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How Micro-Transactions Will Shake Up iPhone 148

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the hang-me-upside-down-and-shake dept.
Spanner Spencer writes "Talk to iPhone games developers, and the feature they're most excited about in the new iPhone 3.0 software is the ability to do in-game micro-transactions. And while you might wonder if this is just an excuse to get iPhone gamers to dip into their wallets even more often, it's actually a hugely positive thing for several reasons. Downloadable content, virtual items, subscription billing and fast-track social advancement are some of them, so Pocket Gamer looks into a bit more depth about what you can expect on the micro-payments side once iPhone 3.0 debuts."
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How Micro-Transactions Will Shake Up iPhone

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  • Huh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:46AM (#28168887) Journal
    Why do none of those "hugely positive things" sound hugely positive, or even positive at all? Am I a bad, bad failure of a consumer, whose mere existence is dragging our economy down, or are the writers of TFA a bunch of koolaid-drinking frigtards who are cheerleading the advance of some of the worst aspects of traditional phone service into the realm of applications?

    Probably no need to answer that.
  • by Paul Carver (4555) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:46AM (#28168889)

    I like my iPhone and I have 70+ apps installed but most of them are free apps that I'd live without if I had to pay for them. Only a dozen or so are paid apps that I actively tell people "you should get this, it's outstanding". I've paid for a couple of games but I would be really upset if I "accidentally" purchased something even if it's only a couple of dollars.

    I hope Apple makes very sure that "micro-transactions" don't let developers try to keep slipping their fingers into my wallet quietly.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:50AM (#28168937)
    So now all those Pyramid Scheme style games (Mafias, Ninjas, Vampires, Knights) can be real Pyramid schemes, with Microtransactions filling in the $$$ glue?
  • Positive? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Millennium (2451) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:52AM (#28168973) Homepage

    And while you might wonder if this is just an excuse to get iPhone gamers to dip into their wallets even more often, it's actually a hugely positive thing for several reasons. Downloadable content, virtual items, subscription billing and fast-track social advancement are some of them...

    Um, in what way are any of these things positive? I look at these things and see only scams: more ways to nickel-and-dime gamers to death.

  • by MacAnkka (1172589) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:59AM (#28169109)
    These micro transactions have some ok poential uses, but some of the uses are just down-right silly. Like that FPS game Apple demoed, where you can pay some tens of cents to get a rocket launcher to get an advantage. I, personally, can't wait to see the Slashdot story about a kid who racked up tens of thousands of dollars of debt with his parents credit card by trying to be the best on a silly FPS server.
  • Re:Huh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eln (21727) on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:00AM (#28169119) Homepage
    It's hugely positive for the business types who keep pushing micropayments as the thing that will save the Internet, despite the fact that they've been tried several times before and have been a dismal failure. Since iPhone users tend to be used to shelling out small amounts of money frequently anyway with iTunes and the App store, it might be more successful there than it ever could be on the Internet at large, but it's not a positive development for the consumer no matter how you slice it.
  • Re:Huh. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EastCoastSurfer (310758) on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:01AM (#28169125)

    It's positive for a couple reasons. First, the consumer gets more choice about the premium content they want to buy. Sorta like buying individual cable channels as opposed to packages. Second, the developer now has more options on how to sell said content. They may be able to take more chances offering small pieces of content to determine a market prior to offering a full package. In general, I think more choice is always a good thing.

    Don't think of the free apps going away, but instead you having more options on potentially buying some of the paid for apps.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:01AM (#28169133)

    A lot of people here can see no good from micropayments.

    However, it allows the developer to make the initial game much cheaper, and thus gives you more of an ability to try a game for less - essentially you could replace the lite/full version with a single version that let you buy more levels.

    Then as a gamer, if you liked it you could buy the rest of the game... or perhaps mid game you could decide the level design had gone to pot and buy no more.

    in-game payments is just a tool, and like any tool it can be abused - but that does not mean the tool should not exist and cannot be helpful. In the end the companies that treat the consumer with respect will make the most of it.

  • Re:Huh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by internerdj (1319281) on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:06AM (#28169195)
    So long as I'm getting reasonable stuff for my $X that is fine but when they realize that people will pay $0.0x for little bits there are a handful of things that will charge $X for the initial app with $0.0x * 20 to actually do anything useful with the app. While I don't have an iPhone, I dread the day when I have to wander around Tamriel stark naked because I refuse to pay real money for a suit of virtual armor.
  • by Dracil (732975) on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:12AM (#28169287)

    I remember the good old days when that was simply called a free demo.

  • by Tokerat (150341) on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:17AM (#28169359) Journal

    1. You are warned everytime an App charges you. I don't understand the people acting like "micropayments" means "happens automatically without your knowledge".

