Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Businesses The Almighty Buck Apple Games

'Free' Games Dominate Top-Grossing Game List On App Store 161

Posted by Soulskill
from the for-sufficiently-unfree-values-of-free dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Why are there so many free games listed in the top 10 grossing games over in Apple's App Store? Because some feature exorbitant in-app purchase fees for virtual items. Quoting ZDNet: 'Developing "free" games aimed specifically at children, and then bundling ridiculously priced in-app purchases inside those "free" games feels scammy to me. Sure, it's not illegal, and it's not against Apple's developer terms and conditions, but Apple is a company that prides itself in protecting users from harm. Most of the game developers do make an attempt to warn users that the game "changes real money for additional in-app content" but it's a lame attempt. It's easily missed, and kids aren't going to read it anyway.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

'Free' Games Dominate Top-Grossing Game List On App Store

Comments Filter:
  • ... seems to me there's a lot more to worry about than in-app purchases.

    • or that people have run out of valid things to complain and now they are complaining of free games with OPTIONAL in game items which cost money.

      • by DrXym (126579)
        That depends who these free games are targeted at, how much this optional stuff costs, and how essential it is to play the game. Smurf Village (for example) is aimed at 4+ year olds yet allows kids to purchase in game items with real money. Not pocket money either. A "wheelbarrow of smurfberries" costs $60 and can be had with a few taps. It's not the only example and I suspect most of these free games operate along similar lines. That's simply unconscionable exploitation by the game operator and bad design
        • by DrXym (126579)
          Correction - that "in any 16 rated game " was meant to read with a < i.e. "in any < 16 rated game " but /. stripped it out
        • by PNutts (199112)

          That depends who these free games are targeted at, how much this optional stuff costs, and how essential it is to play the game. Smurf Village (for example) is aimed at 4+ year olds yet allows kids to purchase in game items with real money. Not pocket money either. A "wheelbarrow of smurfberries" costs $60 and can be had with a few taps.

          It's not aimed at four year olds, it's rated 4+ because there is no objectionable content. And on every screen where you can purchase it there is a disclaimer, "PLEASE NOTE: Smurfs' Village is free to play, but charges real money for additional in-app content. You may lock out the ability to purchase in-app content by adjusting your device’s settings."

          • by PNutts (199112)

            I forgot to mention that in the app store the graphic is Scaredy Smurf so you are effectively warned twice.

            • by Coren22 (1625475)

              How hard is it for a child to download the game though? What child really understands money? I still am teaching my kids the costs of their wants, and what it takes to earn that money, but I wouldn't trust them with the keys to purchase on my phone or tablet even though they are old enough. Most kids wouldn't even read the warning, I have watched my son installing apps on my android tablet, and he doesn't even realize there is a security screen, it is just an additional tap to him.

      • by iamhassi (659463)

        or that people have run out of valid things to complain and now they are complaining of free games with OPTIONAL in game items which cost money.

        While spending real money is optional to simply play the game, it's not always optional if you want to actually finish the game. I've played some games like Pumpkins vs Monsters [apple.com] where you'd have to play hundreds of hours to beat the game unless you pay real $$$ because a level will only give you ~100-300 gold but a single upgrade is 10,000+ gold.

        It's not impossible to win but almost. Imagine playing Half Life but health, additional lives and weapons cost real money, you're left to run around with whate

    • by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @04:59AM (#37917342)

      You don't need the password to make in game purchases (in the default configuration of iOS). You need the password to install the game.

      The mechanic for in-game purchases is a cynical, well engineered, well researched hook [insertcredit.com].

      The OS establishes a precedent - that privileged actions like installing apps require a password - and then goes on to breach that precedent in a kids game for actions that spend real money in large gobs, with single clicks.

      It's like combining a daycare centre with a nuclear launch control facility. Getting past the door guards requires a security check. But the launch control console has been cunningly disguised as Whack-A-Mole.

      • by _Chris_ (35156) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @06:15AM (#37917748)

        You do need the password to make in-app purchase since iOS 4.3. Apple did listen to parents complaints. Your comment is true for older versions however.

        "We are proud to have industry-leading parental controls with iOS," said Trudy Muller, a spokeswoman for Apple. She said users have always been able to use parental control setting and restrictions of in-app purchases to protect their iTunes accounts from accidental charges. "With iOS 4.3, in addition to a password being required to purchase an app on the App Store, a reentry of your password is now required when making an in-app purchase."
        (http://www.macrumors.com/2011/03/10/ios-4-3-requires-password-reentry-for-in-app-purchases/)

        • by Rogerborg (306625)
          I was torn between rating you "+1000 Informative", or posting "Hey! Everybody else! Read that, then shut up forever. The problem is (now) demonstrably with the parents". Ranting won out, as you can see.
        • Still, that window of opportunity spawned a whole load of exploitative software. Glad it's closed now.

          • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @09:03AM (#37918802)

            No it didn't, because there never was a window. Prior to iOS 4.3, and contrary to what _Chris_ said, passwords were still required for in-app purchases. The change that 4.3 made was that for in-app purchase it removed the 15 minute grace period after you entered your password before you had to enter it again. Prior to that, if a parent entered their password to install a game, a kid would then have a 15 minute period where they could make in-app purchases. After 4.3, in-app purchases require a password, no matter what. There never was a time when kids could make any in-app purchases they wanted without needing to have a password entered at some point.

            • 15 minute hole... top grossing apps in the store. When I sold my Palm OS game, most purchasers didn't realize it was shareware and paid the $9 by entering their credit card number into PalmGearHQ. I made it plain on my website that payment was at the discretion of the user and gave clear instructions on how to download, but PalmGear's marketing was less explicit about how shareware worked and lots of people paid for the app before they realized it was optional.

        • Apple should have done this initially irregardless. Basically Apple was performing fraud as it was accepting funds from someone not authorized to use the credit card. Doesn't matter if the kid has your idevice. They need your permission to use funds on the credit card. If a store accepts a stolen card they are on the hook for the unauthorized charges. Now I have no idea how it would work out to if the child was criminal responsible for the fraud, but Apple definitely was failing with due diligence.
      • by Sockatume (732728)

        You need the password to make an in-app purchase. You have always needed the password. There is a 15-minute grace period, so if you entered the password 14 minutes ago, you don't have to enter it again. They have recently shortened that grace period for in-app purchases to almost zero.

        • You can also set Restrictions in the Settings>General area. This allows you to turn off In-App purchases all together or to require a password either at 15 minutes or Immediately.

          So don't give your kid an expensive device that has a chance to be more expensive unless you put on parental controls. That's just good parenting.

          I mean really, they give you the "freedom" to do what you want and you complain it's too easy. Take some responsibility!
      • What you say sounds very interesting, except for the fact that it's not based in fact. Slashdot covered it [slashdot.org] when Apple changed their password requirements earlier this year. Prior to then, in-app purchases still required a password, but they could piggyback on a password entered for something else since there was a 15 minute grace period after entering a password before it needed to be entered again.

        Here's some of what I wrote then in relation to how it used to work:

        As I recall from the last in-app purchase I made, it's actually a rather jarring break (intentionally so, I believe), and is not nearly as integrated as you claim. You have to go through a few rounds of pop-up notifications, each one saying that you WILL be charged, dictating the amount, and asking whether or not you are certain, not to mention that someone has to enter the password at least that first time (and now, every time). It's pretty far from One-Click type of transactions, and it breaks out of the UI for whatever app you're in, so it should be apparent what is happening.

        Since then, it's required a password for e

    • by Dunbal (464142) *
      Credit cards and children have been around for a long time. It's your own fault if you're incapable of raising your kids properly. Please don't shift the blame onto "society".
    • by bberens (965711)
      For about $5 you can get a pre-paid [insert credit card brand] and tie that to your iTunes account if you're going to let your kids mess around with it.
    • Why the fuck are people giving children that are too young and immature to handle the responsibility smart phones anyway??

      I see grade schoolers rolling with iPhones now, and I just don't understand what their parents are thinking. There is no reason whatsoever that a child needs a smart phone. A cell phone I can understand, something simple that they can use to call a parent if need be, that makes perfect sense to me, but a grade schooler does not need apps and itunes and all that other nonsense.

      • by b0bby (201198)

        Just about every 4th grader I know has an ipod touch - the problems still apply even though it's not a phone. Grade schoolers LOVE apps & all that other nonsense. My kids don't have the itunes password, and I have enabled restrictions so they have to ask me to install whatever they saw on their friends' device & now have to have too.
        The article talks about Smurfberries - my kids like that game, but they don't even bother asking anymore if they can get the in app stuff, they know the answer is no. (I

  • by Que_Ball (44131) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @03:42AM (#37916956)

    Even if you leave every other setting unlocked you should go in and setup parental controls on your device to block in app purchasing. Do it now before you head out to the restaurant and you load up something to keep the kids amused not realizing that because you just finished downloading it your itunes account is still unlocked and the kids can buy whatever they want without a password for the next few minutes.

