ASA: CAP Code remit can be applied to video in-game purchases

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has published guidance on how gaming and media stakeholders should manage and monitor in-game purchases and player incentives.    

CAP guidance forms part of a 2020 consultation led by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which is charged with ensuring that audiences are better protected and informed on in-game purchases and engagements.

The consultation was launched following the DCMS’ select committee concerns on loot box age targeting, how prizes were valued and whether in-game advertising could be maintained in the remit of the UK Code of Advertising (CAP Code).

ASA evaluation focused on the key areas of in-game virtual currencies, pricing of in-game purchases, engagement mechanics of in-game purchases and the advertising of games that promote in-game purchasing.

On in-game advertising, ASA said that its CAP Code remit applied to the video game ‘store fronts’ that provide a ‘direct link to selling goods or services’.

As a result, CAP advertising rules could be applied to virtual currencies that ‘can be directly purchased for with real money’. Game developers must therefore disclose the ‘like-for-like real monetary value’ of items that can be purchased by players.

However, ASA noted that games that awarded virtual currencies solely as a player achievement, skill or top-up reward would be excluded from following CAP rules.

Game developers can no longer use deceptive language to promote purchases, implying that a purchase will lead to success or using complex offers to sell in-game purchases. 

Under CAP rules, ASA will monitor the use of predatory mechanics to sell in-game purchases, such as countdown offers, time-limited purchases and bundled items.    

On loot box random-item incentives, ASA stated that it had consulted the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) as to whether reward mechanics could be classified as a form of gambling.

The standards body noted that it was ‘not entitled to make a determination’ as the UKGC and DCMS, carries out an assessment of loot box laws as part of its casework reviewing the 2005 Gambling Act

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