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  • ASA tells EA loot box disclaimer must be clearer in video game ads
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The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that an Electronic Arts (EA) advertisement must not appear again in its current form.

The UK watchdog said a paid-for Facebook ad for the publisher’s Golf Clash game included a disclaimer that the game contained loot boxes, but that it was not sufficiently clear.

A complaint was made to the ASA by an academic researcher in game regulation, who challenged whether the ad was misleading due to the disclaimer not being clear enough.

Loot boxes are a video game mechanic which allow users to buy in-game items randomly, without knowing which item they will receive in exchange for the price.

The mechanic has attracted significant controversy within the video gaming and gambling sectors, with some governments even choosing to classify loot boxes as a gambling product.

Last year, a UK-based video game trade association published a set of 11 principles designed to improve player protections around loot boxes.

The principles included a requirement for parents or guardians to give consent before under-18s purchase boxes, as well as the requirement for advertisers to disclose the presence of loot boxes in games prior to purchase and download.

Ad complaint 

In EA’s ad for Golf Clash, a disclaimer was included, stating that the game: “Includes optional in-game purchases (includes random items)”.

In response to the complaint about the ad, EA highlighted that the message was “clearly visible for two seconds at the start of the ad,” and that it therefore believed the information was “easily accessible and straightforward for consumers to find.”

The video game publisher also pointed out that the product description for the game, linked to by the ad, also made clear that the game contained random item purchases.

In its response, however, the ASA said: “The text was presented in a light grey font and appeared against a moving background of various clips of gameplay footage, including a golden statue, a lake and a golf course.”

Because the gameplay clips behind the disclaimer were “brightly coloured and appeared in rapid succession”, “the background creative distorted the appearance of the text and, in combination with the quick-moving nature of the video clips, made it difficult to read the text,” the ASA added.

The size of the text on-screen was also considered to be small, and the ASA further noted that the message appeared for just two seconds before disappearing.

“Because the presentation of the text within the context of the ad overall was not presented clearly, we concluded the ad was likely to mislead consumers to the presence of loot boxes within the game, which we considered to be material information,” the ASA concluded.

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