App-maker compliance is far from the fun and games expected from the industry.
In fact, it can be a financial nightmare if mishandled—making it a top priority for gamemakers across the globe.
Intellectual property rights and licenses, consumer protection laws, age ratings and classifications, advertising laws, data protection and privacy legislation, and more can feel like you’re juggling too many plates.
We’ve outlined the six things game developers need to consider to avoid hefty fines and lost user trust, as well as some best practices for ensuring compliance.
How app-makers can ensure games compliance
1. Adhering to data protection and privacy laws
Ensuring you effectively handle user data to ensure user privacy and abide by global regulations should be at the top of your list as a gamemaker. Failing to do so could result in hefty fines, reduced user trust, missed marketing opportunities, and, ultimately, lost revenue.
Effectively handling user data comes down to:
- Encrypting data & code: encrypted data and code ensure you’re not susceptible to bugs or hacking.
- Using error-free codes: developers can test code from different perspectives to ensure it’s safe.
- Ensuring high-level authentication: alphanumeric passwords, biometric authentication, and one-time passwords all increase user security.
- Performing a strong security check: code audits and testing help identify and rectify app vulnerabilities.
- Being cautious of third-party libraries: properly test and examine third-party code before adding it to your app.
- Controlling data sharing within apps: signature-based permissions can prevent interference while transferring data from one app to another.
- Inserting secure APIs: only allow necessary apps to access APIs and use a strong gateway or central OAuth server to manage authentication.
These are the ways you can help guarantee user privacy and security, but you also need to consider GDPR and CCPA regulations when it comes to user data. GDPR and CCPA compliance regulations require game makers to explicitly obtain user consent before collecting personal data, IP addresses, and locations. They also obligate app owners to pay attention to the data that third-party SDKs collect.
Failure to comply with these regulations can result in hefty fines. Under GDPR, fines can go up to 20 million Euros or 4% of the company’s global annual revenue, whichever is higher. CCPA violations can incur civil penalties of up to $7,500 per intentional violation.
At the same time, both GDPR and CCPA emphasize user rights, such as the right to access their data, the right to correct inaccurate data, and the right to delete their data. Respecting these rights can contribute to higher user satisfaction and engagement.
Overall, it comes down to obtaining user consent for data collection—something we at Usercentrics can handle for you—and ensuring that your app is set up to protect that data.
2. Age restrictions and parental controls
60% of the 11,000 parents with kids aged 7-12 surveyed said that their kids use their mobile device to play mobile games. Mobile game developers need to ensure they’re effectively managing age restrictions and verification and have parental control options in place.
Age verification systems are key for ensuring that your users meet the age requirements of your app. These systems can check personal identifying information that a user provides and cross-reference it with various trusted data sources and records.
Alongside this, sufficient parental controls require you to include the capability for parents to limit certain aspects of your game, such as the storage and use of personal data, time spent on app, in-app purchase restrictions, safe search, and more.
These types of controls ensure that you’re providing a safe in-app experience for underage users, and that you’re abiding by location-specific laws and regulations—such as COPPA in the US, and GDPR in Europe and the UK.
They also help put parents’ minds at ease, increasing their trust in your brand. For example, more than two-thirds of American parents (67%) worry their kids are overspending on smartphone games—ensuring you’ve got the controls in place to avoid this—and other common worries—is a must.
3. Maintaining accessibility and inclusivity
It’s essential that mobile game developers create products, features, and experiences that are accessible and inclusive from the get-go—these important factors shouldn’t be an afterthought.
Accessibility in the gaming context refers to ensuring that individuals with different abilities can equally enjoy a gaming experience. This includes people with visual, auditory, cognitive, or motor disabilities. Inclusivity, on the other hand, is about creating a welcoming environment for everyone, regardless of their race, gender, age, sexuality, or cultural background.
The significance of these two principles is manifold. Firstly, they promote equity and diversity by giving everyone the chance to participate and enjoy the gaming world. Secondly, they adhere to legislative mandates, like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act in the United States, which require digital content to be accessible to people with disabilities.
