How will the OFT's published principles affect developers?

How will the OFT's published principles affect developers?
James Batchelor

By James Batchelor

January 30th 2014 at 5:06PM

UKIE CEO Jo Twist discusses what studios can take away from today's report

In a crowded digital marketplace brand trust is extremely important. We know that our members care very much about their relationship with their players and doing right by them, especially when children are concerned. That’s why we, as a cutting edge, constantly innovating sector, have always been proactive and a leader for other industries when it comes to parental controls on devices such as consoles.

Like everyone else, we were acutely aware of “bill shock” headlines which ultimately, we felt, were more about parents not understanding how to use parental controls over anything else, so we had been looking at the issue of in-app purchasing in children’s games for some time.

The guidelines that the OFT have published have had industry involvement and comment over the last few months and they were good at listening to feedback and comment from us and games companies. We were very happy to see that the OFT had listened to many of these concerns especially around protecting micro-transactions as a legitimate business model and one that, when done responsibly, offers players more choice to get more content and features in the games they love.

We were the first representatives from the games industry that OFT met with to discuss the application of these existing rules, and we were more than happy to help them understand, with many our members – app developers, publishers, children’s brands, service companies - the nature of games, game design, game mechanics, the diversity of business models we operate, and why parents, game makers, game sellers, and platforms all share the responsibility to prevent bill shock. This is why it was pleasing to see the OFT really push home the point that parents and carers have lots of parental control options to avoid this happening.

These are not new laws: they govern the way that any product, on or offline, is sold and advertised or marketed to people. The principles go into more detail about just how they should be applied and many of them are about what kind of clear information should be provided to players before they choose to download or buy a game as well as messaging inside the game. This information in most cases is already provided.

Our members and the majority of UK games business are already complying with consumer protection laws, as a mature and responsible industry should be, and we as a trade association that represents the full range of makers, sellers, platforms and services are here as ever to help translate what they mean in practice.

That’s why we have a drop in session with legal firm Harbottle & Lewis this Friday, January 31st. They will be at Ukie HQ and on the end of our hotline for you if you need to ask any questions. We will also be hosting a briefing session with the OFT at the Ukie office on February 20th to help clarify the principles. We are firming up plans to do the same briefing in Leamington and in Scotland. Keep an eye on our Facebook events page for details.