Many consumer advocacy groups take issue with Walmart’s entry into the Metaverse. The online retailer announced last fall that on Roblox he will be launching two new virtual worlds: Walmartland and Universe of Play. This is meant to attract the next generation of shoppers. The experience will allow Roblox users to play games featuring toys and favorite children’s characters, earn virtual toys that drop from airships, complete challenges and explore a “toy world.” can. However, these groups believe that Walmart has blurred the line between advertising and organic content and that content within these virtual worlds is advertising in nature and should be labeled as such. It claims that it has not disclosed to
However, Walmart disputes those claims, saying it complies with US child privacy laws.
The group, led by advertising watchdog Truthinaadvertising.org (TINA.org), wrote to the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) requesting an audit of Walmart’s Roblox games.
CARU is part of the larger nonprofit BBB National Program, which oversees 12 industry self-regulatory programs in the United States. In January 2001, CARU’s program became the first Federal Trade Commission (FTC)-approved Safe Harbor under Children’s Online Media in the United States. Privacy Act, COPPA. This means that any participant who adheres to CARU guidelines will be considered COPPA compliant and protected from FTC enforcement action.
Simply put, being flagged for possible violations of CARU’s program is not what participants want because it can put them on the FTC’s radar.
In the letter, the advocacy group wrote to CARU Senior Vice President Donna Fraser to warn the organization about Walmart’s Roblox experience, the “Universe of Play,” and how a virtual world aimed at young children would make appropriate disclosures. It claims to be deceptively marketing Walmart’s products and services without offering them. that the game itself and the content it contains are actually advertisements; Additionally, the group notes that Walmart uses his COPPA Safe Harbor Program seal on his CARU to convey the message that the games comply with the organization’s guidelines.
The letter describes different aspects of the Walmart Roblox experience, which the group feels demonstrates its nature as an “advergame.”
This includes games modeled after Walmart’s toy catalog and featuring popular toys and toys sold at Walmart stores and online, including LOL Surprise!, Jurassic World branded items, PAW Patrol, Magic Mixie, and Razor scooters. Includes use of characters. The game also encourages kids to “collect the hottest toys”. “This is an advertisement.” Similarly, as the children roam the island, gift boxes containing toys will be unlocked, but the message “This is an advertisement” It is displayed in a barely visible font. These gift boxes display top sellers in the toy category, such as his Vtech smartwatches for kids, popular dolls, and race his cars.
Other discreet ad disclosures also appear in other parts of the game – like signs that pass by as the player’s avatar collects coins, finds toy chests, or engages in other virtual activities. to, the letter states.
Similarly, the group is also taking issue with another Roblox virtual world, ‘Walmart Land’, where children can play as avatars and where ‘Universe of Play’ is also for sale.
Together, both games have attracted more than 12 million visitors since launch, the letter said. Both games are accessible to children of all ages as they are labeled “N/A” in Roblox’s “age guidelines” for games. The letter emphasizes that children under the age of 13 “do not fully understand compelling intentions” such as entertainment marketing.
Laura Smith, TINA.org’s General Counsel, said in a press release: “I urge CARU to take immediate action to protect the millions of children who are being manipulated by Walmart every day,” she added.
In addition to TINA.org, groups such as Fairplay, the Center for Digital Democracy and the National Association of Consumer Advocates signed the letter. They are asking CARU to audit Walmart’s gaming compliance.
However, when asked for comment, Walmart claims this has already been done.
In a statement shared on TechCrunch, the retailer said:
In December 2022, Walmart will be approved to join CARU’s COPPA Safe Harbor program after demonstrating that Universe of Play, an immersive new Roblox experience, complies with the stringent requirements of COPPA and CARU guidelines. it was done.
Due to its young user base, Roblox has already caught the attention of other companies looking for a children’s market, including Sanrio (Hello Kitty) and Mattel, which launched the He-Man game on the platform last year. also partnered with Forever 21 in 2021 to create a Barbie-inspired collection and Kellogg’s debut ‘Froot Loops’ universe.
Besides kids brands, H&M, Spotify, Netflix, Samsung, Chipotle, Nike, Vans and many others are targeting young Roblox users.
As more brands enter the gaming world and the metaverse, and the advertising industry defines this new form of social networking practices, how much Walmart will or will not need to adjust Roblox games. It could help set a precedent.