Google will stop calling free-to-play games ‘free’ in the EU

Candy Crush free to play

The European Commission confirmed in a statement today that Google has agreed to follow its recommendations on consumer protection as they relate to free and free-to-play games. Back in December, the European Commission presented a series of requests to Apple, Google, and the Interactive Software Federation of Europe, asking that:

  • Games advertised as “free” should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved
  • Games should not contain direct exhortation 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 for purchases and 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

Starting in September, the Google Play Store will no longer list free to download games with in-app purchases as “free” games within the EU. Google will also modify its developer guidelines to make it more difficult to target children with in-app purchase requests.

Google’s changes are unlikely to make their way to North American shores, and at this time, it’s uncertain exactly what impact the EC’s heavy-handed attempt to protect EU citizens. The lack of a ‘free’ moniker might diminish the returns of free-to-play apps specifically designed to take your money, but it might also harm well-designed, fun games with in-app purchases that function solely as a value-add. Notably, Apple has to commit to similar changes for the iOS App Store, instead touting the customizable parental controls coming in iOS 8 as a preferable solution.