A TV ad for Gran Turismo Sport, a driving game, seen on 23 October 2017 showed in-game play. Small text shown at the bottom of the screen read “Dynamic 4K gaming vs graphic rendering or upscaling. 4K HDR support varies by game. 4K TV required”.
The complainant challenged whether the ad was misleading because it did not make clear that an internet connection and subscription to the PlayStation Network were required to play the game.
Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe Ltd said that an internet connection was not required to play the game. The exact racing track that was seen in the ad was not available to play without an internet connection. However, the type of gameplay and a similar track that offered the same kind of racing experience were available offline. Further, one of the cars shown was not available offline but other similar cars were available on the disc. They explained that if only the disk was used to play the game the player would have access to three tracks, five layouts and 30 cars. This represented a small minority of the respective total content of the game. The disc also allowed players to access Arcade Mode which was one of two single player racing modes available. They stated that Sport Mode was available, but only with a PlayStation Plus membership. They explained that there were aspects of the functionality of the game which required an internet connection and that the average consumer would understand that an internet connection was required to make the fullest use of a modern, multimedia technology product such as a games console and that the high proportion of consumers who had access to the internet in the UK meant that, in the vast majority of cases, such a connection would be available at no additional effort or cost.
They explained that specifically PS4 consumers were likely to have access to the internet and that the large majority of PS4s sold in the UK had been connected to the internet at some time and that in excess of three-quarters had been connected to the internet between 1 and 31 October 2017. Further, they explained that PSN was the network through which members accessed a range of online services and functionality and that membership was free. The account gave users access to a range of online services, including those not related to games and the opportunity to interact with other PlayStation console users. All the gameplay shown in the ad was possible without having a PSN account. Consumers were not required to sign in in order to play the game, however, they would be prompted to and logging in would add certain benefits. Those benefits, however, were not featured in the advert. The game offered unlimited gameplay time without a PSN account. They further stated that as membership of PSN was free of charge, and an account could be created on any internet connected device and was widely understood by game console consumers as an element of the user experience. They stated that there was a high proportion of PSN accounts among PlayStation 4 owners.
Clearcast said that the advertised game was capable of being played without an internet connection or a subscription to the PlayStation Network, and the gameplay in the advertisement had been confirmed as being available offline. Further, they said that the ad did not mention the PlayStation Network, nor that joining it was a prerequisite to play the game. The game could be played by two players at the same time without internet connection or being a part of the PlayStation Network, and therefore they considered that the ad was not misleading.
The ASA considered that consumers would expect that when purchasing a Gran Turismo Sport game disc they would be able to play the majority of the game including the ability to play in both of the game modes available, without a PlayStation Plus membership. We also considered that consumers would expect that there were additional benefits available if the console was connected to the internet including additional tracks and cars, but that they would expect a great number of both to be available on the disc.
We noted that a large majority of PlayStation 4 users had connected their console to the internet and although consumers would receive further additional benefits from using a PSN login, it was not required to experience a large portion of the game. However, we understood that without the internet, consumers would only be able to play in Arcade Mode and that the ability to save the game without an internet connection was limited and meant that players would lose some of their progress. We therefore considered that the majority of the game was not available on the disc and that for a consumer who purchased the disc but did not have or did not regularly connect their console to the internet, there was a large portion of the game that the consumer would not be able to play or access including the Campaign Mode, the majority of the cars and majority of the tracks. Further, we understood that the specific track and a specific car shown in the ad were not available on the disc and would require users to be connected to the internet. We considered that the requirement of an internet connection was material information that should have been included in the ad and therefore concluded that the ad was in breach of the Code.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules
The standards objectives, insofar as they relate to advertising, include:
a) that persons under the age of 18 are protected;
b) that material likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or lead to disorder is not included in television and radio services;
c) that the proper degree of responsibility is exercised with respect to the content of programmes which are religious programmes;
d) that generally accepted standards are applied to the contents of television and radio services so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from inclusion in such services of offensive and harmful material;
e) that the inclusion of advertising which may be misleading, harmful or offensive in television and radio services is prevented;
f) that the international obligations of the United Kingdom with respect to advertising included in television and radio services are complied with [in particular in respect of television those obligations set out in Articles 3b, 3e,10, 14, 15, 19, 20 and 22 of Directive 89/552/EEC (the Audi Visual Media Services Directive)];
g) that there is no use of techniques which exploit the possibility of conveying a message to viewers or listeners, or of otherwise influencing their minds, without their being aware, or fully aware, of what has occurred"
Section 319(2). 3.2 3.2 Advertisements must not mislead consumers by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that consumers need in context to make informed decisions about whether or how to buy a product or service. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead consumers depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the advertisement is constrained by time or space, the measures that the advertiser takes to make that information available to consumers by other means. (Misleading advertising) and 3.10 3.10 Advertisements must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe Ltd to ensure that in the future they made it clear if an internet connection was required to play a game.