Dungeon Keeper on iOS is not free and must not be advertised as such.
That’s the verdict of the Advertising Standards Authority, which has upheld a complaint about an advertisement for the game in which it was described as being free.
The ad was also criticised for showing a well-developed dungeon that would take either money or lots of time to achieve.
“The ASA noted that the game software was available to download for free, and that it was possible to play the game without spending money,” the organisation noted.
“We regarded it as extremely likely that players would reach a position where they would be unable to take any further meaningful or progressive action in the game until a timer had finished or been skipped, and that these periods would become longer and more significant, and the cost of skipping increasingly higher, as the player progressed.
“From the information available in the ad, players would expect the gameplay progression and their ability to advance to be unhindered by unexpected and excessively onerous delays, and we therefore considered that the length and frequency of these countdown events was beyond that which would be reasonably expected by players.
“We consequently considered it likely that many players would regard the gameplay experience as unexpectedly curtailed and as a result would need to spend Gems in order to achieve the form of gameplay anticipated.
“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.”
The ASA was also aggrieved by the ad’s failure to mention in-app purchases, noting that IAPs were also not mentioned in the main body copy on the game’s product page.
EA had argued that the ad was not misleading and that IAPs were not technically required, adding that their inclusion was purely designed to allow those who wished to accelerate game progression a paid route to doing so.
The publisher also contested the claim that Dungeon Keeper’s gameplay was “severely limited” and apparently shared data which it believed “demonstrated that non-spenders were well represented in the number of players who reached the middle and end-points of the game”
Added EA: “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. Even if there was no monetisation in the game a timing mechanism would still be present.”
The ASA, evidently, disagreed. As did EA CEO Andrew Wilson, if comments from last week are to be believed.
The ruling means that ad will no longer be allowed to be shown in the UK without alterations.