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“Free” Games to Download Can be Expensive


An article from today’s Star Tribune reports that some “free” popular applications that are available for download on Apple products can actually rack up quite the bill, and some are finding it out the hard way.

The article mentions the example of the free application “The Smurfs’ Village,” which has become the highest grossing application in the iTunes store. A mother in California let her 4-year-old son play the game on her iPad, but had no idea that real money is involved in the pretend game. The application, not unlike many other free games, offers certain items for the player to purchase. The incentive for buying the pretend items is to speed up the game for the player, or to increase success within the game. In this particular game, the child was buying “Smurfberries” and spent over $60 within a matter of minutes. The cost of most items in applications varies, spanning from under a dollar to hundreds. In the Smurf Village application, a “wheelbarrow” will cost you $59.99. It might sound funny, but it’s a successful, strategic plan for the creators of the game!

One might ask, “Aren’t the devices password-protected for all purchases?” The answer is yes, the iTunes account password must be entered before all purchases and downloads, but some kids are beating the buzzer. The only reason that a password is not required for a purchase or download is if the password has already been entered on the device in the last 15 minutes. To combat any angry users, Apple made it clear on their website that you may lock out the ability to purchase in-app content by adjusting your device’s settings.

So do you think it’s worth the money to buy imaginary things within a game to advance your success? Or does it seem like throwing your money away into an imaginary trash can?

Published on: December 10, 2010