    Even if you don't have kids of your own, you might be out with friends or family that do and your generous act of amusing the kids turns expensive.

    • by perpenso (1613749) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @04:25AM (#37917160)

      ... you load up something to keep the kids amused not realizing that because you just finished downloading it your itunes account is still unlocked and the kids can buy whatever they want without a password for the next few minutes ...

      I believe Apple updated iOS so that the authorization for the free download could not be used to authorize an in app purchase. The in app purchase requires its own authorization.

  • That way you can still play the game for free. You don't have to purchase anything in the app if you don't want to.

  • by Superdarion (1286310) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @03:43AM (#37916964)

    I find it hard to blame Apple for this problem when parents are giving their unsupervised children an iDevice with credit card information.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by PowerCyclist (2058868)
      Agreed. Remember the 1990s? All the 900 numbers advertised to kids in commercials? This is the same deal. The people that setup these things deserve to be flayed, but it's the responsibility of parents to teach their kids responsibility.
    • by JavaBear (9872)

      99% of "computer" users are dumb when it comes to IT, it's a sad fact.
      Most do not even realize that there are such features until it's too late, and they probably would not know where to disable this until then either.

      Just like I think 900 numbers should be disabled unless the subscriber specifically enable them, as should in-game purchase settings be set to disabled by default.

      Additionally it might be an idea for Apple and other resellers to create the concept of "sub accounts" for the kids, where they eit

      • by Tom (822) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @05:29AM (#37917492) Homepage Journal

        99% of "computer" users are dumb when it comes to IT, it's a sad fact.

        No, it's not a fact. It's an urban legend perpetrated by geeks so they can feel superior to others. I've seen people with no computer knowledge whatsoever get their first PC and get familiar with it, and while they aren't IT experts, "dumb" doesn't describe it correctly. What they have is a different attitude - to them the machine has a purpose, it's not a toy by itself, they care about learning its fine details as much as most average geeks care about the difference between buckshot and birdshot and how to clean a shotgun blindfolded.

        Additionally it might be an idea for Apple and other resellers to create the concept of "sub accounts" for the kids, where they either can't make purchases at all, or can have a pre-paid account which can only be replenished from the "master account". Oddly enough, everybody's favourite whipping-boy, Sony PSN, already have this, more or less...

        As does Apple: http://www.apple.com/itunes/inside-itunes/2010/11/using-itunes-allowances-with-your-kids.html [apple.com]

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          "dumb" doesn't describe it correctly. What they have is a different attitude - to them the machine has a purpose, it's not a toy by itself, they care about learning its fine details as much as most average geeks care about the difference between buckshot and birdshot and how to clean a shotgun blindfolded.

          See, when you brought guns into the metaphor, you fell right on your face. Because if you're going to go out hunting with your shotgun, you had better fucking know the difference between buck shot and bird shot, and a lot more things besides, like which choke to use with a slug, and indeed, how to clean the weapon, though how to do it blindfolded is probably not necessary; ducks aren't going to shoot you if you flip on a flashlight. People use computers without knowing the equivalent, to their detriment. Pe

          • ducks aren't going to shoot you if you flip on a flashlight.

            You're doing it wrong. Turn your flashlight on, point it at a duck, walk towards them, and knock them over the head with it.

        • by El Royo (907295)
          Is it just me or does the fact that their allowance program has a -minimum- purchase of $10 per month seem a bit ridiculous? Damned if I'm going to give a young child $10 per month to spend on games and in-app purchases. If Apple really wanted to make it useful for parents it would have a $1 minimum. Instead, it's about pulling more money.
          • $10 a month minimum is perfectly reasonable.

            First: If you aren't giving a young child $10 worth of entertainment budget a month you're a goddamn monster. That's less than most toys, and far less than a couple of movie rentals or what-have-you.

            Second: If you can't afford $10 a month, you shouldn't be having kids.

            Third: Having such a budget will invariably teach the child something about budgeting and responsibility.

            Fourth and last, if you can't afford $10 a month... forget kids *Why do you have a luxury tech

            • by El Royo (907295)
              I see... Because I have kids -and- an electronic gadget I'm obligated to spend $10 per month on apps? Interesting. I guess if my kid had no other interests I might could get behind you. You know what? I suspect it'd just be easier if there was a mandated $10/month app spending requirement that came with kids and iDevices so I could just stop thinking about how to spend my money. Thanks for your kid raising advice, stranger!
        • by Hatta (162192)

          "dumb" doesn't describe it correctly.

