European Commission Investigating Marketing Of Free-To-Play Games
The European Union’s executive branch is meeting with large technology companies to discuss the the impact and regulation of free-to-play games. The concern stems in part from the way in-app purchases are communicated to users, with children particularly at risk.
The Commission will be speaking with industry representatives on two points, according to a press release:
- Games advertised as “free” should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved;
- Games should not contain direct exhortations to children to buy items in a game or to persuade an adult to buy items for them;
- Consumers should be adequately informed about the payment arrangements and purchases should not be debited through default settings without consumers’ explicit consent;
- Traders should provide an email address so that consumers can contact them in case of queries or complaints.
It stands to reason that Apple and Google, as owners of two of the largest free-to-play platforms, will be involved in the conversations. The Commission will be asking participants to propose and commit to solutions that will improve consumer protection.
It’s long been held that “free-to-play” games are anything but free. There have been numerous stories of children inadvertently racking up huge bills in games via exploitative pleas. There are currently very few ethical games that are legitimately free to play, and I would be quite pleased to see the term abolished in most circumstances.