FTC Ruling Might Affect Video Game Reviews

A unanimous ruling by the Federal Trade Commission today would update truth-in-advertising language to require the disclosure of "material connections" - hint, hint "cash or an in-kind payment to review a product" - by the recipient of such considerations.

Bloggers, as reported earlier, are specifically mentioned by the recommendation, which has obvious implications for the specialty press covering video games. "The post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service."

The pivot here is what constitutes an in-kind payment. Games do have a value, but is agreeing to review a game an endorsement, regardless of whether the review recommends it or not?

It's also important to note these new guidelines do not themselves have the force of law. They are:

"[...] administrative interpretations of the law intended to help advertisers comply with the Federal Trade Commission Act; they are not binding law themselves. In any law enforcement action challenging the allegedly deceptive use of testimonials or endorsements, the Commission would have the burden of proving that the challenged conduct violates the FTC Act."

So there are two layers here: One, that it's not even law and two, does it even apply to video game reviews? Either way, the singling out of a blogger's endorsement is significant.

FTC: Freebies Must Be Disclosed [Game Politics]