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"Free-to-play" misleading advertising in Europe (gamesindustry.biz)
410 points by bhaumik on March 1, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 222 comments



A lot of people are making false assumptions about what this is about; Here's the actual EU release rather than a blog rewrite:

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-14-187_en.htm?locale...

The actual issue is "Often consumers are not fully aware that they are spending money because their credit cards get charged by default." - so it's not an issue of people disliking paywalls in free games, it's an issue of people not realizing they're handing over real cash in games which are marked free.

The EU also has't said they want Free/IAP games to not be marked as free, but what they said is 'Games advertised as “free” should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved' (i.e IAP should be made more explicit).


Thanks for going to the source for this one.


Pop


I wholeheartedly agree with this. The point for me isn't so much "protection" against unforseen expenses it's just that I want to know up front what costs money and what doesn't.

When I browse for a free app I don't want to see the crippled in-app-unlockable app next to the truly free app.

Strict rules for prices in marketing is a prerequisite for a functioning market, my other pet peeve is the contract phone. Not only do I think telcos should be required to market the total cost (which they are already at least here) , I want to take it one step further and completely ban the marketing of the small upfront cost as the price.


> The point for me isn't so much "protection" against unforseen expenses it's just that I want to know up front what costs money and what doesn't.

I also prefer to know up front what things cost or might end up costing. I guess the difference between us is that I make a distinction between my preferences and what policies I think should be forcefully implemented by governments.


Are you opposed to all legislation on pricing? We have quite a lot in the country I live in and I've never before considered it to be a negative thing. For example, if someone advertises something as "£1 per month" but then actually charges my credit card £10 per month, they could get in trouble. Are you opposed to that legislation and think that I should avoid such charges... well, I'm interested in knowing what you think I should do in absence of legislation.


I'm not exactly opposed to all legislation on price. I do think that unapproved credit card charges constitute fraud, but in-app purchases (as far as I have experienced them on Android and iOS) do not work this way. They all require explicit confirmation, after the "free" install.

So a better analogy would be a theme park with free entry (or some constant entry price) that then offers optional "in-park purchases" like food, special events, or expedited roller coaster lines. I wouldn't consider this fraud, but for non-free theme parks, I do think a court might eventually have to make a decision based on what exactly you're agreeing on when you pay for a ticket. To avoid legal ambiguity, I suspect theme parks could simply have a document describing what services are included with the base ticket (though not necessarily listing all optional services which cost extra).


I've never understood the American stand point that all government intervention is presumably bad a priori.


That is far from "the American stand point." Most Americans ridiculed the moderately libertarian policies of Republican candidate Ron Paul. Even the broad ideas of fiscal conservatism and low corporate taxes is mocked by one major party and usually only given lip service by the other. The Libertarian Party, despite being the third largest party in the US, is at best a joke to the vast majority of Americans. And on top of that, the view that all government intervention is bad would be considered extreme even among these candidates.


But the upfront cost is the entire cost of the phone to the customer, as in the customer has title to the phone immediately they pay that cost. You're implying that you only want contract phones to be sold on a hire-purchase basis, which has its own problems.


the upfront cost is the entire cost of the phone to the customer

No, it's not. The up-front cost, plus the agreement to sign an x (x~=2) year contract is the cost to the consumer. The consumer would not have been induced to sign this contract without the advertised price of the phone so, clearly, the obligations in that contract are not ones that the consumer would be willing to undertake for free (i.e. without a subsidised phone).

the customer has title to the phone immediately they pay that cost

That may be the case, but let me share two examples:

1) If I get an iPhone from AT&T, at a subsidised price because I committed to a 2-year contract, that phone will be locked to AT&T until I request that it is unlocked. They will only unlock the phone if I have satisfied the conditions of the contract (i.e. paid my 24 months' bill). So, although I have title to the phone from day 1 (in the sense that I can throw it down the toilet if I want) I don't really own it in the sense of being able to do whatever I want with it (like use it on a different network) until 2 years' later. It doesn't seem that different from hire purchase.

2) If I buy an iPhone from China Unicom (the 2nd largest mobile provider in China), I pay a deposit up-front (roughly the unsubsidised price of the phone, less the advertised up-front price) and 1/24th of that deposit is credited to my bill each month for the next 2 years. The only practical differences vs. the AT&T example are (i) they don't lock the phone and (ii) they are more protected than AT&T are if I don't hold up my end of the bargain.


No, the cost of the phone is just spread out over 12 or 24 months. It's like saying a new car has the cost of a small down payment, it's completely absurd.

A contract phone is just a regular purchase with a payment plan over 24 months AND hopefully a rebate compared to buying the phone cash, since you are bound to the specific company for a period of time.

As an example, an iPhone might cost $1 when you sign a $50/mo contract for 24 months. If that contract would be $25 if I keeps my old phone, then the cost of the iPhone is 24 x $25.

