Free-to-play games being investigated by UK government

April 12, 2013
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Most of us have heard those horror stories about free-to-play games. They usually involve a parent handing a tablet or smartphone to a child with some free games installed. From here the child takes over and proceeds to run up a large bill on in-app purchases. This seems to be a popular strategy, and in fact it was one that was recently adopted with EA's release of Real Racing 3.

Staying on the topic of Real Racing 3 for a moment, a representative from EA noted that the in-app opponents are a "vocal minority." Anyway, while these games seem to be generally accepted by those doing the playing, it looks like The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in London is going to be doing some investigating. They will be looking to see if these games are pressuring the users into making in-app purchases. Or more specifically, how these in-app purchases apply to children.

The OFT has said that they are looking into whether these "games include 'direct exhortations' to children." Basically, that is to say, whether they present a "strong encouragement to make a purchase, or to do something that will necessitate making a purchase, or to persuade their parents or other adults to make a purchase for them." They key here, the OFT also made it clear they are not trying to ban games with in-app purchase.

Instead they are more concerned with how they are presented to children. At this point they are making an effort to make sure the games industry is doing what they need to comply with the relevant regulations so that children are protected. So far nothing will be changing and at the moment, the OFT is speaking with the industry and has plans to "take enforcement action if necessary."

[via CVG]


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  • Reaktou

    When a sly way is halted, it shall evlove.

    I don’t even know.

  • Stuart Taylor

    Although I’m not a fan of the Freemium model for games, parents shouldn’t be so quick to blame the game makers when ‘Little Timmy’ has spent over £1000 making in-app purchases if they hadn’t taken step preventing it. It is easy to set a PIN or password to prevent unauthorised purchases being made. Having fallen foul of this myself, I make sure that I set a PIN on my Nexus 7.

    It would appear that Android solved the issue of repeated purchases being made as the Google Play app asks for your PIN with each and every purchase, unlike the 15 minute window that iOS has after entering your password.