game and then doing everything possible to trick and frustrate the player into paying money to make it function is very much a consumer protection issue. So much so that they are being pulled up for false advertising.

This following question can only be answered yes, or no.
Can the game be acquired and played from beginning to end without paying for it?

You know the answer is yes. It also happens to be a shitty experience when played that way, but calling it "free to play" is still accurate. Right? I haven't played the game, but based on overall reviews it does indeed frustrate the player in an attempt to generate revenue. I am not familiar with any other allegations that the game tricks players into paying. Can you elaborate?

What the ASA seems to be picking up in is, yes it COULD be played end to end without paying but that process is the opposite what the game was designed for. I think you are considering this in too technical or legal terms. The "You can finish it without paying" defense is a thin fig-leaf over a game that, at it's core, is as close as possible to non-functional without paying. I think the sheer number of time gates and their frequency is enough to call EA out on putting undue pressure in people to pay for their 'free' game.

What the ASA is saying is that people who see the words "Free Game" have a basic expectation of functionality. Yes they also expect in-app purchases but the very valid point they are getting at is that the convoluted way the game makes you do things overwhelmingly pressures you into a situation where progress is almost delayed to such a degree functionality without paying is almost non-existent.

The ASA, as a trade body, is meant to PREVENT the government from having to get involved in regulating and censoring advertisements. Therefore it's rulings reflect the letter and the spirit of UK law. "The spirit" of the law can be very important, it stops silly technicalities and loop-holes from forming by people sailing just close enough to the wind but still being underhanded.

The fact that it is such a shitty and as close not non functional as possible experience is exactly why the ASA are pulling them up on it.

EA admitted that their design choices for Dungeon Keeper were bad, but now this is them saying "No, it's all a good idea!"

When it gets to the point where other advertisers are calling you out on the bullshit you call a game you know you've fucked up.

If EA really wants to make a game that would appeal to the old players of Dungeon Keeper, why don't they just make a real new Dungeon Keeper? Not a free to play version, but an actual game? Given its popularity of old, I think they'd have no trouble marketing such a game to new and old players, and they wouldn't be getting dragged across the coals like this. I can't imagine it would be that massive an undertaking, the basic principles of the game play are well established. Updating it for modern graphics and to take advantage of the more powerful systems we have now would be some work and expense (probably more than I'd expect, actually) but I can't see how such a game wouldn't sell well, especially if done as a lower budget game.

Well, I can dream, anyway.

90sgamer:

youji itami:

90sgamer:
I dislike EA as much as the next guy, but this issue is ridiculous and serves only as yet another good example of how the UK has become, or is becoming, a nanny-state. THE GAME IS FREE. Regulation of advertisements is to prevent consumers from falling victim to fraud. How do you defraud somebody when you give them something in return for nothing? If EA was charging money for the game and then pulling a bait and switch, then there would be a need for regulation to insure honest advertisement.

The ASA is nothing to do with the government it's run by advertising firms so that the government does not need to monitor adverts.

When advertisers think your advert is full of shit what does that say about your ad!

Also a F2P game isn't free if it's full of 24 hour cooldown timers.
.

It's a private agency? Did this editorial indicate that? I must have missed it. OK, UK, you are forgiven. For now.

Strictly speaking its a "Self-regulatory organization" while this means it acts as the regulator so the state doesn't have to do it itself. It grew out of the mixed economy of the 1960's when the state was examining whether or not advertising should be regulated by the state. The ASA can be been as an attempt to pre-empt this as the government concluded that the ASA could regulate itself.

As such this state of affairs has continued until this day, though with many of these SRO's there is a lot of discussion and co-operation with the state.

MarlaDesat:
[EA] stated their belief that the mechanics of Dungeon Keeper were well within the average length and frequency for the market and that players of combat simulators would therefore reasonably expect them."

Which combat simulators? Risk? Chess? No, even chess matches are much faster than this abomination!

For those who defend this kind of F2P, let's put it this way: You go to a nice restaurant that offers free cooked rice. But once your are seated and ready to eat, you are told they'll give you only one grain per hour (and you can't have more than one grain at the time); unless you pay them $0.99 for a single-use coupon that it's worth 10 grains, and then they give you two coupons for free because you are a new client (and they like you). It's still technically free cooked rice...

CaitSeith:
For those who defend this kind of F2P, let's put it this way: You go to a nice restaurant that offers free cooked rice. But once your are seated and ready to eat, you are told they'll give you only one grain per hour (and you can't have more than one grain at the time); unless you pay them $0.99 for a single-use coupon that it's worth 10 grains, and then they give you two coupons for free because you are a new client (and they like you). It's still technically free cooked rice...

I always used the example of movies.

It's like getting a "free" movie, but as you watch it, they stop showing the movie after five minutes. The movie usher comes in and tells you that you get to watch another one minute per hour, or you can pay them 99 cents for the next minute to jump right back into the movie. Technically, it's free and if you wait long enough you can see the whole thing...

Trishbot:

CaitSeith:
For those who defend this kind of F2P, let's put it this way: You go to a nice restaurant that offers free cooked rice. But once your are seated and ready to eat, you are told they'll give you only one grain per hour (and you can't have more than one grain at the time); unless you pay them $0.99 for a single-use coupon that it's worth 10 grains, and then they give you two coupons for free because you are a new client (and they like you). It's still technically free cooked rice...

I always used the example of movies.

It's like getting a "free" movie, but as you watch it, they stop showing the movie after five minutes. The movie usher comes in and tells you that you get to watch another one minute per hour, or you can pay them 99 cents for the next minute to jump right back into the movie. Technically, it's free and if you wait long enough you can see the whole thing...

That made me remember when I used to watch Youtube videos before I got a decent Internet provider.

 

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