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EU to ban free-to-play unless they're actually free

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I guess there's been too many complaints of kids using their parents credit card details... because....

 

The European Commission has indicated it wants to stop games calling themselves free if they rely on micrortansactions to make money.

 

Technically the term free-to-play is accurate: it doesn’t cost any money to play these games, but if you actually want to get anywhere in them or, you know, enjoy yourself then you’re going have to pay for in-app purchases and microtransactions.

 

But following a less than approving investigation by the UK’s Office of Fair Trading it seems as if Brussels is now also looking to tighten up regulations, especially when it comes to ‘misleading’ advertising.

As the European Comission points out there have been complaints from all over the EU, with German authorities already having banned advertising for some online games.

 

‘Misleading consumers is clearly the wrong business model and also goes against the spirit of EU rules on consumer protection’, said justice commissioner Viviane Reding.

 

‘The European Commission will expect very concrete answers from the app industry to the concerns raised by citizens and national consumer organisations.’

 

Ministers have already suggested that they will ban the term ‘free-to-play’ unless the game really is completely free, i.e. it makes its money from in-game advertising instead.

 

‘The use of the word ‘free’ (or similar unequivocal terms) as such, and without any appropriate qualifications, should only be allowed for games which are indeed free in their entirety, or in other words which contain no possibility of making in-app purchases, not even on an optional basis’, says a Commission statement.

 

As with the Office of Fair Trading the primary concern seems to be advertising to children, following numerous stories in the press of kids ‘accidentally’ spending hundreds of pounds on in-app purchases.

 

The Commissions other priorities are laid out as follows:

 

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.

 

I highlighted the segment in bold... can you think of any FTP game which doesn't do that? Dungeon Keeper gonna be banned!

 

Source: Metro

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I actually think this is kind of a good idea. That way companies will actually use the free to play model the right way.

 

I know there should be a way for games like those to make money, but it should be optional and not make the game unplayable.

 

Maybe that way companies will actually put some effort when working with that model.

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They don't directly say "BUY HATS TO WIN THE GAME" unlike other games. TF2's fine.

 

TF2, however, has a VERY limited inventory if you don't buy the premium version, and it forces you to delete items to make room for new ones.

 

The crafting is also very limited in F2P TF2

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I know there should be a way for games like those to make money, but it should be optional and not make the game unplayable.

Its banning even that.

 

 

I have mixed feelings. I hate government regulations, but I also hate excessive use of microtransactions. I don't think this is a good idea, but I'm not even from the EU.

 

 

Also... um, guys, what are you talking about? Reading it over, this ISN'T banning the games themselves, NOR is it saying the companies have to change anything at all. The ONLY thing its doing is saying that they can't use the term "free-to-play" if they have microtransactions in the game.

 

 

They don't directly say "BUY HATS TO WIN THE GAME" unlike other games. TF2's fine.

No, you're wrong. It specifically says "even OPTIONAL microtransactions."

 

 

‘The use of the word ‘free’ (or similar unequivocal terms) as such, and without any appropriate qualifications, should only be allowed for games which are indeed free in their entirety, or in other words which contain no possibility of making in-app purchases, not even on an optional basis’, says a Commission statement.

 

 

EDIT: It really seems like no one, not even Hogfather, read the article clearly. Or perhaps Hogfather read it wrong? Because it doesn't say anything about banning games. It just says its going to ban the use of the term "free-to-play" unless its 100% free (not even optional microtransactions). The only thing that would be allowed is advertising under a free-to-play model with these terms.

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TF2 is screwed.

Not really. They just can't directly use the term free-to-play. I don't know what better term to use, but I think the idea is that it has to be a lot more specific.

 

Basically, its a few guidelines stating that the games must specifically indicate that the game isn't 100% free, there is some content that can be purchased. And it needs to be much more clear than just saying "free-to-play," and any games should not have a one-click option to purchase content.

 

I've seen some games where I click on something, no price is listed, and an iPhone purchase pops up asking if I want to purchase this. I say "screw you" and cancel out, sometimes even deleting the game if it pissed me off enough.