    2. If you don't like the payment model a certain App uses, vote with your wallet. Stop using it. Developers are only going to make money nickel-and-diming you all if you LET THEM.

    3. Free Apps will not go away. It isn't like people said "Oh gee, I wish we could only charge $0.50 for this. I guess we'll give it away instead of making any money". Those Apps are free because whoever made them had the ability and desire to release them that way.

    So, calm the fuck down.

  • by billlava (1270394) on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:19AM (#28169385) Homepage
    Valve Software patches their games frequently, and not just bug fixes. Team Fortress 2 [teamfortress.com] for example regularly comes out with "themed" update packs that will give new unlockable weapons and abilities to individual characters, new maps, and new gameplay modes. Seriously, they keep the content coming even almost 2 years after the game first came out, with no sign of letting up!
  • Re:Huh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ionix5891 (1228718) on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:33AM (#28169571)

    positive, choice, premium, packages, options ,content, offering, market

      wow did that just read like a marketing spiel

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:43AM (#28169719)

    Wow, I have noticed it for a while here on Slashdot, but the only reason that people seem to comment is to complain (this too may be considered a complaint). Cheer up basement dwellers, as an iPhone developer writing games aimed at young children I can assure you that its not as easy as people are making it out to be to profit off of little fingers making little mistakes. ...If it were so, people would abuse that and apple does a ton to make sure that no one gives them a bad name, many times even at the cost of not allowing very innovative and cool games to the market, or even very legit charity applications.

    Apple plays a mean game of 'cover you ass' folks.

    later,
    -MG

  • Re:Huh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Renderer of Evil (604742) on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:51AM (#28169813) Homepage

    ...but it's not a positive development for the consumer no matter how you slice it.

    I disagree, and here's why.

    In-game, in-app transactions free up developers to provide applications which are modular and go beyond widgetizing the phone with bunch of buttons. For example, instead of releasing 10 different apps for language instruction and ranking somewhere in the 10,000's on the list of downloaded apps, you could just make one well-designed app and then provide language packs for a fee. Currently there are lots of single-purpose apps from the same company localized to fit a specific language. This is bad for the developers because they don't have a chance to reach critical mass on the platform since their offerings are balkanized - Spanish, French, and German versions are all competing against one another and other similar apps. Their combined total downloads would propel them to the top but since these are treated and sold as separate apps you lose exposure.

    This would also do away with "LITE" applications and get you the real thing where you could purchase the full game after playing the demo level. It's really a redundant step to download iFighter Lite (an awesome game!) and then go back and purchase the full iFighter game. The in-game transaction saves you the step of going through delete > re-download > sync steps and puts you back into action.

    Will some developers abuse this by releasing shitty content? Absolutely. But the market will sort these out in time.

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:54AM (#28169849) Homepage

    At the point Apple starts acting as a money transfer agent for third parties, they need to start acting like a financial institution. Either they're a bank, or they're a money transfer company, both of which are regulated.

    PayPal eventually had to register as a financial institution in Europe and in some US states. Apple will have to do the same.

  • by tattood (855883) on Monday June 01, 2009 @12:01PM (#28169929)
    That's why the parent doesn't give the kid the full access to the credit card. They buy him the iTunes gift cards in pre-determined amounts. The kid gets $20 worth of music/apps/in-game-credits, and once they have been spent, there are no more until the next birthday/etc. You hear the same story about kids racking up thousand dollar cell phone bills from sending 500 text messages a day. If you give your kid a toy that requires payment to use, YOU, the parent, need to control how much can be spent on it.
  • by harryandthehenderson (1559721) on Monday June 01, 2009 @12:30PM (#28170269)
    If a parent is dumb enough to give their kid full, unsupervised access to use their credit card then they deserve all the charges that get racked up.
  • Re:Huh. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by forand (530402) on Monday June 01, 2009 @12:41PM (#28170401) Homepage
    I was under the impression that your "LITE" application example was banned by the in App purchasing methods offered through Apple. That is if an App is free then it is always free, if an App is paid for THEN it can charge you more.
  • by AnAdventurer (1548515) on Monday June 01, 2009 @12:48PM (#28170495)
    Suppliers call it "micro payments", Savy consumers call it being "nickle and dimed".
  • Re:Huh. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 01, 2009 @01:44PM (#28171295)
    You forgot the handy strawman at the end of the paragraph:

    In general, I think more choice is always a good thing.

  • by Elwood P Dowd (16933) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Monday June 01, 2009 @02:05PM (#28171621) Journal
    1. make a game with decent content
    2. market it successfully
    3. sell a bunch of copies
    4. neglect marketing
    5. update app, locking users out of previously accessible content
    6. reap microtransactions

The bogosity meter just pegged.

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