ASA Ruling on Zenimax Europe Ltd
Zenimax Europe Ltd t/a
27 August 2014
Internet (video), Internet (display)
Number of complaints:
Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Not upheld.
An ad for the video game ‘Wolfenstein: The New Order’ was displayed on a gaming website, www.eurogamer.net. An ad bordered the home page and was headed "Wolfenstein: The New Order ...] HOVER TO EXPAND THE VIDEO" and pictured two figures holding guns. A PEGI 18 symbol was also shown. Hovering over the top section of the border for three seconds, without clicking, opened a video trailer ad over the home page and played automatically. On-screen text at the start of the video stated "MATURE 17+ ... Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs". The video included a scene depicted in black and white where two Nazi officers wearing gas masks walked amongst the bodies of dead peace protestors. One Nazi soldier was shown executing a man on the ground with a bullet to the head, whilst a robot animal walked in the background. The trailer included other scenes of game footage which depicted people being killed or hurt, including by being shot. Dialogue included "What the fuck did I just do?", "What you been up to ...? Shooting, stabbin', strangling Nazis" and "Well, I'm on the motherfucking moon".
The complainant, who believed the ad to be excessively gory and shocking and was concerned that it could be seen by children, objected that the ad:
1. and in particular scene showing the execution of a man, was offensive and distressing; and
2. was unsuitable to be shown on a home page with no restrictions on who could view it.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
1. Zenimax Europe Ltd t/a Bethesda (Zenimax) said the game was a first-person shooter set in a fictional alternative universe where the Nazi regime had won World War II. They said that at the start of the video there was a prominent PEGI 18+ / Mature 17 warning. The game itself had been granted a PEGI 18 rating, and other than the opening 33 seconds the ad was composed entirely of game footage. They said that any sense of realism in the filmed footage in the opening section of the ad would have been offset by the music used − a Germanic reworking of the popular folk song 'House of the Rising Sun' − and by the presence of the giant robot dog. They said that dialogue which included swear words appeared late in the ad, including at 1:57 min, 2:32 min and 2:54 min and if the ad was not to a viewer's taste they could close it at any earlier point. They said the prominent PEGI 18 logo at the start of the trailer also provided an opportunity for the ad to be closed if the viewer was under 18. They therefore did not believe the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence or fear or distress.
Eurogamer said they always ensured the PEGI age rating of games was displayed within ads on their site, as it was in this case. They said the trailer was launched via user initiation via hovering over the specified area for three seconds as per the call to action, during which a countdown was displayed to show the trailer was about to launch.
2. Zenimax said the placement of the ad had been arranged by their outside ad agency and they had been advised that the target audience was male and aged between 18 and 34 years, with no activity planned to reach an audience under 18. Other marketing activities for the game were similarly targeted. They understood that 97% of the Eurogamer audience was aged 18 or over, and the majority were in their mid-twenties or older. Although there was no age-gating on the site, the site's audience was overwhelmingly mature video game players. They said the ad did not play automatically, but only when actively hovered over for three second to expand it. They therefore believed the placement of the ad was socially responsible.
Eurogamer said their site was a video games site written for and read by a mature gaming audience. They said their readership was generally in their mid to late 20s and 30s. They said their last readership survey in May 2014 showed that 96.89% of their readership was aged 18 or over. They provided a breakdown of the readership survey respondents by age category.
1. Not upheld
The video trailer included graphic scenes of violence, including a man being shot in the head, and the dialogue featured swearing. The ASA therefore considered that the content of the ad had the potential to cause offence or distress. However, the ad had appeared on a website where the readership was predominantly a gaming audience aged 18 or over, who we considered were likely to be familiar with the nature and contents of different types of video games. The ad shown on the home page included the name of the game, a PEGI 18 symbol and pictured two figures holding guns. We therefore considered that it indicated the video trailer was likely to include violent content. The trailer played when the home page ad was hovered over for three seconds, during which a countdown was displayed. The start of the trailer also included a prominent warning of the nature of the video's contents. We considered that website users were provided with adequate information and warning about the nature of the contents of the ad, and users who did not wish to view such material were able to avoid doing so. We therefore considered that the ad was unlikely to cause offence or distress to those people who viewed it.
On this point we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 4.1 and 4.2 (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.
2. Not upheld
We considered that the nature of the video trailer, which included graphic violence and swearing, meant that it would not be suitable to appear in an untargeted medium. However, the website on which the ad appeared had a predominantly adult audience, and the latest readership survey showed that only 3 % of the website's users were aged under 18. Readers were also provided with adequate information and warning about the nature of the contents of the ad, and the ad stated clearly that the game had a PEGI 18 rating. We therefore concluded that the ad was unlikely to be seen by children and that it had been responsibly targeted.
On this point we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 (Social responsibility), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.