In a press release, the European Commission outlined the four consumer-raised issues that will be discussed in detail at the meeting:
- Games advertised as "free" should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved;
- Games should not contain direct exhortations to children to buy items in a game or to persuade an adult to buy items for them;
- Consumers should be adequately informed about the payment arrangements and purchases should not be debited through default settings without consumers' explicit consent;
- Traders should provide an email address so that consumers can contact them in case of queries or complaints.
Free-to-play is a growing watchword on game studios' financial reports, but it's continued to attract controversy. Peter Molyneux, creator of the original Dungeon Keeper, lambasted the recent mobile reboot for its time-based paywalls, while Disney removed a similar system from Where's My Water 2 after it was derided by fans. Several games are drawing scrutiny for the cost of in-app purchases, such as the $100 in-game cars of Angry Birds Go.
The meeting follows last month's mandate from the Office of Fair Trading, in which the UK body detailed an April 1 deadline for games producers to comply with its principles. The OFT says games should be upfront about their costs and in-game advertising, and in-game payments are forbidden without an account holder's "express, informed consent."