Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Thursday, February 10, 2011

In-App Purchasing Boosts Profits, Burns Parents

I think Gargamel must have designed this scheme to have kids rob their parents.
The in-app purchasing boom that has taken the App Store by storm continues to cause problems with parents. Apple's default 15-minute window for the iTunes password means that if you hand your iPhone or iPad to a child, they can make in-app purchases without entering the password if they do it within 15 minutes after you entered it. And if they keep doing it, or if they happen to know the password (or get an older sibling to use the password)... you can end up with $1400 in smurfberry charges on your credit card, like this mother of a second-grader.

It does bring to mind the ringtone boom, when so many unscrupulous vendors were getting people to buy subscriptions services when they just wanted a little ringtone. It eventually led to the downfall of the ringtone business.

The game industry should be concerned about what children's games with in-app purchases could be doing to the industry's image. And to the image of in-app purchasing, and the perception of game companies. Yes, perhaps Apple should be making the parental controls more obvious or even the default. Perhaps there should be more oversight by Apple on children's games, and requiring them to make in-app purchasing more difficult or more under the control of parents by default. And perhaps Google should be taking notes before in-app purchasing enters the Android market.

Saying that "Oh, it's just a few games that have a problem" or "It's only some kids games, not MY games" is like thinking having a No Peeing section in a swimming pool means that the whole pool will be kept clean no matter what somebody does in some corner. All game developers are in the pool together, and we should make sure nobody's smurfing things up.

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