Apple and Google have both been pushed by the European Commission to change how free-to-play games are marketed and presented in the iTunes and Google Play markets.

CVG reports that Google has decided to side with the European Commission's push for change when it comes to how mobile games are being marketed. As a result, Google plans on drastically changing its Google Play marketplace, removing the word "free" from games with in-app transactions. A multitude of mobile and tablet-based games are advertised as "free-to-play," but are very misleading in this premise. Many of times, free-to-play mobile titles are often met with limited gameplay timers and restricted access to in-game content for the sake of promoting paid, "freemium" content that users are heavily encouraged to buy for the sake of having a smoother experience. This means that games advertised as free actually have a multitude of its content locked away and require in-app purchases for further access, which doesn't really sound all that free. Many of these free-to-play games can be looked at as glorified demos, that simply encourage players to buy the full title.

The European Commission issued a public statement to Google and Apple saying that "games advertised as 'free' should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved". The Commission also mentioned the following recommendations that should be made in the mobile market:

  • Games should not contain direct exhortation to children to buy items in a game or to persuade an adult to buy items for them;
  • Consumers should be adequately informed about the payment arrangements for purchases and should not be debited through default settings without consumers' explicit consent;
  • Traders should provide an email address so that consumers can contact them in case of queries or complaints.

Arcade Sushi has a long history with reviewing iOS titles, so we have seen a plethora of in-app purchases, freemium content and the various other ways that the mobile market has tried to make money off of its players in games that were described as being free-to-play. Luckily, Google has decided to change the Google Play store to remove the word "free" from titles with in-app purchases and will implement security measures of user identification for every purchase. One of the biggest culprits of this was the Dungeon Keeper mobile title, which advertised its game as free, but used images featuring paid content in the same advertisements.

Apple plans to address these concerns, but has yet to make any formal announcement regarding any changes to its iTunes market policies. Hopefully, the rest of the world will follow in the European Commission's suggestions.

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