The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has recently began to investigate mobile games that are advertised as free but then offer virtual goods that cost real money in the games itself. The FTC claims that this is especially “dangerous” for games targeting younger audiences.
Apparently, many parents had been complaining that their young children managed to make many purchases on “free” games right under their notices. There was even one example of a young child spending $1,400 in a Smurfs game.
FTC Chairman John Leibowitz said in a statement, “Consumers, particularly children, are unlikely to understand the ramifications of these types of purchases.”
Massachusetts Congressman Edward Markey responded, “What may appear in these games to be virtual coins and prizes to children result in very real costs to parents. I am pleased that the FTC has responded, and as the use of mobile apps continues to increase, I will continue to actively monitor developments in this important area.”
The Smurfs game mentioned before has gained so much attention after it reached the #1 spot of top-earning iPhone games. That’s when this whole issue really started getting attention. Once the media discovered that there’s even a button to purchase $100 in “Smurfberries, the FTC decided enough was enough.
While some of the charges definitely come as the result of a parent legitimately buying berries for their kid, there is also controversy over the 15-minute user authentication buffer. Think of it as a rip-off DLC for a free game. Hopefully, the FTC can fix the problem without the need to completely ban “DLC”