What happens when free-to-play Dungeon Keeper isn’t really free?

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The British Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that Electronic Arts can no longer claim that their free-to-play mobile version of Dungeon Keeper is actually free in their United Kingdom marketing. According to the ASA statement, advertisements were found to be misleading because players would discover that their rate of progress was hindered unless they spent money to bypass timers. Although EA explained that the in-game currency could be obtained through grinding without spending real money, the ASA did not find the excuse sufficient.

We acknowledged that the Gem currency, through which the timers could be skipped, could be obtained for free through normal gameplay and that the game could therefore be played without spending currency to bypass the countdown. However, we understood that the rate at which they could be accrued was slow in comparison to the amount needed to play the game at a reasonable rate, where the delays did not significantly impact on the ability to continue playing. Given this, we considered that players were likely to find themselves in a situation where they wished to bypass timers to achieve the expected gameplay as above, but were unable to do so without making a monetary purchase of the Gem currency. Although the game activities were available without cost to the player, we considered that for players to achieve the gameplay experience that was reasonable for them to anticipate, it was likely that they would need to spend money on the premium currency.

The ASA has directed Electronic Arts to change their UK advertising to clarify what players should expect from free gameplay and how in-app purchases may be used to speed up progress.