          Yes, yes it does.

          What they have is a different attitude - to them the machine has a purpose, it's not a toy by itself

          Play is the best way to learn. If you get a new tool, and your first reaction isn't "Sweet, let's see what this thing can do!", you're probably dumb. If you learn a tool, any tool, by simple rote memorization of the tasks you need to do, instead of understanding the theory behind the usage, then you're dumb.

          they care about learning its fine details as

          • by tlhIngan (30335)

            Play is the best way to learn. If you get a new tool, and your first reaction isn't "Sweet, let's see what this thing can do!", you're probably dumb. If you learn a tool, any tool, by simple rote memorization of the tasks you need to do, instead of understanding the theory behind the usage, then you're dumb.

            It depends, because no one has time to check out the features of their new "toys". If work gives you a cellphone, 99% of the population won't got and check out the features it has, because they don't car

          • by Tom (822)

            Play is the best way to learn. If you get a new tool, and your first reaction isn't "Sweet, let's see what this thing can do!", you're probably dumb.

            You assume that everyone in the world either is or ought to be thinking like you do. Many people do not have that fascination with new toys, and live perfectly good lives without it. One part of evolution is that many strategies are explored, often in parallel. As regarding this curiosity, many variations are still around, the final verdict is still open.

            If you learn a tool, any tool, by simple rote memorization of the tasks you need to do, instead of understanding the theory behind the usage, then you're dumb.

            Not at all. Again, there are several different types of learners. And there are different kinds of tasks. Some do in fact get learnt best by repetition, ot

    • by luisdom (560067)

      See, i have a 2 yr old daughter. I purchased Talking Tom, which is a f***ing talking cat. A simple toy, with which she laughs a lot. I checked every option, no risk invovled. I've seen that now, in-game, you can buy him glasses for 1$ a piece. Should I check every update if they've added scam features? That's why I paid apple "no-worry" premium?
      It's a game specifically targeted for children, and frankly, you don't want parents to supervise every minute of their children's wake time; they grow assholes.

    • I find it hard to believe that people assume it's the kids doing all the purchasing. If someone is willing to pay a £45 a month line rental for an iPhone, then a couple of quid here and there for an app store purchase (or an in game purchase), isn't that much of a stretch. Whilst you might hear a number of scare stories about children running up bills on their parents phones, the stories you won't hear, are from those individual 'whales' that actually make freemium a profitable business model.
      • by Jbcarpen (883850)
        Erm, did you see the post further up the page regarding the $99 in app purchase in smurf village? This is a kids game aimed at four year olds. No excuse there whatsoever.
        • by PNutts (199112)

          It's not aimed at four year olds, it's rated 4+ because there is no objectionable content. And on every screen where you can purchase it there is a disclaimer, "PLEASE NOTE: Smurfs' Village is free to play, but charges real money for additional in-app content. You may lock out the ability to purchase in-app content by adjusting your device’s settings."

      • If someone is willing to pay a £45 a month line rental for an iPhone

        How much does the line rental for an iPod touch cost?

  • When I was a teenager I used my household phone to ring up hundreds of dollars worth of virtual furniture in Habbo Hotel. I never got caught. No one noticed. These companies are making money off of people like me (as a teenager).
  • by msobkow (48369) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @04:05AM (#37917072) Homepage Journal

    Only 5 of the free games mentioned look like they're targeting children. If they're installing the other 5, I'd like to know where the parents are that should be monitoring their kid's gaming and viewing habits.

    I see no difference between trying to get kids to buy in-game items than trying to get them to buy real-world toys. In both cases, the parents are the ones who should be holding the purse-strings and taking their children shopping.

    I think it might be possible to restrict these games on the basis of children under a certain age not being able to enter into a legal contract for the purchases.

    At very least, there should be some requirement for parents to authorize the in-game purchases and limit spending on them on a per-game basis.

    • by msobkow (48369)

      I believe social media network games should be held to those same standards. The device you use to play games should not affect the legal restrictions on those games.

      • by Taco Cowboy (5327)

        I believe social media network games should be held to those same standards.

        I believe parents should be held to those same standards

    • At very least, there should be some requirement for parents to authorize the in-game purchases and limit spending on them on a per-game basis.

      There is another way, an iTunes allowance [apple.com] which prevents over spending be creating a separate bucket of funds automatically incremented each month with $10 - $50.

      • by DrXym (126579)
        That assumes the device belongs to the kid which I doubt is true for most iPads or whatever that a kid might be permitted to play on from time to time.
      • There is another way, an iTunes allowance [apple.com] which prevents over spending be creating a separate bucket of funds automatically incremented each month with $10 - $50.

