The Office of Fair Trading this morning announced that it is to investigate in app purchase strategies employed by video games publishers.
The move is a result of concerns that some customers – primarily children – are unwittingly spending sizable sums on content in games which, when they are initially downloaded, are presumed to be free.
The OFT has appealed to concerned parents to get in touch. It has also approached a number of games publishers to explain the reasoning behind their payment models.
Apple and Google are understood to be on the OFT’s radar, as well as gaming services such as Facebook and Moshi Monsters.
Here MCV takes a look at some of the more notable moments in the history of IAP:
Zombies vs Ninjas (Hwa David)
Five-year-old Danny Kitchen hit the headlines in February when The Daily Mail reported on his purchasing of over £1,700 worth of IAPs in Zombies vs Ninjas. Apple eventually refunded Danny’s parents… but only AFTER the media coverage.
Smurf’s Village (Capcom)
A $99.99 IAP for Capcom’s licensed kids game caught the attention of Apple, once it had been reported in the mainstream press. Tired of significant number of calls it was receiving from aggrieved parents, the iPhone maker eventually cajoled Capcom into placing a cap on the number of IAPs that could be purchased in-game – five every 15 minutes.
Playmobil Pirates (Gameloft)
Gameloft was forced to make a statement regarding IAPs in its licensed Playmobil game, the most expensive of which came in at £69.99. It didn’t back down, though. It insisted its pricing followed a standard model and was mainly aimed at adults, adding that players are perfectly free not to purchase the IAPs.
Rock Band (EA)
EA had planned to not only stop providing DLC for Rock band on iOS but actually disable the game people had ploughed money into completely. It changed its mind, of course, but the saga was a warning blow to gamers the world over.
DoDonPachi Blissful Death (Cave)
The prestige of 1CCing a Cave shmup was once the crowning glory of any serious gamer. Cave’s decision to introduce IAPs in this iOS release was met with derision from its fanbase and was yet further evidence of the developer’s struggles to try and get to grips with the economics of modern gaming. The signs ppint to Cave having now withdrawn from the smartphone market completely.
Beautiful Katamari (Namco Bandai)
Namco’s Xbox 360 title launched with DLC. Nothing new there, you say. But Beautiful Katamari is remembered by most for being the first game that required the purchase of DLC to obtain all 40 of its Xbox Live achievements. Undoubtedly the number of Achievement Whores out there lead to a tidy profit on this bit of content.
Real Racing 3 (EA)
Both Real Racing and Real Racing 2 were premium iOS releases but the third game in the series – the first since developer Firemonkey’s acquisition at the hands of EA – was free to download but was heavy on the IAPs. 148apps.com estimated that it would cost gamers $503 to 100 per cent complete the game.
Dead Space 3 (EA)
EA’s decision late on in this game’s development process to standardise ammunition and introduce IAP options for gamers was met with the sort of outrage you’d expect from The Daily Mail should a group of Polish plumbers take to streets with a burning effigy of Princess Diana.
Black Ops II (Activision)
Having tried its hand at selling gamers access to the Call of Duty Elite network, Activision last year tried a different tact – Elite would be free, but instead they could pay cash for pretty designs on their guns. What changes to the payment model will this year’s game bring?
Gears of War Judgment (Microsoft)
Microsoft was far less subtle in its treatment of IAPs with recent release Gears of War Judgment. As well as paying the best part of £50 for the game itself and £40 for a year’s Xbox Live access for multiplayer, players are now able to spend even more cash on things like XP boosts and exclusive playlists. There’s no arguing that these purchases don’t affect the core gameplay.