The UK's Advertising Standards Authority introduces new guidance on annoying premium currencies

(Image credit: Epic Games)

Gems. Diamonds. Apex Coins. Premium currencies have long been a pain point for in-game purchases, obfuscating the actual cost of costumes and boosts and often leaving you with useless amounts of leftover fake money. Now, the UK's Advertising Standards Authority has tightened its regulation around these currencies to make it clearer how much premium purchases will actually set you back (thanks, Eurogamer).

The ASA's latest guidelines seek to make it clear how much actual cash you'll be required to spend on flashy new cosmetics. Alongside their cost in premium currency, in-game purchases should be listed with an accurate real world cost—taking into account any premium currency you might already own.

Games should provide clarity on how much you'll need to spend on premium currency bundles to purchase something even if it costs less—say, for example, a cosmetic that costs 80 coins in a game where you can only buy currency in bundles of 100 for $5 should be advertised as such. Advertising tricks like saying currency packs are "best value", or using limited-time sales to drive purchases through fear of missing out, are also heavily discouraged.

There are a few caveats to these guidelines, mind. The ASA admits that games where you can earn premium currency through play blur the issue (making it harder to apply a real-world currency equivalent). It's also worth noting that the ASA cannot actionably punish companies, only call them out for breaking guidelines and potentially forward them towards regulators that do have power.

The ASA's response form also refused to make a judgement over whether loot boxes are gambling, passing the buck to the UK's Gambling Commission (which has responsibility for regulating gaming). It did, however, stress that games should make it very clear that they contain loot boxes, and added advice against practices that push players to buy more boxes in the hopes of unlocking rare loot.

Natalie Clayton
Features Producer

20 years ago, Nat played Jet Set Radio Future for the first time, and she's not stopped thinking about games since. Joining PC Gamer in 2020, she comes from three years of freelance reporting at Rock Paper Shotgun, Waypoint, VG247 and more. Embedded in the European indie scene and a part-time game developer herself, Nat is always looking for a new curiosity to scream about—whether it's the next best indie darling, or simply someone modding a Scotmid into Black Mesa. She also unofficially appears in Apex Legends under the pseudonym Horizon.