The bottom line is: the total cost should be easy to calculate, specified on monthly bills (how much is phone payments vs. call costs), and obfuscating the phone payments by masking it as e.g more expensive pre-paid minutes must be outlawed as it makes it impossible to compare the contract to the equivalent contract without the phone.


Here in the UK, when buying vehicle insurance I have the option to pay for the year upfront, or to pay monthly. Paying monthly costs more as you effectively get a loan for the upfront fee and pay off the loan over the course of a year. So the documents often present it like so:

Pay Upfront: £57.16

Pay Monthly: Deposit: £5.45 Installments: (11 x £5.45) Total: £65.40 APR: 35.3%


You get that in the US too, however I wouldn't call it a loan because if you sign for a 1 year term and then cancel or switch providers after a month you get your money back

It's more like a SaaS offering you a discount for paying yearly


if it is illegal to modify the phone until the contract is over you don't have title to it.


When I look at free games on the App Store I see if it says "offers in-app purchases".

If it does I look at the in-app purchases.

If the in-app purchases are "x00 Special In-Game Currency Units" then I don't install the game.

Not sure we need legislation to avoid being ripped off...


Unlike the US, the EU has strong legislation against deceptive advertising. Saying that a game is "free" when it's designed for profit is intentionally deceptive. It's really as simple as that.


Games with ads are free but designed for profit. Is that misleading too?


That is not misleading because the player does not need to spend money.

Which is the definition of 'free' that is used.


The player does not need to spend money for the majority of freemium games either.


'Need' is tricky to define in this case. Many 'freemium' games are very different experiences based on whether or not you pay via additional IAP. From what I gather, not having actually played it, Dungeon Keeper is about the most extreme example of this. It sounds like you really do need to pay in order to play the actual game, as opposed to playing something which many would describe as not really being the game.


Do you really want EU bureaucrats examining each game and deciding how playable it is with or without certain item? If the game is that bad - uninstall it, write one-star review for it and be done with it.


>Do you really want EU bureaucrats examining each game and deciding how playable it is with or without certain item? //

No. If a player has to at any time in the game spend in order to unlock, extend or access an area or feature then the game is not "free to play" it's "maybe free to play".

It's deceptive to label it as free.

To me this is a natural supplement to the EU unfair business practices legislation.


This is what worries me. I absolutely do not want the government involved in, of all things, classifying the genre of a video game.

Sure we all know the type of game this is targeted at. The time-sink freemium farmville clone that makes it just a little too easy to buy those gems/coins/cash/whatever that makes the timer tick down faster.

What if the IAP in my game is just to remove ads? What if it's solely cosmetic?

Governments do not have the best track record when it comes to comprehension of nuance and basic reality.

I'd like to think that a person is smart enough to tell when their OS pops up the payment dialog that they are under no obligation to click "yes".


First, the whole document concerns itself with what is called "free". If you do not label your game as free and do not market your game for children, then you are out of document scope. Do what you want.

More nuanced, according to their first position, you should be able to market game with removable ads as free (unless they cover whole screen or make game unplayable). You would be able call the game free with cosmetic in app purchases too, but you probably would have to make it clear to customer prior downloading eg. "you have to use default avatar unless you pay 1$" somewhere in description.

You could even lock content unless money are paid and still call it free, as long as customer was clearly told what parts are available and what parts are not available. (Hard to understand one liner in the middle of 20 pages long terms of services does not count).


Uh, who said that legislation would mean that every game would first go to a govt dept to verify genre? I thought the whole point of such legislation is to be a deterrent. So that WHEN someone violates it and is deceptive in their marketing, you can take them to court for it.

Yes, I also first read reviews to know if the game requires regular payments etc, and it is reasonable to expect this from consumers. But the law should be there to protect those who do not.

"If you don't want to be mugged, don't go down dark alleys" is sound advice, but that doesn't mean that mugging doesn't need to be labelled "illegal"


Why you need to take them to court? If the game is bad, uninstall it. Nobody forced you to install it with the gun to your head and the knife to your liver, did they? This newfound refusal of all personal responsibility for any action is just disgusting. Oh, I spent $100 on Candy Crash because my life is pathetic and I don't have anything better to spend it on, so let me now go and sue the game maker because they must have tricked me - it can't be that I'm so stupid to spend $100 on imaginary digital goods that let me spend extra minute in a nonsense game! Of course it's a dark plot by evil capitalists and not just my personal fault for not thinking before clicking the "pay" button! Of course the law should be there to protect me from my own voluntary personal decisions if it turns out they weren't as smart as I see myself!


Agreed, the recent Dungeon Keeper release was effectively unplayable without buying the IAP items.


People said that about PvZ2, so yeah. People aren't a good barometer for these sorts of things. No wonder they fool themselves into ignoring price tags on things.


