The Advertising Standards Agency has found that Mind Candy and 55 Pixels are in breach of new rules regarding direct exhortations to children to make in-game purchases.
The companies have fallen foul of the Office of Fair Trading’s new principles for online and app-based games. They were designed to specifically for children’s titles and warned that studios must be upfront about all the costs associated with a game.
The ASA found that, though Moshi Monsters could be played for free, certain activities required paid-membership which provides users with additional benefits.
The issue specifically arose from in-game ads related to member-only sections of the game where “join now” was said to have been phrased “as a command instructing the player to immediately subscribe to the membership scheme and that it was significantly more prominent that the option to close the message.”
It was also suggested that other phrases such as “The Super Moshis need YOU” and “Members are going to be super popular” put pressure on young players to purchase a subscription.
The ASA also made a similar ruling in regards to 55 Pixels’s Bin Weevils, where it said certain phrases in regards to obtaining a paid membership were “phrased as commands to purchase a membership subscription”. It also found that statements “DOSH Top UP” constituted a command to purchase currency.
In response, Mind Candy and 55 Pixels have removed the offending statements.
UKIE CEO Jo Twist has responded to the news, and called the ASA ruling a useful piece of additional guidance for game companies about how existing laws apply to free-to-play and in-app purchases.
“It builds on the OFT principles for online and app-based games published last year,” said Twist.
“Since the publication of those principles more than a year ago this is the only action that has been taken, and it has only required a change in language which both games have already put in place. It is good to see that the industry is clearly behaving responsibly and ensuring that children are not being served inappropriate commercial messages."