European Commission want free-to-play to describe only games "free in their entirety" | PCGamesN

Grand Ages: Medieval features more volcanoes than is reasonable for a game set in this period in history

Prison Architect Update 27 fixes the problems caused by teleporting food

Maia Update 0.46 video squishes bugs, adds botany and body bags

European Commission want free-to-play to describe only games "free in their entirety"

Turbine kicked off an MMO revolution with their generous implementation of free-to-play in Lord of the Rings Online.

Turbine kicked off an MMO revolution with their generous implementation of free-to-play in LOTRO.

The European Commission - the tremendously important body which proposes and enforces EU law - are meeting with tech companies and national consumer protection authorities today and tomorrow to talk free-to-play. Specifically, they’re worried about the rising cacophony of complaints from parents who’ve incurred unexpected and quite dramatic bills thanks to in-app purchases in purportedly free games.

The Commission’s suggestion? If you call your game free-to-play, you really have to mean it. No IAPs, no nothing.

“Consumers and in particular children need better protection against unexpected costs from in-app purchases,” said consumer policy commissioner Neven Mimica in a statement. 

“National enforcement authorities and the European Commission are discussing with industry how to address this issue which causes financial harm to consumers,” he went on. “Coming up with concrete solutions as soon as possible will be a win-win for all.”

Decisive movement like this is clearly prompted, in the most part, by iPhone purchase mishaps - but any decisions made could send ripples through the PC free-to-play market too. Reassuringly, the EC don’t just intend to slap down developers who’re acting inethically - but also preserve the credibility of a “very promising market”.

Ahead of the talks, the Consumer Protection Cooperation and EC member states have released a list of ‘common positions’ on free-to-play. At the top of that list is misleading advertising.

“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,” they wrote.

Other proposed safeguards include explicit consent for in-app purchases, clear contact information for customers to get in touch with developers, and an end to calls to “Buy now!” or “Upgrade now!” in games likely to be played by children.

The meetings are being held to establish a “common understanding” between national authorities and developers rather than to propose legislation - but the EC have said they’re prepared to follow through with the relevant consumer rights bodies to enforce standards in the future.

The consequences for PC developers aren’t clear: perhaps some will find it significantly tougher to make money from free-to-play down the line. Or perhaps they’ll simply need to attach a new name to the payment model (free-to-play-for-a-bit?).

Have any of you lot had a genuinely rough experience with a free-to-play PC game? I think the model's done wonders for making MMOs accessible in chunks, personally - though obviously not without some ongoing teething issues.

Thanks, Games Industry.

Login or Register
3
+3
-0
Gwathdring's picture
114

Go European Commission! I wish our regulators bothered to talk about video-games and technology with any sort of intelligence; agree with their conclusions or not, that this stuff is even part of the regulation discussion for the EU looks really fantastic from over here in the states.

2
+2
-0
Dog Pants's picture
1019

I'm not a fan of state hand-holding, and I don't think free-to-play models are a big problem on the PC, but on the mobile scene it's becoming hugely exploitative. I absolutely agree that any transaction should be explicitly agreed to by the buyer, and I don't think some kind of transparency on pricing could ever be a bad thing, but declaring you can't call a game free-to-play because of microtransactions is pissing into the wind - it'll still say 'free' on the app store and they'll just call it a free client or something else instead.

I've never had a bad experience with free-to-play because I approach them with cynicism and very rarely buy anything. The worst culprits are awful games anyway, barely even games at all. The best ones give you the option of buying further content for a game you enjoy or limit their microtransactions to cosmetics and variety, and I think these can be a good way of managing how much you want to spend on a game.

2
+2
-0
Belimawr's picture
493

free to play should be free, they should be forced to call them self freemium if they are using microtransactions.

as microtransactions are the most dangerous thing to ever come to gaming, they are designed so unsuspecting people think "it's only a couple of quid" so it extracts the money slowly over a while so the person don't look at it and think "how much do they want for this?"

the freemium model is designed entirely to dupe people out of more money than the game would actually sell for and that to me is something that needs stopping.

