New legislation could affect in-game purchases.
In-game monetization has been an ongoing controversy over the last few years. While the firestorm really started with Star Wars Battlefront 2, which suffered major backlash for its online competent’s monetization, it’s been an on-again off-again debate for years, as more monetization methods have entered gaming. We know the UK has investigated it, and the US is about to have a big FTC workshop about it. Now, Germany seems to be looking at it, too, with new legislation.
Put forward by the State of Bavaria, the new legislation could have a big impact on gaming in Germany. It looks to update the Interstate Treaty for the Protection of Minors (JMStV), something largely aimed at companies targeting children with exploitative practices. The current draft would prohibit direct purchasing appeals towards minors.
While the legislation may have children and mobile games in mind, it would have an impact on gaming as a whole. As laid out by Sebastian Schwiddessen, associate at law firm Baker McKenzie, under the current wording, “An explicit appeal and a specific direction towards children and adolescents is not required.” Which means even a game marketed at adults would still be under these rules and could be judged on a case-by-case basis. And the German Commission is known to take these rules very seriously.
“The greatest risk therefore lies with Germany’s consumer protection associations such as the VZBV which have the benefit of extensive financial means and which have already repeatedly targeted the video gaming industry for youth protection and e-commerce matters,” wrote Schwiddessen further. “The new guideline provides a strong argument in court on how the JMStV advertisement restrictions must be interpreted and therefore a strong basis for potential cease and desist claims/injunctions.”
Nothing has been passed as of now, and what the final draft will look like is anyone’s guess, if it does eventually come into law. Germany is also a major player in the EU governing body, so whatever happens here is sure to have some degree of impact on the continent as a whole. It looks to be, as of now, the harshest stance towards video game monetization yet. We’ll keep you updated.