Video games have come a long way since the days of Atari’s Pong; games today can contain fully immersive worlds with brand partnerships. Video game platforms, such as Roblox, which has over 100 million active users in its virtual world, can reach swathes of potential brand loyalists. For many companies and brands, video game marketing and partnerships are untapped areas that can achieve incredible success. However, there are special considerations that should be evaluated before entering the controller.
As an example, Roblox is a platform where users can play hundreds of different games created by other users. With a consumer base that includes a large number of children and the bright colors and animations of virtual worlds that reside on Roblox, organizations should be wary of taking the plunge and developing standalone branded Roblox games or plugging in sponsored content in popular Roblox experiences. .
the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the UK Age-appropriate design code (the Code) regulates children’s online experience in the United States and the United Kingdom, respectively. In fact, in recent months, US senators have urged technology companies to apply the UK code to products accessible to American children. The Code contains 15 individual standards that must be met to be compliant, including restrictions on nudge techniques, data minimization requirements, and disabling profiling by default. Additionally, some of our customers have received letters of inquiry from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the UK privacy and publicity regulator, regarding compliance with the Code. Note that the code was created as a regulatory extension of the UK Data Protection Act (UK DPA), a law very similar to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which was adopted in the middle of the UK’s exit from the EU and European Economic Area (EEA). Both the GDPR and the UK DPA take special considerations when it comes to the privacy and online protection of minors.
In the United States, COPPA sets clear guidelines on how brands can interact with and advertise to children. In addition, the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), a branch of the Better Business Bureau, can sue organizations for inappropriate advertising directed at children and refer cases to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which enforces COPPA as well. as Section 5 of the FTC Act, regulating unfair and deceptive trade practices.
In the United States, regulators use several factors to determine whether an online service must comply with applicable laws, including the subject matter of the online service, visual content, use of animated characters or activities, and inducements. intended for children, music or other audio content, age of models or influencers, presence of famous children or celebrities who appeal to children, and language intended for children. In the UK and some EU member states, this determination is more flexible and regulators review all online services that may be available to children. This standard is similar to, but significantly broader than, the FTC’s ever-expanding interpretation of COPPA’s application, which takes into account an organization’s knowledge of the popularity of its online service with children. . Other differences should also be noted, such as the different EEA/UK definitions of what is a minor or a child.
With a platform like Roblox featuring vibrant colors and animated characters, understanding what laws apply and at what level of risk can be a nuanced assessment. This assessment and the risk mitigation measures that organizations can take in advertising in the video game space is what we can help with.
Placing sponsored or branded content in virtual video game worlds can be an amazing new journey for brands. Armed with the right power-ups, a brand can successfully leverage its identity in the virtual space and take it to the next level.