 

 

Read the first post. The topic title is not clear and/or is misleading; it doesn't say free-to-play games are going to be banned outright. It just says that the term free-to-play cannot be used for games that have any sort of in-app purchases.

 

 

EDIT:

 

I guess there's been too many complaints of kids using their parents credit card details... because....

This notion pisses me off, too. Parents should take better care not to allow their kids to do this. The game companies that have games with ambiguous in-app purchases piss me off as well, but this is also a major problem.

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Darn, and here I thought we were finally free of this horseshit.

 

I guess Rumble Fighter will always be terrible.

In theory it'll help. They won't be able to force it down your throats as hard. It'll require changing the marketing and also require some changes to how the microtransactions are available. It'll be made much more clear that there are microtransactions involved, and games that say free-to-play will truly be free-to-play.

 

 

EDIT: In my personal opinion, the "free-to-play" market (e.g. with excessive microtransactions) is going to die off eventually anyway when people stop putting up with their shit. Microtransactions will probably never go away, but they'll stop shoving it down your throat all the time because it interferes with the gameplay. I don't mind some purchasable content, but I don't like it when its shoved down your throat and I simply stop playing games like that.

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Yeah I guess I actually jumped to conclusions without giving too much thought...

 

But if is just that, all they have to do is not saying that it's a free-to-play game. Even if they really are free to play and you don't need to spend money to actually play the game like TF2 for example....

 

Actually thinking more about this it is pretty stupid, few games can actually be what they want them to be...

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Yeah I guess I actually jumped to conclusions without giving too much thought...

 

But if is just that, all they have to do is not saying that it's a free-to-play game. Even if they really are free to play and you don't need to spend money to actually play the game like TF2 for example....

 

Actually thinking more about this it is pretty stupid, few games can actually be what they want them to be...

That's not the ONLY thing, take a look:

 

The Commissions other priorities are laid out as follows:

 

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.

Technically, in most free-to-play the first one isn't an issue. You can play the game perfectly free, and they're usually pretty clear that you can buy content in-game.

 

The second one is the biggest issue; a ton of games constantly slap in your face "You could buy something to help you get through easier!"

 

THIS is the part that pisses me off. If developers want to provide certain features in-game, that's one thing. But twisting the content to make it difficult to play the game without buying in-app purchases, and then shoving it in your face at every opportunity, is the worst part about this.

 

 

Personally I don't like in-app purchases that help you play the game easier period. Optional features that serve no purpose in-game is one thing. Oh, and said features should be permanent, as well, unlike in for example MapleStory, where most of the cash shop's items are temporary (maybe they changed this, I don't know).

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That's not the ONLY thing, take a look:

 

Technically, in most free-to-play the first one isn't an issue. You can play the game perfectly free, and they're usually pretty clear that you can buy content in-game.

 

The second one is the biggest issue; a ton of games constantly slap in your face "You could buy something to help you get through easier!"

 

THIS is the part that pisses me off. If developers want to provide certain features in-game, that's one thing. But twisting the content to make it difficult to play the game without buying in-app purchases, and then shoving it in your face at every opportunity, is the worst part about this.

 

 

Personally I don't like in-app purchases that help you play the game easier period. Optional features that serve no purpose in-game is one thing. Oh, and said features should be permanent, as well, unlike in for example MapleStory, where most of the cash shop's items are temporary (maybe they changed this, I don't know).

I completely agree with you. I am in no favor of items you have to buy to make the game more accessible, that should never be the question. 

 

So basically in the end they want to stop with the misleading advertising in and out of the games. But that is no guaranty that every developer will start using microtransactions decently...which is a shame.  

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I hope Marvel: Avengers Alliance will be spared: i've been playing that game since when it came out and i definetly don't want to lose my progress now.

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So it's basically an extension of rules on false advertising.  Seems reasonable.  If the possibility exists of paying money towards a game, it cannot describe itself as being free or free-to-play, as some content can only be played for a non-free price.  Likewise, directly inviting users to pay money is also proposed to be phased out, presumably as it's too aggressive and naive children will take it as an imperative.  I'd imagine they'd have to draft any law on the latter very carefully, but it sounds as if these games could get away with doing exactly the same thing as they're doing today so long as they're presented differently and don't draw such explicit attention to their prices.

