Two free-to-play games have had altered their in-game messaging after the ASA ruled the wording constituted direct exhortations to buy a membership package”.
Moshi Monsters was taken to task for a mission that, while open to non-subscribers, ended with a message stating "MEMBERS GET MORE MISSIONS AND Unique Moshlings! Epics With Prizes Cool New Games! JOIN NOW!".
The game also has frequent prompts that read: "ATTENTION: YOU NEED TO BE A MOSHI MEMBER TO ENTER THIS AREA ABOUT MEMBERSHIPS!"
The ASA was especially concerned as Moshi Monsters is specifically aimed at quite young children, statements such as ‘join now’ could in a user’s mind be interpreted as a command, particularly as it was significantly more prominent on the screen than the small ‘x’ used to close the prompt. Also of concern was the fact that no wording was displayed to make it clear that users could easily return to the game without subscribing.
Other phrases found on the various membership pages such as "The Super Moshis need YOU" and "Members are going to be super popular" were also questioned, as they could put pressure on younger users.
Mind Candy has since altered the wording of the prompts and removed the use of the word ‘now’.
Bin Weevils, meanwhile, carried similar prompts when trying to access features locked behind the paywall. One read: stating "BIN TYCOON MEMBERS ONLY! ADOPT THE PERFECT BIN PET! JOIN NOW."
Developer 55 Pixels said in response that 90 per cent of the game’s content is freely accessible and in turn 90 per cent of its audience was non-paying. It also argued that the contentious messages would not appear spontaneously and would only crop up when players tried to access content specifically signposted as being for members only.
It also argued that players would likely be familiar with the mechanics of closing down a text prompt via a small ‘x’ in the top corner and that any potential real-money payments were clearly explained. The dev said that its approach was consistent with other children’s free-to-play games and that it was unaware such conduct breached the CAP code.
Nonetheless, the ASA reached exactly the same conclusions as it did with Moshi Monsters and it too has now amended the wording of the prompts.