My Thoughts on In-App Purchases

A lot of games on the App Store (on iTunes) and other vendors like Google Play are free of charge to download and play, but those same games usually come with optional “in-app purchases” – that is, virtual currency and special-item packages that players can buy with real-world money. There have been some instances of addiction to some games that may ultimately lead to the players spending a truckload of money on in-app purchases just to better their characters, progress to the next level more rapidly, etc.

One such example is a 15-year-old Belgian teenager who plays Game of War: Fire Age. The boy spent a whopping 37,000 Euros (the equivalent of US $46,000) on gold packages. He did so with his parents’ credit card information, linking that info to his own account on iTunes, and the charges went in his grandfather’s name. And in 2010, a British gamer spent some 900 UK pounds/sterling (US $1,350) on the once-hugely-successful Facebook game FarmVille, using his mother’s funds and his own savings account in the process.

Anyway, I have decidedly mixed feelings about in-app purchases (or “IAPs”) in general. On the plus side, they’re fine for enhancing just about every aspect of gameplay in freemium/paymium games like the aforementioned Game of War, Clash of Clans, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, and lesser-known ones like TourStar. However, on the minus side, IAPs seem almost obligatory in instances where you just can’t earn certain items (such as diamonds in Superstar Life, a fashion-themed simulation game where you take on four different roles – Business, Fashion Designer, Movie Star and Music Star Careers – and progress in your careers by doing tasks, etc.) very easily by just playing the game alone. Virtual currency packages tend to rank anywhere from $0.99 to $99.99 apiece.

I tend to think that some players who don’t make IAPs – or who can’t afford to do so – may feel competitively disadvantaged at the sight of other users or friends having a more attractive character, farm, restaurant, castle, or anything else than their own. Well, maybe they don’t, but am I trying to say that freemium/paymium games with IAPs should be banned? Not in the least. Trying to advance in IAP games without an in-game purchase can be frustrating, but there are some IAP games that also offer weekly tournaments with virtual currency prizes up for grabs…like the Big Win Sports games, for example. Some IAP games also offer free videos that you can watch to earn specific virtual currency.

Furthermore, parents and players uninterested in IAPs could turn off in-app purchases in their iOS or other mobile devices via their respective Settings. Or, if they do make in-app purchases, they can buy an iTunes Gift Card or Google Play Card, redeem them on iTunes (or whatever store their mobile device supports), and use that currency to buy whatever virtual packages their in-store credit can afford. The latter, based upon personal experience, is probably the best choice for IAPs (or music, TV shows, and movies available on iTunes), because if you just buy iTunes Cards and redeem them as long as you can afford them, then you don’t need to link your credit card or bank account information to the store. The only thing for which bill-payers (parents or responsible guardians) should watch out, though, is if kids are still intending to use card/bank information without permission.

In conclusion: In-app purchases seem to have a balanced share of hits and misses, but there’s always a way to go about avoiding troubles with them.

Belgian Teen Drops 37,000 Euros on Free-to-Play Game – Courtesy of Yahoo

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