By Jonathan Laury, Copy Group Executive
Games have come a long way in a very short space of time. Just in the last few years they have eclipsed the film industry for UK revenue, and yet they are still, inexplicably, seen as a poor relation. Given the number of people playing games in the UK, it’s no surprise that games advertising also comes under scrutiny. Accordingly, the ASA upheld a complaint earlier this year that sets an interesting precedent for a sector where tech evolves very rapidly.
An ad for Gran Turismo Sport for the PS4 was found to be in breach of the rules because it did not make it clear that an internet connection was required to play the game. As someone who plays games regularly, and has an occasionally spotty internet connection, I’m all too aware of modern consoles’ love of being connected. The confusion comes from the different tiers of connectivity games require.
The major consoles – PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Switch (from September this year) – all have a subscription service to allow online multiplayer gaming. That means without paying a monthly fee you can’t play with/against friends or strangers online. If an ad for a game is making a virtue out of playing online, then a super will be required along the lines of ‘Online subscription required’. Assuming the ad mentions something about playing online then we wouldn’t also insist on an ‘Internet connection required’ super. On a separate level there are games which require a free membership of PlayStation or Xbox’s online service and must be played online, but don’t need a paid subscription. If these are required to play the game, then this must be clear in the ad.
Now we come to games which can be played offline but have additional content when connected to the internet, like Gran Turismo Sport. In the case of Gran Turismo, although the game can be played offline, some game modes are limited or not available. The ASA felt that the amount of content offline vs the amount of content when connected meant that a super should have been added to clarify that internet connection was necessary.
Finally there are games which can be played in their entirety offline. These days it’s incredibly likely that software patches will be released by the developers to fix bugs or add new content. Unless this new content is mentioned in the ad we would not expect a super about internet connections to be added.
It’s worth noting that in their defence of the Gran Turismo ad, Sony argued that the majority of consoles were connected to the internet regularly. The ASA were not swayed. The overwhelming popularity of Fortnite has meant a lot of parents have had a crash course in how online gaming works. Perhaps when the next console generation launches in a couple of years’ time things will have moved on and understanding of the various tiers of connectivity required will be widespread. Keep your eye on our website* for any updates.
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