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EA, Jagex, and Miniclip broke loot box advertising rules

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has upheld complaints against EA, Jagex, and Miniclip for failing to disclose the presence of loot boxes in their adverts.

The complaints were filed to the ASA by researcher Leon Y. Xiao, who has previously conducted studies on the effectiveness of Belgium’s loot box ban

and the consistency of loot box warnings on games.

Xiao’s complaints challenged ads by EA, Jagex and Miniclip for being “misleading because they omitted material information” – the presence of loot boxes – in paid promotions on Facebook. Current ASA guidance states advertising must make it clear if loot boxes exist in a game, with a notification on store pages at a minimum.

Eurogamer Newscast: News Quiz of the Year 2023!

Eurogamer Newscast: News Quiz of the Year 2023!

The ASA upheld all three of the complaints, which were filed against EA and its mobile game Golf Clash, Jagex and Runescape, and Miniclip and 8 Ball Pool. In EA’s case, the company claimed the ads were “mistakenly published without the prescribed disclosure” as a “result of human error”. Jagex responded to the ASA by explaining the ad highlighted the new Necromancy skill in Runscape, and said it was “constrained by time and space”. The ad instead linked to a page which disclosed the presence of loot boxes in Runescape, which Jagex argued was compliant with regulation. Lastly, Miniclip told the ASA its ad for 8 Ball Pool didn’t include mention of loot boxes as the game can be played for free. After being notified of the complaint, it withdrew the ad and stated future ads would contain the necessary disclosure.

The ASA ruled all three ads breached rules 3.1 and 3.3 of the Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP) Code under misleading advertising. All three companies are not allowed to use the ads again, and were warned by the ASA to ensure any ads for the games disclose in-game purchases, including loot boxes, in future.

Xiao made his complaints to the ASA after publishing another study this January which found that the majority of ads for games with loot boxes on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and TikTok failed to disclose the loot boxes, therefore putting them in breach of the ASA’s rules.

EA and Jagex are members of the working group which represented the games industry to help the UK government form new regulation to restrict access to loot boxes for children in July 2023. Mobile developer Hutch Games, which had complaints (filed by Xiao) against two of its games upheld by the ASA in October 2023, is also a member of the working group. At the time, Xiao said the complaints against Hutch were a warning to other companies who are part of the working group and were not compliant with advertising rules. “I will make a further batch of complaints in 2024 if the non-compliance is not fixed by then,” he warned.

“These members are supposed to be leading role models representing the whole industry, rather than rulebreakers themselves,” Xiao said of EA and Jagex on X. “I think the upheld complaints really challenge whether that group can be relied upon to deliver the intended aims of better protecting players and children.”

Xiao called for stricter action against repeat offenders, and for platforms to have some involvement in regulating ads it hosts.


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