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ASA rules mobile game ad was misleading: gameplay depicted did not reflect the core game playing experience

Posted on 23 April 2024

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint against Top Games Inc (Top Games), on the basis that the gameplay depicted in an ad for a mobile game, 'Evony: The King's Return', did not reflect "the game's core playing experience" and was therefore misleading to consumers.

The ruling

The complaint related to a paid-for X (formerly Twitter) video ad which depicted a character shooting different numbered barrels rolling towards the character. The ad was accompanied by a caption which read: "Navigate obstacles, unleash devastating attacks”.

In its ruling, the ASA considered that upon seeing the ad, consumers would assume that the game predominantly involved a puzzle solving element which involved shooting targets and avoiding obstacles. 

However, when the ASA reviewed actual gameplay footage, they understood that Evony was not primarily a puzzle solving game. Instead, the ASA considered that the 'core gameplay' was city-building, along with puzzle and player vs player, player vs environment elements. Although players could choose to play only one of the elements of the game, such as the puzzles, if they did not play all elements of the game they would not be able to progress and would eventually be prevented from playing the puzzles. It was for these reasons that the ASA concluded that the ad did not accurately reflect the core gameplay experience and was therefore misleading.

In its response, Top Games distinguished this matter from previous ASA rulings on the basis that the ad in question depicted real gameplay and mechanics. Top Games further asserted that the puzzles were not mere mini-games but were instead a key part of the overall game and pointed to a retention rate of over 80% from players that had been shown the ad, contending that players were sophisticated and would uninstall the game shortly after downloading it if it did not align with their expectations.  Top Games further explained that it would be difficult to display the full breadth and scope of the game in a short ad.

Despite the response from Top Games, the ASA deemed the ad to be misleading and ruled that it was in breach of rule 3.1 of the CAP Code. Rule 3.1 of the CAP Code requires that marketing communications must not "materially mislead or be likely to do so".


Previous rulings by the ASA have indicated that game ads will be considered misleading if they are not representative of the game; for example if the gameplay mechanics and performance displayed in the ad do not actually appear in the game itself, or if the ad is a cinematic representation of gameplay (see the rulings against Rivergame Ltd and AppQuantum in 2022).

This ASA ruling goes further than requiring ads to be representative of gameplay; it clarifies that ads must reflect the "game's core gameplay experience" – if a game is primarily a base building game and puzzles are one aspect of the game, showing only the puzzle features of the game in an ad is likely to be considered misleading  – even if the ad is similar to actual gameplay.

As the ASA continues to focus on ensuring that consumers are not misled by video game ads, it is important for game developers and publishers to stay informed and implement internal policies and procedures designed to ensure that ads are compliant with the CAP Code and that take into account learnings from previous ASA rulings. If you would like to discuss the issues raised by this ruling, please get in touch. 

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