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Please let this happen in all countries. This is actually a good thing. Like, I hate scam apps, even if they are games. Hey this game's free to download ! Wait ... i  have to pay $5 for unlocking a new character? Stuff that!

If it happens in one country and companies are targeting a worldwide audience, just by applying to European standards it'll happen by default.

 

Although, again, I reiterate that I hate additional government interventions as much as I hate the marketing on microtransactions in the first place.

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This means nothing. The companies will simply just remove "free to play" and business as usual will continue. I'm sure they'll come up with another term.

Don't expect this to be a pure ban, either. Over here in the USA, things can be classed as "whole wheat" or "fat free" if you play with the numbers just a tad. I won't be surprised if some sort of loophole emerges in this law.

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Agreed; any such ban would have to be written very carefully to have a meaningful effect - or rather, an effect that's neither too narrow nor too broad.  But one senses that it would be all too easy for companies to simply start pitching such games as "free to buy!" (but costly to play!).  Similarly, it's not too big a change to go from saying "Why don't you buy --- to speed the game up?" to "You can buy --- to speed the game up!"  All things considered, it risks being a sticking-plaster on a stab wound.

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Really glad to hear this since the free to play wording as been abused so much making it difficult from the games that are truely free to microtransaction gambling based games for children. While government intervention isn't always a good thing and can be bad depending on the subject, in this case consider this a good thing if it is effective. With this unless they find a loophole, companies like King, EA and the other top mobile developers that use the microtransaction based method have to think careful how they develop the games or how to market it without using the words free to play. The games aren't banned as far as I know and will [sadly] continue this route but it might give consumers something to think about however some people are already gamblers whether they do the lottery, go to a bookies to bet on a football team/horse or play on the slot machines in the casinos anyway.

 

Do think some education is needed for the parents and the children though regarding microtransactions on mobile games however some games block any block (some games can turn off the Wifi or disabling the IAP option to minimise microtransactions/advertisements) and force it towards people. The people who play on mobile games are mainly different to the people who play on PC and consoles with some overlap so they might not be aware of this and may even think that it is normal like the Ultimate Team in FIFA. They might not go to sites that console/PC players go to (e.g. NeoGAF, EuroGamer, The Escapist or even IGN/GameSpot) but instead going to places like the App Store/Google Play Store for reviews, Pocket Gamer or any mobile focused site that don't see microtransactions as a bad thing, a TV advertisement [the King games] or even just use word of mouth from a friend/Facebook.

 

I wouldn't be surprised if companies will start using a similar term like free to start or free to try/try for free though.

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It's not right to say your free to play than deliberately give free players a hard time, I'm in.

 

TF2, however, has a VERY limited inventory if you don't buy the premium version, and it forces you to delete items to make room for new ones.

 

The crafting is also very limited in F2P TF2

 

But the default weapons are just as good as the collectable and buyable ones, TF2 really makes a big deal of making weapons fair and really is no unfair advantage to premium players, they just get more outfits and more choice of weapons they may personally prefer.

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Okay, a few people seem to be a little angry and think it means all free to play games will be banned.

 

This is not the case.

 

Lets take a game like Smite for example: it's completely free to play with the option to buy a god pack to get all gods and future gods with money or you can earn your gods through playing the game; the option to buy skins and voice packs is there but doesn't enhance gameplay, just supports the company. None of the items you buy with real money enhances the game, therefore it's TRUE 'free to play'.

 

Dungeon Keeper: you play to create a dungeon and slowly remove blocks. It takes a hell of a lot of time with the possibility to buy easy passes to get the blocks removed with real money. This makes the game unplayable unless you use real money, therefore, this would be a BANNED game as it is NOT free to play, but pay to play.

 

In other words, it's to ban games that are near enough unplayable with long waiting times such as Dungeon Keeper and even that atrocious Square game that was released on iOS too. Games like League of Legends or Smite won't be affected by this as they are examples of true free to play.

 

To put it simply, this is a good thing. It'll get rid of games that are money sinks and a scam.

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