Crackdown on Moshi Monsters
The ASA, the UK's advertising watchdog, has cracked down in a ruling against online games Moshi Monsters and Bin Weevils. They're not happy about the ways in which they pressure children to spend money.
The Advertising Standards Authority said both "directly pressured" youngsters to pay subscriptions, and that, in the case of Moshi Monsters, children were told that they'd be "super popular" if they coughed up money. Meanwhile, Bin Weevils' options to pay subscriptions were put to children as if they were orders, rather than requests.
"Although it was possible to play the games without spending real money or sharing the game, certain activities required participation in a paid-membership system, which entitled members to additional benefits," the ASA said.
"Both games contained language and prominent calls to action that put pressure on young players to purchase a subscription to take part in additional gameplay. We considered that text, including "Become a Member", "JOIN NOW", directly exhorted children to purchase membership subscriptions as well as in-game 'currency'."
The ASA added that Moshi Monsters used phrases like "The Super Moshis need YOU" which pressurise children. Of course, putting direct pressure on children is prohibited by the advertising code. It must be a nightmare for the ASA at Christmas eh?
The watchdog said that they're reminding publishers to take more care with in-game purchase mechanisms aimed at kids.
Mind Candy, who publish Moshi Monsters, said it took its "responsibilities very seriously with regards to how we communicate with all of our fans, especially children". In a statement, they said: "We have been working with the ASA to ensure that we adhere to best practice and have made changes to the Moshi Monsters game accordingly. We will continue to work with the ASA in any way possible."
The Bin Weevils publisher, 55pixels, said: "As soon as [we] were made aware of the complaint made to the ASA about a potential breach, and once we had understood the area for concern, we changed all our membership pages to comply with their recommendations. They subsequently upheld the complaint about the original wording but referenced that we now complied, in the text of the ruling."