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ASA bans misleading Homescapes, Gardenscapes ads

Despite pin puzzles being present in the game, UK ad authority concluded Facebook posts were not representative of the overall gameplay

The Advertising Standards Agency has banned two Facebook ads for Playrix's casual hits Homescapes and Gardenscapes.

Both ads, posted in March and April this year, depicted a pin puzzle mini-game.

One example shows a woman locked away, with a burglar between her and the main character of Playrix's games, with the player challenged to remove the pins in a way that reunites the couple without them encountering the burglar.

At the bottom of each video, text notes that: "Not all images represent actual gameplay."

Images of the ads in question

Images of the ads in question

According to the ASA, seven people complained about these ads, claiming they were misleading.

Playrix insisted the content seen in the ads is included in both games, and provided the ASA with a recording showing the mini-games featured.

Homescapes and Gardenscapes are both known for their match-three gameplay, which is used to progress through the story and unlock options to renovate either a house or garden.

However, Playrix has added other mechanics and gameplay types over time towards the later stages -- including these pin puzzles.

The developer said most players stop playing towards the start of the game, with only 45% reaching level 20, and only 18% reaching level 100.

Homescapes had 4,160 levels in April 2020, when the last ad was posted, while Gardenscapes had 5,895. At the time, Homescapes had 10 mini-games like the pin puzzles, which are usually accessed after 20 levels of the match-three gameplay.

Playrix reports that only 0.03% of players reach the levels depicted in the ad.

The developer said it chose to feature these pin puzzles in their ad as it believed this would convey both the variety beyond match-three gameplay included in its titles, and the need for logic and puzzle-solving to progress through the games.

It also believed the mini-games were a unique aspect of their games that would set it out from the competition, and that the "Not all images" warning -- plus the screenshots shown in app stores -- would convey to players the true nature of the gameplay.

Playrix said it has since changed its ads to represent more of the gameplay available towards the start of each title.

Nonetheless, the ASA has banned both ads from reappearing in their current form, agreeing with complainants that consumers would believe the mini-games depicted to be representative of Homescapes and Gardenscapes overall gameplay.

"We acknowledged that the ads included text which stated 'Not all images represent actual gameplay,' and we therefore considered consumers would understand that the exact gameplay featured may not necessarily be available," the ASA wrote.

"We nevertheless considered consumers would expect the Homescapes and Gardenscapes games would consist of a similar problem solving style... Because the ads were not representative of the games they were purported to feature, we concluded that they were misleading."

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