The player does not need to pay, but at the same time is subjected to game theory driven psychological trickery that's been developed over decades. Think of it like gambling, but more subtle, yet gambling is heavily regulated.


In a normal free program with ads, the user has no way of spending money. In a freemium, you decide whether the game is free or not for you.


No, because they are still free (as in beer) at the point of delivery, like the NHS: http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/thenhs/about/Pages/nhscoreprinc...


Unfortunately, most people aren't even that sophisticated. The average user isn't going to be able to differentiate between a free game and one designed to pry their wallets open.

I don't know if the solution to that is regulation, but it can't be reliance on the uninformed to know what's good for them. The exploitative industry moves faster than any but the most well-informed and most jaded.


Indeed. There is always a point where everyone of us starts being not sophisticated.

Each time somebody tells me that we shouldn't protect stupid people, I remember not feeling very smart in front of pages of legalese in insurance and banking contracts. I keep thinking, yes they are probably going to screw me, but somebody is working to prevent them from screwing me too overtly.


I guess I didn't realize the average person was that stupid. I play games with in-app purchases. It's pretty easy just not to pay for them.

If the public is this bad with something as simple as in-app purchases, why should we ever legalize drugs? This is a serious question.


> why should we ever legalize drugs?

Because enforcing strong anti-drug laws causes even more damage. It's not that most people want drugs to be legal, it banning them does not work.

On the other hand a legislation like this is easy to enforce, because you pretty much only have to get Apple, Google and Microsoft to comply in their stores.


That depends on the question if you think it's OK for you to take the rights away from someone that you think are stupider than you. And if you think it's OK if someone who thinks they are smarter than you would take your rights away. If you think that'd be fine - then indeed there's no reason to legalize drugs, at least until people smarter than you decide there is. There's also no point of discussing it, since the decision lies with people smarter than you anyway.

But if you think people are smart enough to vote and to discuss public matters and to make right decisions for themselves - then there's no reason why decisions about what to eat and what to drink and what to inhale should be any different.


People are selfish all the time. They threaten others with guns, to get cash. They blackmail, and coerce, and cheat. Smart people too.

Now, don't know if selfish irresponsible use of intoxicants rises to that level, but the argument can be made. E.g. alcohol laws are everywhere, and its not even a very good intoxicant.


Argument can be also made it's selfish for you not to give me half of your money. So I am entitled to threaten you with a gun, to get cash you're selfishly denying me. There can be a lot of arguments made once you abandon the notion of rights that people have.


Obviously we are talking about reasonable arguments.

I think if you go out and make a poll you will find intense disagreement on whether there is a right to [severe] self-harm. Please don't strawman into the idea of abandoning all rights.


It's not a requirement for a customer protection law to be protecting only the average citizen. Even if there is a minority of people affected but significantly the state feels entitled to act, rightfully or not. A good example is drug use/abuse.


Legalizing drugs and regulating them would be a better analogy to the situation you're considering here. Games are legal to play and the discussion is about regulating the game makers and not the consumers.


Well, for one thing the legal audience for these games includes children, whereas even for legalized drugs such as alcohol, I don't know of a country where children are a legitimate audience.


People are that dumb. Even smart people.

The drug question is difficult precisely because the balance kf protection and rights is complicated by the fact that prohibition creates massive problems of its own.

This is why there is no simple fix that makes all the harm go away and we should focus on trying to mitigate as much as possible. To me it seems that legalisation and regulation woukd help, but we'll always need services to pick up the people who get into trouble with it.


I do wish there was a distinction between the freemium app types. I'm okay with demoware (first level free, pay to unlock the rest) but I hate the buy coins every day model.

Maybe in-app purchase can be categorized as one-time or recurring?


I think this is a matter for regulation because unlike a regulation deciding what you can and can't do, this is a regulation of advertising your product. App developers, myself included, have a responsibility of being honest to customers about what they are getting. Currently many freemium app descriptions tout the "free" and intentionally divert buyers attention from the fact that they have to pay later. Payment advertising is sometimes completely ignored and players feel that they are buying as a form of game play rather than as a buying transaction tied to real money.


Sure you avoid the games, but they're clearly making tons of money. People find things that "work" -- they earn tons of money. They repeat. Other people see that it works. They copy. Suddenly the world is full of games that have artificial limitations that can be passed by waiting N hours or by paying $N.

I say we boycott applications that do this. But if it's easier to legislate, then by all means.


Apple added all this only after losing a massive class action on IAP.

So, you're right that we probably don't need legislation now to avoid being ripped off, but it would have been preferable to have it when people were being ripped off. That does require consumer legislation to keep up with technology, though.


I think it'd be a good thing to do. You have a process in place, and enough self discipline to avoid installing such apps. But not everyone is like that. I'm guessing majority of the users go like this: "ah, it's a free app, great, I'll get it. <10 mins in the game, when they run out of gems, bullets, whatnot> Oh, what do I do now? £0.99 is not too bad, I'll just get another pack of <blah>, so I don't have to wait 30 mins".