Plus, they make business sense; making games accessible and inclusive broadens the potential audience, thereby enhancing revenue and reputation. Failing to create accessible and inclusive apps not only puts you at risk of non-compliance with laws and regulations in your country or region, but it also prohibits a large portion of people from using your app. For example, 27% of Americans have some type of disability—meaning they need accessible options in mobile games.
4. Adherence to advertising and in-game purchases rules
With mobile ad-spend set to hit $362 billion in 2023, rules and regulations regarding advertising and in-game purchases are another key consideration for game makers. The specifics of the regulations you’re required to abide by depend on the markets your app serves.
For example, in the US, companies need to abide by the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA). In Europe, it’s the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (UCPD). Game publishers also need to check local rules and regulations—such as State Laws in the US and the individual country’s laws in the EU—to ensure complete compliance.
Generally speaking, the key points to consider for compliance are:
- Consent and opt-out: give users clear opt-out options for targeted advertising or data collection.
- Disclosure and transparency: be up front about in-app advertisements and purchases.
- Appropriate billing practices: implement safeguards to avoid accidental in-app purchases, such as password protection and authentication mechanisms.
- Age restrictions: apply mechanisms that prevent minors from seeing age-inappropriate advertisements or making in-app purchases.
79% of mobile game developers say a mix of ads and in-game purchases are the best way to monetize gaming apps. In order to benefit from these opportunities, optimized consent collection in accordance with the relevant regulations is a must.
5. Security compliance
66% of consumers have said they would stop supporting a company if their data was breached or shared without permission, and 84% of consumers are more likely to be loyal to a company if they have strong data security controls. Security compliance is a non-negotiable priority for mobile game publishers.
As game makers leverage online connectivity and user data to elevate gaming experiences, they inadvertently increase cyber risk exposure. This necessitates stringent adherence to security compliance, crucial for safeguarding against threats like data breaches, hacking, and fraud. Complying with security standards not only protects users’ data, thereby fostering trust, but also shields businesses from potential financial and reputational damages.
To accomplish this, various security standards and laws have been established globally, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the U.S. These regulations mandate the safe handling and protection of user data.
In order to ensure you’re adequately protecting user data, make sure to employ some best practices across your app. These include:
- Using strong encryption algorithms: encryption ensures that even if unauthorized parties gain access to data, they’re unable to read it without the encryption key.
- Staying on top of security patches and updates: ensure everything is up-to-date when it comes to operating system frameworks and libraries in your app.
- Performing regular security audits: assess vulnerability and possible security issues to address any gaps you uncover.
- Ensuring employees receive security training: provide employees with training on how to handle customer data, security best practices, and the importance of abiding by security guidelines and regulations.
It’s also essential to keep an eye on the evolving threats to data privacy to ensure you continue to securely store and manage user data. Users have entrusted you with their data—maintaining a robust security infrastructure is essential.
6. Transparency in user agreements and communication
Clear user agreements, privacy policies, and terms and conditions are another key factor in app success. Gamers don’t download games to sift through page after page of confusing jargon, they want a transparent view of the part they play in your app and how you handle their data. Mobile game developers need to be smart about how they engage users for consent on their apps.
Plus, it’s not just about the user experience—gamemakers are mandated by consumer protection laws to ensure that user agreements are clear and understandable. They must also comply with privacy laws (GDPR, CCPA, etc) when handling user data, and app store guidelines when distributing via app stores (like Google Play or Apple’s App Store).
Transparency is a crucial consideration throughout the user experience. Gamemakers must abide by the laws and regulations that govern their target market, or they run the risk of large fines and a tarnished brand reputation.
Full compliance isn’t a want, it’s a need
There’s lots of overlap when it comes to these considerations and complying with the relevant regulations—and there’s more on the line than hefty fines (if that wasn’t enough).
You also risk the relationship you’ve built with your user base—just look at how the industry still remembers the 2011 Sony data breach that involved over 100 million accounts (and a £250k fine for breaching the Data Protection Act).
When it comes to complying with user data regulations, a key consideration is consent. Getting consent from users to collect and store their data ensures you start on the right foot, and securely managing it is how you stay there. Efficient consent collection also opens the door for increased advertising revenue—so optimizing collection is a top priority.
Consent management is one of many boxes to check when it comes to developing, marketing, and distributing apps—but it’s one less box for you to worry about. Start your free trial today.