Traditional free-to-play games may soon be illegal in Europe

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Advertising for traditional free-to-play games is “misleading,” says the European Commission, after the organisation began to receive complaints from consumers “all over Europe” regarding supposedly ‘free’ to use games and applications.


After meeting to discuss the matter, ministers of the European Commission may very well decide that if a developer advertises a game as ‘free-to-play,’ the application will need to be completely free, as opposed to free to download with in-app purchases and microtransactions included. Justice commissioner Viviane Reding says that current adverts for free-to-play games are “misleading consumers” and is “clearly the wrong business model,” which Reding claims “also goes against the spirit of EU rules on consumer protection.”

“The European Commission will expect very concrete answers from the app industry to the concerns raised by citizens and national consumer organisations,” Reding continued.

The New Norm

Those who have been playing free-to-play games for some time will know, however, that the claim of ‘free’ often only ever applies to the initial download with the inclusion of a game full of content that’s possible to be played through either without spending a cent, or by paying to unlock new features or gain the ability to achieve more in a single play session.

The European Commission, however, fears that players (including children) not aware of the traditional free-to-play business model will unwittingly make in-app purchases:

“Children are particularly vulnerable to marketing of ‘free to download’ games which are not ‘free to play,'” the governing body claims, while commissioner Neven Mimica says that “consumers and in particular children need better protection against unexpected costs from in-app purchases.”

To this end, the European Commission will convene to decide if the term ‘free-to-play’ can be applied to all games that are both free and only initially free, or only games that are completely free. From a statement:

“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.”

Do you agree that developers and publishers of free-to-play games should be forced to advertise and promote their games under another term other than free-to-play, or is this term so engrained in gaming culture that it’s generally accepted without further explanation necessary?

Source: CVG

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