Can people self-regulate and avoid behaving like that? Yes. Do they? I doubt it.


I'm not the first or last person to say this, but the solution to "some people behave in way X, while other people behave in way Y" is generally not "we need legislation compelling everyone to behave the same way".


No, but to draw an analogy that is actually vaguely close to what we're discussing, if some people behave in way X, which is not good for them, or for wider society, we need legislation allowing them to avoid behaving in way X. Yes, that example is exaggerated in the opposite direction from, but far less than, yours.


In the first place, the concept of "legislation allowing [people] to avoid behaving" in a certain way is incoherent. Say what you mean.

In the second place, the concept of "we need to prevent people from doing anything negative to themselves" is not distinguishable from the concept of "where there are multiple ways for people to behave, all but one must be prohibited". In fact, it's not even distinguishable from the concept of "where there are ways for people to behave, all must be prohibited".


No one is suggesting to ban anything, or enforce people's behaviour in any way. What they want to do is to enforce correct labels on items that people are purchasing. If it says "free" it must be free full stop. If it is only partially free, then it must say so.

It's like getting a "free" train ticket, but then when you want to travel you're asked to pay for boarding the train.


> If the in-app purchases are "x00 Special In-Game Currency Units" then I don't install the game.

That's sensible to false-positives though, a number of games are perfectly playable (with no roadblock) without getting special currency units, e.g. jetpack joyride (a fairly standard infinite runner) or Solomon's Boneyard. The currency units are mostly there for developer support and if you can't be arsed to play the game (for some reason).


> ... sensible ...

You probably meant to write "sensitive" or "susceptible" or something like that. (Just a well-meaning remark especially if you, like me, are not a native speaker).


I'm glad I'm not the only one there. Although some apps a quick search will show that it's worth it (Paper by 53 comes to mind).

Which is something I find interesting: people talk about "discovery" and reviews of apps being difficult. You're on a device that's sole purpose is internet connectivity! Use the browser, Luke!


Not sure if you know it, but there is zero information on the internet for the wast majority of apps. Even if there are reviews, they are done by people who played for five minutes and then wrote something as fast as possible.

I wanted to play (and buy) a game the other day. It turned out that unless friend brought and recommended, there is no way to learn about gameplay, difficulty, length, whether there are in app purchases or not etc. The only way to learn those things is to buy and then find out you do not like the game or that it is very short.

It was not big deal for me, I googled for couple of hours and them brought nothing.

There are hundreds of games being published every day and only maybe 1% of them are any good. That IS discovery problem and it is problem mainly for game developers. Since customers like me have no way to distinguish between those good games and bad games, we buy something random and then see.

The result is that good and bad games earn the same, since they are largely brought on random. The main losers are here good games developers.


I suppose I don't personally get enough apps to have found that myself; usually if there's an app I'm considering it's fairly simple to find a decent review, but they are bigger names.

I wonder if there is a solution for that then? The same way as things like Polygon keep on top of standard games, a mobile focused review site that has far higher quality than regular "review sites" (that yeah, most of which are pretty terrible).


Personally I would like to see iAP to be considered like advertising and for it to be more heavily regulated at child audiences. Tired of my 4 year old crying because I won't let him spend another $4 to unlock another widget.


Next time a child asks for permission to make an in app purchase, turn off the electronics go down to the creek and jump in puddles together.

They are only four once. It's right now or it doesn't happen. There's no second chance.


I enjoy making cartoons with him just as much as jumping in puddles.


Kids should have a childhood like I experienced/like I wanted, or else it will be a wasted childhood.

I don't think that kids should play a lot of video games (I don't know what they should or should not do, since I'm not a child development expert). But this whole adults looking back at their "organic" childhood as the one true way to grow up ever is getting kind of old.

Lego? Damnit, take those silly toys away from him and give 'em a garn and let them make up their own games. I tell you these advanced toys destroys the natural creativity of children. Give 'em a stick and some garn and they will make up their own games; that's how kids are SUPPOSED to be.


I was working as a City Planner and an elderly black man was sitting in the visitor chair across the desk and looking out the window. He'd come there so I could say "no". He wasn't a first time developer. He'd known he'd get no when he'd been sent to the office with my desk. That's why he hadn't come there first and now that we'd gone through the motions and. the anticipated "no" had been said he asked if I fished.

A little. I like to take my son.

You will never regret a moment spent fishing with him.

I'm not waxing wistful for my childhood or for one I didn't have,. I'm waxing wistful for my first years as a parent and for the things I did and wish I had done more


Same still applies, though: You're jumping to conclusions about what is important to others.

I play video games with my 4 year old. He loves it, and he loves doing it with me more than the games themselves. We take him out lots too, but I have equally fond memories of times I've spent playing games with him as the ones I've spent with him on outdoors activities.


