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Dungeon Keeper mobile ad banned by ASA

UK advertising watchdog accuses EA of "misleading" customers

An advertisement for the mobile version of Dungeon Keeper has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority.

The self-regulatory British organisation received a complaint accusing publisher EA of misleading the public in an email advertising the game.


The ad read as follows:

GET DUNGEON KEEPER ON MOBILE FOR FREE! ... DIG. DEVISE. DOMINATE. Build the most badass dungeon ever! Raise an army of diabolical minions and lay twisted traps to destroy any opponents foolish enough to set foot in your lair. MASTER THE HAND OF EVIL Cast powerful spells, pillage and plunder other players' dungeons, and slap your imps around to make them work harder. A world of wicked fun is right at your fingertips. What are you waiting for, Keeper? Get it for FREE!

Accompanying the ad was a screenshot showing a well-developed dungeon only possible after the player puts in a significant amount of work.

The ASA deemed that gameplay "was severely limited unless in-app purchases were made", and that EA's implication that a dungeon of that standard could be easily achieved for "free" was misleading.

EA argued that the game featured three types of currency - stone, gold and gems - which could all eventually be accrued in-game without the player necessarily having to spend real money on them.

However, the ASA argued that the ad did not point out that this would lead to numerous lengthy countdown timers.

It stated: "From the information available in the ad, players would expect the gameplay progression and their ability to advance to be unhindered by unexpected and excessively onerous delays, and we therefore considered that the length and frequency of these countdown events was beyond that which would be reasonably expected by players.

"We consequently considered it likely that many players would regard the gameplay experience as unexpectedly curtailed and as a result would need to spend Gems in order to achieve the form of gameplay anticipated."

The mobile version of Dungeon Keeper has been met with controversy since it was released in early 2014, with the game coming under heavy criticism from Dungeon Keeper fans unhappy with its alleged overuse of monetisation prompts.

EA was also accused of deliberately filtering out low-scoring reviews for the Android version of the game.

Responding to criticism of the game, senior producer Jeff Skalski said "it's important to emphasize that we designed a game that is built around the typical mobile play patterns."

Peter Molyneux, creator of the original 1997 strategy game Dungeon Keeper, has described the reboot as "ridiculous".