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Freedom Isn't Free: Google Play Store Changes Listing of F2P Games

After being pressured by the European Commission, Google agrees to remove 'Free' listing from games that have microtransactions.

Free-to-Play or F2P games have been all the rage on mobile devices since their advent, and both Apple and Google have actually made a substantial profit off of these 'free' games, but yesterday that changed - for Google, at least. After being pressured by the European Commission of the Consumer Protection Cooperation network the multi-billion dollar technology giant has permanently removed the 'free' label from any games on the Google Play Store that allow for microtransactions.

According to Develop-online.net along with this concession by Google, the CPC network is pushing through the following guidelines to regulate future releases to the store:

In 2014 consumers spent an average of $14.00 per transaction on 'free' microtransaction games. These microtransactions make up 79% of all U.S. app store revenue.
  • Games advertised as "free" should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved
  • 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

The enforcement of this new policy is the first time the EU Commission has joined forces with national authorities, and if you're wondering why this is such a big deal here's a bit more information about microtransactions.

A microtransaction system is when a F2P game allows players to pay money to unlock extra content. This content sometimes comes in the form of cosmetic changes to the game (outfits for avatars, trophies, etc) but can also come in the form of extended gameplay, extra levels, new weapons, and much more.

This system has actually been implemented in a few MMORPGs to great success, but in mobile games the microtransactions are not explicitly stated or are targeted towards children.

Interestingly, while Google has agreed to remove the 'free' listing for microtransaction games Apple has not yet agreed to any such terms.

Published Jul. 22nd 2014

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