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The Daily Grind: Is the term free-to-play intentionally misleading?

Bree Royce, @nbrianna
July 11, 2014
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Earlier this month, Britain's Advertising Standards Authority barred EA from advertising its mobile game Dungeon Keeper as "free-to-play." Why? Because Dungeon Keeper has a countdown timer that blocks progress in the game, a timer that can be bypassed with money. "From the information available in the ad, players would expect the gameplay progression and their ability to advance to be unhindered by unexpected and excessively onerous delays," wrote ASA, "and we therefore considered that the length and frequency of these countdown events was beyond that which would be reasonably expected by players. [...] While we understood that the average consumer would appreciate that free-to-play games were likely to contain monetization functions, we considered that they would also expect the play experience of a game described as 'free' to not be excessively restricted."

Welcome, ASA, to the MMO community's endless debate over what constitutes free-to-play! This "free-to-wait" game mechanic is nothing new to us; it pervades mobile titles as well as many MMORTS titles and indie MMOs (Glitch and Villagers and Heroes come to mind). As a gamer, I find the mechanic not so much exploitative as obnoxious, and I'd rather not see it spread. But I spy a slippery slope here. Do you think the ASA is right? Are MMOs with this mechanic (or similar mechanics) misleading consumers? Which F2P games could be legitimately F2P under the ASA's understanding of the term?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!





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