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ASA rulings reinforce importance of disclosing loot boxes in video game advertisements

Posted on 10 May 2024

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has once again made clear the importance of transparency in the advertising of games that feature loot boxes.

In a series of rulings against prominent game publishers Electronic Arts (EA), Miniclip and Jagex, the ASA upheld complaints regarding the omission of material information about in-game purchases and loot boxes in advertisements.

Requirement to disclose the presence of in-game purchases and loot boxes

The Committee of Advertising Practice's UK Code for Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (the CAP Code) states that marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so (Rule 3.1) and must not omit material information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product (Rule 3.3).

In its 2021 guidance, the ASA indicated that the presence of in-game purchases and loot boxes may be a crucial factor in a consumer's choice to buy or download a game, especially for customers who may be more susceptible to such features. Therefore, to comply with the CAP Code, there should be clear disclosure of the presence of loot boxes and in-game purchases in all promotional content, including app store listings.

Our previous article on ASA loot box rulings outlines the genesis of the disclosure requirement and the efforts the games industry has taken to protect players, including the trade body UKIE's Principles and Guidance on Paid Loot Boxes.

The rulings

Miniclip (UK) Ltd: 8 Ball Pool

The complaint against Miniclip centred around a paid-for Facebook advertisement for Minclip's 8 Ball Pool, which included the words "PLAY FREE NOW" and a link to the app store.

Despite Miniclip's claim that material information had not been omitted, as the game does not require users to make in-game purchases in order to play and to progress, the ASA upheld the complaint. This was because the advertisement did not contain any information to indicate that the game contained in-game purchases, including loot boxes, and therefore misleadingly omitted material information in breach of CAP Code rules 3.1 and 3.3.

Miniclip withdrew the advertisement and provided the ASA with assurance that future advertisements would not omit such material information.

Electronic Arts Ltd: Golf Clash

The complaint against EA involved two paid-for Facebook advertisements for EA's Golf Clash mobile game.

The first advertisement invited players to explore the game's newly launched web store for special offers. It also offered a reward of in-game virtual currency for players who signed up to the newsletter.

The second advertisement included an image of a virtual golf course and promoted an in-game 'Tour Championship' event, with text that stated that reaching 'Gold Prestige' status would allow players to convert their spare balls into 'Generation Tokens'.

Whilst the ASA acknowledged that references to a web store made clear that the game included in-game purchases, the complaint was nevertheless upheld because the first advertisement did not indicate that the web store included loot boxes and the second advertisement did not indicate that the game contained loot boxes or in game purchases. On that basis, the ASA ruled that the advertisement omitted material information, in breach of CAP Code rules 3.1 and 3.3, meaning consumers were unlikely to understand the potential transaction decisions they would make.

EA explained that the advertisements were mistakenly published without the disclosure regarding in-game purchases, and that they have a policy which requires advertisements for games with in-game purchases and loot boxes to contain the text "Includes optional in-game purchases (includes random items)". EA explained that the omission was due to human error, confirmed that the advertisement had been removed and reiterated its commitment to advertising in compliance with the CAP Code.

Jagex Ltd: RuneScape

The complaint against Jagex focused on a paid-for Facebook ad for Jagex's online game, RuneScape, which featured gameplay scenes promoting the game's new Necromancy combat style. The advertisement linked to a website landing page for the game which clearly disclosed the existence of in-game purchases and loot boxes, even though the advertisement itself had not. 

In its response to the ASA, Jagex clarified that whilst RuneScape did feature in-game purchases, including loot boxes, these loot boxes were only available for purchase within a mini-game called Treasure Hunter. Jagex emphasised that the advertisement in question did not promote the mini game, but instead advertised the new combat style.

Jagex also explained that due to time and space constraints for the Facebook advertisement, they had taken other measures to ensure consumers had all relevant information about the game before making the decision to download and play it. For example, Jagex explained that the advertisement linked to a landing page which highlighted the presence of in-game purchases and loot boxes in several areas and displayed three PEGI Labels, including the label for in-game purchases, alongside text stating, "In-game purchases (Includes Random Items)".

Jagex cited the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (the CPRs), which defined a consumer's transactional decision as any decision taken by a consumer about whether, how and on what terms to buy, pay in whole or in part for, retain or dispose of a product. Jagex also referred to the CAP Guidance, which stated that information regarding in-game purchases and loot boxes influences the decision to purchase or download a game. Its argument was based on the premise that the transactional decision in this instance revolved around the choice to purchase or download RuneScape, a decision that couldn't be directly made from the advertisement itself, but from the landing page. They contended that since the information crucial to the decision-making process was disclosed on the landing page prior to making the decision to purchase or download the game, the advertisement did not violate the CAP Code.

However, the ASA considered that the decision to access the RuneScape landing page (by clicking a button labelled "Play Game") from the advertisement was, in itself, a transactional decision in relation to downloading the game, and considered that consumers were not provided with information that was material to that decision.

The ASA also disagreed with Jagex's contention that the advertisement was constrained by time and space. The ASA considered that the character and time restrictions on the Facebook post were not sufficiently limiting to the extent that they would prevent the text "In-game Purchases (Includes Random Items)" or the relevant PEGI label from appearing in the advertisement.

The ASA upheld the complaint and instructed Jagex that the advertisement must not appear again. It also asked them to ensure that future advertisements for RuneScape disclosed the presence of in-game purchases and loot boxes.


These rulings highlight the importance of ensuring sufficient disclosure in advertisements for games which feature in-game purchases and loot boxes.

The academic behind these complaints to the ASA has commented publicly that he is likely to continue alerting the ASA to advertisements which he does not consider to be compliant with the CAP Code, with a particular focus on developers who are members of the industry trade body, UKIE, and signatories to its Principles and Guidance on Paid Loot Boxes.

It is crucial, therefore, that game publishers take note of these rulings and implement and rigorously enforce internal policies to ensure that all advertisements comply with the CAP code. Advertisements should indicate the presence of in-game purchases and loot boxes (in the advertisement itself) regardless of whether or not they are necessary to progress and despite disclosures made elsewhere.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised by these rulings, please get in touch.

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