I can second this. My 7-yr-old daughter and I started playing some RPGs on the Xbox360. She enjoys it, but only if I'm playing with her. She almost never plays by herself, and half the time she'll have me do difficult parts. She'll often crack jokes about parts of gameplay. Or when looking at the save game list, look back at a part we played months ago and exclaim "Wow, remember that place!" (Eternal Sonata has great scenery.)

On a tangent: She's very sensitive to the gender of the characters in-game and really insists on playing girls. We were both rather disappointed that GTA V shipped 3 player characters, all male.


Three years and two jobs later we were picking up dinner from the grocery deli on the way home from work and preschool and up he came and asked if we were going fishing and it wasn't for a day or two that I remembered who he was and what he had said the one time we had met.

It's hard for me to keep priorities in order sometimes. Even when I know, I just forget what really matters. Good luck.


> Three years and two jobs later we were picking up dinner from the grocery deli on the way home from work and preschool and up he came and asked if we were going fishing and it wasn't for a day or two that I remembered who he was and what he had said the one time we had met.

What is this, a novel in the making? The whole strange-person-who-makes-an-unforgettable-impact has to be tied with some actual event, not just a random person who impacts some sage advice, with no build up or context for imparting that sage advice. Being old doesn't quite cut it.

If it's from your own life, then well... I guess we all know one or two eccentric elderly people.


The top level comment struck a chord because my son who used to be four was sleeping down the hall when I read it. Then in the morning a clarification that jumping in puddles is not something I claim by entitlement but something I can strive to create.

A lot of people came through my office to hear "no" or "yes" or "it depends". Only one of them had much impact on my life and that of my family and that's because the moment wasn't about making money or rather his not fixing to be not making money with his bright idea that wouldn't fly. He was fully present. That's why he could pick me out later in another context and remember what he had said and that's what makes it stick.

Deciding to put aside all the bullshit and be present for a child in a way that sticks is what matters. And it's hard sometimes.


I'd say taking away Lego occasionally and going out to a park or a river or a museum or a swimming pool or wherever else is a good thing. The point is moderation.


Garn? Apparently it is a NASA unit mockingly for the level of space sickness.

"Jake Garn was sick, was pretty sick. I don't know whether we should tell stories like that. But anyway, Jake Garn, he has made a mark in the Astronaut Corps because he represents the maximum level of space sickness that anyone can ever attain, and so the mark of being totally sick and totally incompetent is one Garn. Most guys will get maybe to a tenth Garn, if that high. And within the Astronaut Corps, he forever will be remembered by that."

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_adaptation_syndrome


When I was 4, I threw a tantrum in the middle of a mall because my mom wouldn't buy me a toy. In exasperation, she sat down at a bench and let me embarrass myself for a half hour. Kid's gotta learn eventually he can't get his way by being a brat, eh?


Everybody who doesn't have children, read the parent post!

Most children will go through a phase where they throw tantrums. Different children have different needs, but for some you just have to let them kick and sream themselves to the realization that it doesn't get them anywere.

So while it might be unfortunate that this interrupts your afternoon shopping, it is no reason to walk over to the parent an lecture them on what they should or shouldn't do, or better yet, tell them they should be ashamed of themselves!

It's not like the parent is having fun or being even remotely not uncomfortable while it happens.


And shaming that parent into giving in to their child's unreasonable demands just ensures that the child will throw more tantrums in the future. And they work because bystanders will shame the parent into giving in. Don't be that person; support the parent.


And that includes not giving eye contact, encouraging smiles or otherwise engaging with the child.

But the problem of course is that for many bystanders it is hard to tell when a child is being a brat, and when a child is being mistreated. Especially if they're not a parent themselves.


For most people, regardless of age, withdrawing attention when they act negatively tends to relatively quickly make them change their behaviour. Works on toddlers, co-workers, friends. Anyone.

People have a deep psychological need for attention, and negative attention is often better than no attention.

Attention is often the best way to both reward and punish someone, by giving or withdrawing it (not through negative attention).

But yes, you need to be prepared for uncomfortable moments at first if you've let them get away with it previously. And you should be consistent - especially with children, consistency makes a huge difference. And for children it of course needs to be much more obvious - with my son I will tell him when I am withdrawing attention, why, and what he can do to get my attention again.


>can't get his way by being a brat, eh?

As you know, everyone's opinion on child rearing is the one true way.

We know that some parenting techniques encourage children to play helpless or enraged if it consistently achieves goals they want. We also know that certain types of treatment make them less likely to whine, or cry when hurt.

When Fred Rodgers talks to a little boy and asks him about what makes him really mad inside, is he encouraging temper tantrums, or is he standing in contrast to the spectrum of a boozy mummy and daddy on one side who don't want disruption and a short tempered, beaten down set of parents on the other?

