Popular mobile games Gardenscapes and Homescapes called out for misrepresentation of game in ads

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK has banned the two ads for mobile games Homescapes and Gardenscapes. According to the authority, it had received seven complaints about the paid-for advertisements for these two games, of which the people who complained believed the advertisements’ content is misleading and not representative of the actual Homescapes or Gardenscapes games.

The advertisements for the games, developed by Playrix, included videos of problem-solving scenarios where users decide which pins to pull first to achieve the game objective. Upon download, users will realise that the advertised gameplay is not as common in the actual game, and that the actual game is fundamentally based on a "match-three" style game. 

In response, Playrix said their games were far more complex than "match-three" type games. It said the games contained a number of elements: an unfolding storyline which involved the renovation of a house or a garden, "mini-games" as featured in the advertisements, and "match-three" style games. Playrix said the latter was the only tool to move on in the storyline and was not the core gameplay, adding that a player’s goal was to follow the storyline and restore and decorate their house or garden though different mechanics.

Playrix also said the gameplay shown in the advertisements were "mini-games" that are available to play, but on more distant levels. In April 2020, Playrix said there were around 10 such mini-games in Homescapes. It added that at that time the mini-games were usually available once every 20 levels. It has claimed to since change the games so that the problem-solving gameplay as shown in the ads was available towards the beginning of the Homescapes and Gardenscapes games. 

Although the advertised gameplay is available as "mini-games", Playrix admitted only a very small percentage of its players reached those levels. For Homescapes, it said that percentage was around 0.03% of users. Playrix also said most users finished their journey near the start of the game, before they get to play the mini-game. For example, their said only around 45% of players achieved the level 20, and around 18% achieved the level 100. 

According to the ruling of ASA, the ads must not appear again in the form complained of. It also reminded Playrix to ensure that its future advertising presented gameplay which was representative of the games advertised.

Mobile gaming has been on the rise in Southeast Asia. According to a recent study done by Newszoo, Southeast Asia generated game revenues of US$4.4 billion in 2019, seeing a year-on-year growth of 16%. Mobile is also found to be the most played platform in the region, with 80% of gamers playing mobile games. The report also found that overall, the most popular game genre in Southeast Asia is strategy, with over a third of the urban online population playing it. 

Globally, Newzoo forecasted that the number of smartphone users globally will increase by 6.7% year-on-year to 3.5 billion in 2020. It also said national/regional lockdowns and travel bans across the world have led to a "significant increase" in consumer engagement with mobile games, especially in mobile-first markets such as Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. It is predicted that the mobile games market will continue to grow and cross the US$100-billion mark in 2023. By then, Newzoo's analysts forecast the mobile games market will grow to US$102.8 billion.

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