The Office for the Organization of Fair Trade in the UK has issued standards for projects with in-game payments. Will free-to-play survive after their introduction? 

A document revealing the rules for games containing IAP has been released in Foggy Albion today. If the developers do not adapt their games to them by April 1, 2014, the teams will be outlawed. 

The introduction of norms was due, as reported in the document, to the following factors:

  • The lack of clear and precise information about the possible costs associated with the installation of the game;
  • unfair commercial practices against the background of aggressive advertising;
  • manipulation of children (calls to purchase advertised IAPs);
  • payment charged without the knowledge of the account holders.   

The norms are as follows:

The first principle

Information about the costs associated with the game must be provided clearly, clearly and legibly before the user starts playing, downloading or subscribing or agreeing to make a purchase. 

By costs we mean:

  • Directly the cost of subscription, download or purchase of the game;
  • all subsequent costs that the user will have to make if he wants to continue the game;
  • optional extra payments, including IAP.

If any of these payments cannot be correctly calculated in advance, the developers must provide instructions on the form of cost calculation.

Whenever a user has to buy something, they will need to be informed of the full cost of the item in a clear and accessible form before making a purchase.  

Principle two

All material information about the application must be provided to the user before he starts playing, downloading, registering or making a purchase. By “material information” we mean information about the main characteristics of the game / any other information necessary for the average user to make a decision about buying, downloading, etc.

This includes, among other things, the need to enter information about whether the product contains advertising, information about the data collected by the game (and why this data is so necessary), as well as data about social elements.

The third principle

Information should be given about the developer / publisher of the project, as well as who you can contact if you have any questions.

The fourth principle

Advertising of any in-game purchase or any product/service must be different from the gameplay. The bottom line is that it can be difficult for many small users to identify ads in the context of the game.

The fifth principle

The game should not mislead users by giving the impression that payment is necessary or that it is an integral part of the game. However, this is only true if it is not true.

Principle six

The game should not use aggressive methods of stimulating purchases, which, among other things, exploit the inexperience of young players.

In other words, instead of “Your seagull is hungry! Feed her ice cream, or she will become sad“, now you will need to write “Your seagull is hungry! Feed her sardines or ice cream to make her strong.” Sardines are resources that can be accumulated in the game, ice cream is a rare consumable that can be bought for real money.

Principle seven

In the game, developers should not directly ask children to make purchases. The game should also not incite children to ask them to buy something in the game from their parents. 

Principle eight

Payment should not be withdrawn from the account outside of authorization. 

As we understand it, we are talking about the fact that each in-game purchase must be accompanied not only by a pop-up window warning about the cost of payment, but also by entering a password. However, the document clarifies that if the user does not want to enter a password every time, he can disable this function on his own. 

In general, it seems to us that the document does not introduce anything fundamentally new. Yes, developers will have to make descriptions of their games longer, but hardly anyone will read them. 

What do you think?

The full version of the document can be found here.

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