If you live in a highly structured, hierarchical society with a strong patronage system, your children are probably going to live better lives if you breed a strong sense of deference to authority. If that isn't the case, being kind of mousy might find them mousy lives.

Whining may be really unpleasant for any adult in the vicinity, yet unjustified whining from a 4 year old is not the same as unjustified whining from a 25 year old. If it's unjustified the 25 year old is choosing to be a victim. On the other hand, the 4 year old does not have the rational or emotional capacity to judge what is or is not the end of the world. You can train the 4 year old to no longer whine, by focusing on the whining and making that a singular, traumatic event. And yet, what you probably want, is for your child to fight back on things that actually matter, and also to use more effective means than pathetic whining.

--Ineffective, bad argumentation techniques used on embarrassingly unimportant topics-- And yet, a four year old is unlikely to see that as the banner. Instead, they are likely to see, mommy or daddy goes nuclear if I insist "I must have".

You remembered the incident clear enough to make the connection that it was a a dumb issue that your toddler self were pushing, but another toddler would have just interpreted it as a statement about who was in charge, or for it to be wrong to feel strongly. In the grown up world, how often do people unjustifiably feel that it is presumptuous to ask for a raise. Or, how much innovation has been hindered by people bowing their head when their boss ignores their idea, rather than going out on their own and putting their former employer out of business.

Anyway, back to the original topic, programs with in-app purchases are intended to get money, and some are sophisticated enough to manipulate adults into spending more than they otherwise would. There are a few options here. You can have a teachable moment: don't ask mommy and daddy for things. Or the teachable moment: <long explanation about the subtleties of marketing, which your 4yo won't understand anyway>. Or finally, a short time with a game <without in-app purchases>, then later some fun finger painting.

Since, sadly, the presence of some childish behaviors that are unpleasant to adults are better than their absence, an absence of triggers can be nice. You can know how to scare your child from whining, decide not to, but also hold the combination of beliefs that you don't want to spoil them and you don't want to hear whining on this particular car trip. You know that just buying whatever is not a viable choice, but it would be nice if such teachable moments only occurred in the grocery checkout line rather than also in the car.


And my parents were tired of me asking for sugary cereals. And yet both they and I survived, and I probably got to eat that cereal three total times in my childhood. Not getting things is an important lesson, especially in a world that will only increase the pressure to buy things in the future (legislation won't stop his peers from telling him to buy cool shoes). And if you disagree with that statement (perfectly reasonable to do so), then it's still not really someone else's responsibility to hide him from it, you should feel free to do so.


This sounds like a parenting problem, not a legal problem.


It's not a parenting problem that a human brain develops over many years and is initially incapable of understanding some of the constraints the world places on it.


> initially incapable

So teach them? Isn't that what the parent post was saying?


Teaching them is not an instant process. And given the number of these in app purchases that manages to lure in parents, that's totally unrealistic in any case.


What's unrealistic about not letting your kids buy IAP? You set parental control and tell them they are not allowed to buy IAP and that's it.

You also have to teach kids to brush their teeth every night. That's 365 times a year. Is that unrealistic to teach them, too? Or is teaching them to brush their teeth an instant process?


This is one of the areas where I wish EU would punish Apple for.

Their free app of the week is often so-called free games but they almost always have in-app purchases that's required to take full advantage of the game.


You really want the government getting involved here? I mean, what's next? Attacking SaaS and PaaS for their "free" tiers that really don't provide you with much and you have to actually pay to actually get some real use out of it?

Take some responsibility and stop asking the government to be your nanny.


This is clearly a difference between the US and the EU. Most EU citizens (including me) think it is fine to regulate the market, e.g. if it is misleading.

Such games are often misleading, since they are not really free. The 'Free' label is just used because people will impulse-install a free application more quickly than a paid application and in the end an addicted gamer will probably spend more through in-app purchases.

I think there is a good middle ground that can be found. Instead of listing in-app purchases separately, Apple, Google, et al. could make three options:

- <Price>

- Free

- Free with in app-purchases

It would also be nice if every app store listed all the in-app purchases. Then I, as a customer, can consider beforehand whether I found the prices to be acceptable.


Apple already does this. I am literally looking at a game right now in the App Store and it's free and Apple makes it very clear that it offers IAPs. It even gives you a list of the Top IAPs. So, listing every IAP, it does not do. But beyond that, it gives you exactly what is being asked.


Except Apple did it because they were forced to by a class-action lawsuit. I think that's a pretty good example of "regulation".


Except there are confusion when Apple markets it as the "Free Game of the Week". Many people thought this meant IAP was free as well.

Say "Free game of the week with paid IAP still included", I don't have a problem with this.


Sorry, but it tells you the cost, right on the damn screen. It's not hidden. It literally tells you the price. This is well after you've already downloaded the free app. So you have the game. You are inside, and their are prices next to it.

I mean, damn. Do these same people go to a club, get in for free, and then wonder why they still have to pay for drinks?