        Is there a way to have it add $10 every two months or every three months?

    • At very least, there should be some requirement for parents to authorize the in-game purchases and limit spending on them on a per-game basis.

      There is. Under Settings>General>Restrictions. You can turn off In-App Purchases or require a password immediately or every 15 minutes. Silly is the parent that gives up their password (basically their CC info to their kid to purchase as wanted). There is also an iTunes allowance that can be setup for kids. Allowance [apple.com]

  • by perpenso (1613749) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @04:22AM (#37917140)

    Most of the game developers do make an attempt to warn users that the game "changes real money for additional in-app content" but it's a lame attempt. It's easily missed ...

    Apple puts up a dialog over the app's screen indicating the item to be purchased and the price to be charged. These are standard purchase dialogs displayed and implemented by the operating system, beyond the app's control. Apple also updated iOS so that the authorization for the free download could not be used to authorize an in app purchase. The in app purchase requires its own authorization. And then there is the parental control option regarding in app purchases ...

  • TFA is being charitable when assuming the demographic is children. It's the same demographic playing FarmVille - adults. Adults with too much time and money on their hands. Both of which they are being helpfully relieved.

  • by Tom (822) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @05:16AM (#37917424) Homepage Journal

    And Apples does protect its users - you can set up parental controls and disable in-app purchases. In fact, I'm using parental controls on my own device to disable Ping.

    If you give your kids free reign with your credit card, you shouldn't be surprised when they actually, you know, spend money on it. Sheez.

    On the other topic, though, I do agree. Apple should remove games with in-app purchases from the "free" list, because they really aren't. Many of them are just demos for the real game with an in-app purchase to unlock the full version, much like the old shareware concept. Others are social media games that allow you to spend the better part of a car on crap.

    The only ones I support are the ones where the in-app purchase feels more like a "hey, I really liked this game, here's a couple bucks". There's a few, for example, where you get some 20 or so levels with the game and can buy another 5 or so for money. Yes, I didn't reverse the numbers there, you get the largest part of the game for free and if you enjoy it so much, can buy a bit extra.

    But still, I'd love to see a search or filter option for really free games.

  • Companies are starting to notice people are willing to pay money not only for in game items, but also for perks that used to come in the form of cheat codes. So users are being given the choice to either spend hours unlocking stuff through gameplay or pay up to unlock them immediately.

    Gameloft is one of the worst offenders, Modern Combat 3, which is a clear ripoff of the CoD Modern Warfare series allows users to purchase kill streak rewards with real cash.

    Worst thing is, they've only just started to f
  • Buy your child a $350-$900 ipad for a toy, you deserve little johnny buying crap off of the app store and in game. WTF is wrong with adults that buy kids these things?

    Hell, I told my 19 year old child that I will not buy her an iPad, she can go buy one on her own. Here have a stick, they can be fun.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Onaga (1369777)

      Here have a stick, they can be fun.

      Pfft. Every hardcore gamer knows that logs are better than sticks.

      What rolls down stairs
      alone or in pairs,
      and over your neighbor's dog?
      What's great for a snack,
      And fits on your back?
      It's log, log, log

      It's log, it's log,
      It's big, it's heavy, it's wood.
      It's log, it's log, it's better than bad, it's good.

  • Login into itunes and under payment options select "None.",

    I took my credit card off my itunes account a while ago after I started hearing stories on the news of kids running up huge bills and what a nightmare it is to get Apple to act. I can still "buy" the free games, and I don't have to worry about my kid accidentally selecting something that costs money. On the rare occasion that I do want to buy something from Apple it prompts me for payment information and I just have to enter in my credit card inf
  • Not only can you disable in-app purchases, but why would you give your kids an iTunes account that has a credit card linked to it. My kids accounts have no Credit card, they only get to buy stuff when they save up for a gift card, or give us the cash to gift them an app.

    To them, all the "freemium" apps are great since they get to try a whole bunch of options.
  • This is a new (in the last year or so) "freemium" business model which is turing out to be a very lucrative way for developers to make money in the new App Store mobile gaming world. It is all explained quite well in this blog post:

    http://blog.flurry.com/bid/65656/Free-to-play-Revenue-Overtakes-Premium-Revenue-in-the-App-Store [flurry.com]

    Most of these games don't require you to make in-app purchases to continue in the game, they just allow you to buy items to proceed in the game faster. Because the games are free, the

Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth. -- Nero Wolfe

Working...