Mobile game developer Hutch Games faced a challenge over the issue with their Loot Box use policy. Two of the company’s popular titles Rebel Racing and F1 Clash: Car Racing Manager were allegedly in breach of the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion, and Direct Marketing (CAP Code). These complaints are brought by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) which said that the ads Hutch Games featured in their titles are misleading due to omission of accurate information.
Hutch Games is known for its car racing titles like Smash Cops Heat, F1 Clash, Rebel Racing, etc. Among the alleged two titles, Rebel Racing has over 50 million installs, and F1 Clash has 10 million in the Google Play Store.
Hutch Games put misleading information about the use of loot boxes in both of the titles
The complaints were first brought by Leon Xiao, an academic researcher from the IT University of Copenhagen. Xiao is known as a “Game Changer” for his research works in video game regulation. “On both Google and Apple platforms, many games with loot boxes are operated by non-UK-based companies that the ASA cannot act directly against, so we cannot force those companies to comply,” Xiao said.
The alarming fact is that there are so many games hovering in the stores with similar misleading ads but the titles cannot be brought before the regulatory authorities on a case-by-case basis. “This is literally the bare minimum legal requirement that many companies are failing to meet,” Xiao added.
Loot Boxes are in-game items that players have to claim via in-game purchases without knowing what is inside until the transaction is completed. This is not illegal according to UK Law but is often regarded as a form of gambling by many campaigners. For F1 Clash, the game showed free in–app Purchases in the Apple app store but did not include the presence of random items in the game, commonly known as loot boxes.
“We therefore considered the information in the ad was not sufficient for consumers to understand that the in-game purchases included loot boxes,” the ASA said. “Because the ad did not make clear that the game contained loot boxes, which we considered was material to consumers’ decisions to download the game, we concluded that the ad misleadingly omitted material information.” Though Hutch Box said that players could still play the game without spending money it accepted their mistake and updated the product listing.
F1 Clash and Rebel Racing are in violation of similar issues over Loot Boxes
Similar to the concerns regarding F1 Clash, the second title was found to violate the same rule. Rebel Racing failed to inform the presence of loot boxes as well as their nature. The game developer put forward a similar statement that they failed to interpret the guidelines. However, ASA also concluded the same view and said, “Because the ad did not make clear that the game contained loot boxes, which we considered was material to consumers’ decisions to download the game, we concluded that the ad misleadingly omitted material information.”
After the issue raised concerns about the social corporate responsibility of Hutch Games, a spokesperson commented on the matter. “Following discussions with the ASA, we acknowledge that a mistake was made on our store page listing for our games Rebel Racing on the Google Play Store and F1 Clash on the Apple App Store. We have immediately corrected this mistake. We are ensuring that all future listings contain the correct information going forward.”
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