> Say "Free game of the week with paid IAP still included", I don't have a problem with this.

I guarantee that using that wording, people would think that the paid IAP was included with the "Free game of the week." I mean, they are already dumb enough to see a price and ignore it.


If it's "unlock extra maps for $5" I think that's fair.

If it's "125 tokens for $10", that's not really telling you the price. Video arcades used this abstraction tactic successfully. Make people convert money upfront, make the exchange rate difficult to calculate mentally, ensure that the user is left with worthless "change" so they top up again, to avoid being left with sunk costs.

If every time an IAP is offered it showed prices in real $/€, people would think twice.


I've never read so many comments from so many people wanting to give money to products they hate to support companies that use tactics you deplore.


I know Apple does that, the Play store also indicates that an app has in-app purchases. But why not say it clearly in the 'purchasing button'?


Notably, for the Play store, it says "FREE" in green letters on grey in the search results, and then you need to click through to see "offers in-app purchases" in dark grey on light grey set well apart from the big, green "Install" button on the details screen, with no information about the in-app purchases.

For my part, I've stopped installing stuff that "offers" this because of the lack of details, but it's extremely annoying to end up clicking through dozens of games to find ones without in-app purchasing because it's not called out in the search results... They've clearly done the bare minimum, in order to avoid losing installs over it. If they cared about their users, they'd have made it far more obvious.


App stores should provide a graph showing expenditure marking the [expected] average and SD per fixed time division (month say), that would be one of the least deceptive and least customer hostile ways to present IAP apps.

Examples:

* Game costs average $1 per month, SD 20¢; OK cool.

* Game is "free" costs average of $20 per month, SD $5.

* Game is free. Average $0 per month.

* Game is 99¢ fixed. Average $0 additional per month.

Even better they could give a playing time [weighted average] too. Then you could compare:

* Game is "free" costs average of $20 per month, SD $5; $1 per hour of play.

* Game costs average $1 per month, SD 20¢; $2 per hour of play.

Seems about as likely as getting the supermarkets to clearly display the cost per kg of all food items.


WTF? Those SaaS/PaaS usually make clear what the plan cover and don't cover.

If companies are intentionally gaming the system to mislead people with intent to profit from us, yes, I do want the government to get involved because nobody else will fix it. Apple's the curator and they're doing it, the app developers are doing it, so who do we have left to complain to?

It's the government's responsibility to make sure companies follow the laws and not take advantage of people.

I do not have a problem with IAP, I'm okay with companies trying to make money via that method.

However, I do have a problem with companies saying those are free games where they aren't free and have paid requirements to keep playing the game.


> WTF? Those SaaS/PaaS usually make clear what the plan cover and don't cover.

WTF? Those free games don't cost you a thing, too! And damn, if you don't want to pay, you don't have to. Apple tells you straight out if a game, free or otherwise, has IAP. They provide you with prices.

What more do you want?

> I do have a problem with companies saying those are free games where they aren't free and have paid requirements to keep playing the game.

So... your problem is that you don't enjoy some free games? You think if a game isn't good enough, it shouldn't be free? That's harsh.

Of all the first world problems to have, this really takes the cake.


> What more do you want?

People want clarity of information.

You keep saying that the price is listed. But IAPs are hidden behind an extra click. This might seem trivial to you but it is the kind of thing that the EU regulates and most citizens are pleased they do so.

Take another example. In the UK if you're a business marketing to the public and you advertise goods you must include the VAT in the advertised price. The end user almost always has to pay the VAT so it's nonsensical to advertise a product to the public without it.

Today Apple has a featured game which they call free. You click it to get to the game page and it is listed at free+. You scroll down and click IAPs and see that they offer an IAP for £34.99 - that's $58

Apple scoops up a lot of the IAP money and so it is in their interest to push games with IAPs, and it is dishonest of them to push games as free if those games are not truly free.

It is this dishonest advertising model that has driven app prices to such a low point. Someone honestly advertising a game at £5 is going to struggle to make any money.


Hidden behind an extra click? Okay I'll bite. I'm on my phone, but that's fair as most people would be as wee I imagine.

Let's see. Game section, and the top free game I see is Disco Zoo. It's advertised as free. It's described as best new game.

Tap.

Okay, let's see, still free. Swipey Swipey swipe. Pretty pictures, Game Center, and oh look! IAP. But yres, I need to tsp to see those prices.

I wonder..,

So yeah, it's battleship meets zoos. You earn gold in game and use that to fund your battle shipping excursions. I guess if I'm impatient I can just buy more gold. Yep.

Yes yes, I see your point! The game is clearly not free! I have to buy that gold instead of playing the game.

Thank god the EU is there to tackle the horrors of Disco Zoo.

Seriously, the only dishonesty here are the people claims of suffering from this.


You might want to switch to decaff. You're being a bit of a dick.