2
+2
-0
Sam_Fisher's picture
18

As long as you stick with the big f2p titles your fine. LOTRO, EQ2, Neverwinter, TF2, DOTA2, etc.

1
+1
-0
Belimawr's picture
493

neverwinter is a bad example, they give you a purple loot item that you need to buy an item from the shop to open, if thats not trying to force people to pay I don't know what is.

1
+1
-0
icheyne's picture
101

The only reason this isn't a serious problem on PC is because there are barely any kids games on PC.

It's a nightmare with my kids and our Android tablet. They constantly ask for IAPs. They have got the message now, but it was a struggle I would rather not have had. The frustrating thing is that almost all the best games are freemium.

Alienware - Game VictoriousTurtle Beach
Grand Ages: Medieval features more volcanoes than is reasonable for a game set in this period in history

Grand Ages: Medieval

Grand Ages: Medieval features more volcanoes than is reasonable for a game set in this period in history

Prison Architect Update 27 fixes the problems caused by teleporting food

Prison Architect Update 27 fixes the problems caused by teleporting food

Maia Update 0.46 video squishes bugs, adds botany and body bags

Maia Update 0.46 video squishes bugs, adds botany and body bags

Path of Exile Content Update 1.3.0 hits, brings new challenge leagues and PvP revamp

Path of Exile Content Update 1.3.0 hits, brings new challenge leagues and PvP revamp

DayZ will not be finished until 2016, will increase in price

DayZ will not be finished until 2016, will increase in price

Daedalic is adapting The Pillars of the Earth novel for an adventure game

Daedalic is adapting The Pillars of the Earth novel for an adventure game

Sera is the only companion you need in Dragon Age: Inquisition

Dragon Age 3: Inquisition

Sera is the only companion you need in Dragon Age: Inquisition

Star Citizen hits $63million in funding, next stretch goal is a cat

Star Citizen hits $63million in funding, next stretch goal is a cat

Westeros bound: first episode of Game of Thrones premieres on December 2nd

Westeros bound: first episode of Game of Thrones premieres on December 2nd

Endless updates: Amplitude releases free add-ons for Endless Space and Endless Legend

Endless updates: Amplitude releases free add-ons for Endless Space and Endless Legend

This War of Mine paid off its own development costs in just two days

This War of Mine paid off its own development costs in just two days

The best PC gaming Black Friday sales

Sales

The best PC gaming Black Friday sales

A weird Dragon Age: Inquisition bug is making party members shy

A weird Dragon Age: Inquisition bug is making party members shy

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive pros tussle over $250,000 at DreamHack Winter

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive pros tussle over $250,000 at DreamHack Winter

Metal Gear Online to return alongside The Phantom Pain

Metal Gear Online to return alongside The Phantom Pain

Cubism: Tate gallery make Minecraft maps of some of history's best-loved paintings

Cubism: Tate gallery make Minecraft maps of some of history's best-loved paintings

Get covered in Grey Goo on January 23rd

Get covered in Grey Goo on January 23rd

World of Tanks Stronghold guide: why you’re going to need a mighty clan

World of Tanks

World of Tanks Stronghold guide: why you’re going to need a mighty clan

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is getting super zombies with the Havoc DLC next year

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is getting super zombies with the Havoc DLC next year

DayZ's 2015 roadmap has been revealed; final version will release in the first half of 2016

DayZ's 2015 roadmap has been revealed; final version will release in the first half of 2016

Mea culpa: Ubisoft offers free DLC to Assassin's Creed Unity players and a free game to season pass holders

Mea culpa: Ubisoft offers free DLC to Assassin's Creed Unity players and a free game to season pass holders

Youtubers told to flag promotional videos by ASA. All thanks to biscuits

Youtubers told to flag promotional videos by ASA. All thanks to biscuits

Crookz is a disco-themed heist simulator

Crookz is a disco-themed heist simulator