If you’ve ever used Instagram or Facebook, you may have encountered ads for mobile games like Gardenscapes and Homescapes. They follow a fairly typical formula: a logic challenge coupled with a prompt like, “You’ll never be able to solve this.” In the UK, regulators are now cracking down on these advertisements, arguing they misrepresent the games on offer.
Many online game ads don’t contain actual gameplay and instead advertise more complex (and sometimes completely different) gameplay. Playrix is the latest developer to come under fire for this technique, with the UK Advertising Standards Authority banning ads for Gardenscapes and Homescapes for using the classic ‘pin-pulling’ ad format instead of the game’s standard match-three gameplay.
In response to the ASA’s complaint, Playrix reportedly argued their advertisements shared “thematic similarities” with their gameplay and narrative. This argument was shot down by the ASA, which stated consumers would expect ads for Playrix’s games to reflect the content of actual gameplay and contain some level of challenge, rather than a simple match-three game.
Ultimately, the Playrix ads were banned from advertising platforms in the UK due to their misleading content. You can view the full ruling here.
While a similar ruling has yet to reach Australian shores, it’s an important step in cleaning up the image of mobile gaming. Instagram and Facebook consistently serve up false advertising for mobile games with little indication of when or if advertisements represent real gameplay.
These ads often rely on predatory or goading language to drive downloads, with players being bullied or teased into downloading the games. Playrix isn’t the only developer guilty of using these tactics to advertise their games, but they are among the first to be reprimanded for it.
Mobile gaming has grown exponentially over the last decades, with services like Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass giving a platform to high quality mobile games, and phones finally being powerful enough to run epic, world-spanning adventures. But until misleading and predatory advertising is curbed, mobile gaming will have an image problem.
If you spot a misleading or false game ad, you can report the details to the ACCC in Australia.