Following numerous complaints regarding the marketing and promotion of games categorised as ‘free to play’, the EC has created a new common position for companies creating apps (including games) which contain in-app purchases…
- Games cannot be advertised as ‘free’ unless the in-app purchases are ‘optional’.
- Children cannot be specifically targeted for in-app purchases, or told to ask an adult to do so (and there will be a way to complain directly to Apple/Google if you’re found doing so).
- Consumers must have more information about any actual purchases, before they’re made (i.e. you just just take their money and assume it’s fine).
- Developers will have to provide a direct point of contact to deal with complaints
Both Google and Apple are working with the European Commission to implement these new positions, though in some cases no firm deadline has been implemented.
While the model itself can be utilised in cynical or exploitative ways, it has proved a hit with players worldwide. The games sector’s ongoing reluctance to utilise or innovate the free-to-play model has meant that new experiences and more benevolent and creative forms of in-app purchases have been slow to appear.
The new guidelines and compliance from the major app markets could potentially lead to an entirely new approach to F2P. One which puts the player first and potentially even makes developers some money they don’t have to feel bad about.
There’s some excellent analysis of what Google and Apple have so far agreed to and the likely outcome of this latest statement over on the (also excellent) Gamer Law site.