In the EU the price you see is the price you pay. Weights and measures are standardised so people can compare proces across different stores.

In the US the price you see is less than the price you pay. You add sales tax. That makes it harder to compare prices.

The problem isn't that apps cost money nor that they offer IAPs. The problem is the lack of tranparency with apps. This means that good quality apps with honest procing are penalised by lower quality apps that hide the cost in IAPs but describe themselves as free.

You only need to look at the App Store to see how dysfunctional the current system is.

I realy don't know why you are so aggressively dismissive of something that would allow developers to advertise their software at a sensible real cost and not have to compete with shitty "free" apps that hide the cost in IAPs.


> ..damn, if you don't want to pay, you don't have to. Apple tells you straight out if a game, free or otherwise, has IAP. They provide you with prices.

If they're saying it's the free game of the week, people actually understood it to mean it's actually free. Several of my friends and family members got confused with this and actually thought the IAP was free as well.

> So... your problem is that you don't enjoy some free games? You think if a game isn't good enough, it shouldn't be free? That's harsh.

What does enjoyment have to do with anything? That wasn't the point, the point is the marketing, not the games itself. I don't have a problem with the games, I have a problem with the marketing saying they're free entirely.


You: "What does enjoyment have to do with anything?"

You from a parent comment: "Their free app of the week is often so-called free games but they almost always have in-app purchases that's required to actually enjoy the game."

> Several of my friends and family members got confused with this and actually thought the IAP was free as well.

Yep. I'm done.


The same thing is common in other industries. You can't call your food pesticide-free or GM-free or gluten-free unless it really is. Is that a problem for you?


But outside of games just not being playable, people are talking about not having fun without the IAP. This is fairly subjective. I didn't spend a dime on Plant's vs. Zombies 2 despite it having IAP, yet somehow people suggest you "have" to spend money to have fun.

No, the games are free.

> You can't call your food pesticide-free or GM-free or gluten-free unless it really is.

Yeah, not even the same thing.


> But outside of games just not being playable, people are talking about not having fun without the IAP. This is fairly subjective. I didn't spend a dime on Plant's vs. Zombies 2 despite it having IAP, yet somehow people suggest you "have" to spend money to have fun.

You didn't clarify that in your original post here. If I understood this is what you meant then I would've edited my post to remove the "fun" part but rather change it with "take full advantage of".

If Plaint and Zombies were advertised as a free game, you download it but it only lets you play 5 minutes before you have to pay, then that's not a free game. It's a free demo/trial.

> Yeah, not even the same thing.

Yes, it is in this point we're making. The people didn't make this happen, it required the intervention of the government to mandate this type of information accuracy.


> "You didn't clarify that in your original post here."

What? That was literally in reply to your post which I replied to.

"Their free app of the week is often so-called free games but they almost always have in-app purchases that's required to actually enjoy the game."

You were talking about enjoyment from the beginning.

> Yes, it is in this point we're making

Not sure you know what point you are making.

Sorry, I'm done dealing with people who act like trolls.


You are the one here acting like a troll. You come off as argumentative to the point of combative. You nitpick and swear, all in a highly unpleasant tone. If you really are done, great, the discussion will be better off.


"But outside of games just not being playable, people are talking about not having fun without the IAP. This is fairly subjective."

Given that almost all of us arguing from either side would probably agree with this, there are two obvious options:

1. Allow the current situation, in which you can market anything as free, literally an app that does nothing without spending on IAP, so long as it is free to download

2. Prevent the use of the term 'free' if IAP is present at all.

In the interests of the consumer, to offer protection from unscrupulous companies which, particularly in this marketplace, have demonstrated some pretty unethical practises, I favour the latter.


>> You can't call your food pesticide-free or GM-free or gluten-free unless it really is.

> Yeah, not even the same thing.

Not the exact same thing, but not that different either. If I spray my fruits with pesticides that then get washed off in the rain, or stay in the crust which I remove before selling, I could reasonably argue that they are "pesticide-free". It's the government that forbids me to market them that way.


> Yeah, not even the same thing.

That's not a helpful response. If you want to disagree - why is this different?

It makes sense to me for 'free' to mean 'free forever'. You could call it 'free to download' or whatever. Its basically false or misleading advertising to call something 'free' which you could end up paying for...


All of us, individually, are just single people. We don't have a lot of money. We don't have a lot of clout.

Apple is very big. It has a lot of people, and a lot of money, and a lot of clout.

Government is the countervailing force that, collectively, weak citizens can use to push back against private power. The word isn't "nanny", it's "guardian". It's "advocate".


There's a lot of mental gymnastics going on in your comment. Both Apple and government are simply a bunch of individuals. The difference is which group contains individuals that will use violence against people to get its way regardless of the people's consent.


The difference is which group derives its power from the consent of the governed, actually.


And like I implied in my last comment, a lot more of what Apple does relies on the consent of its stakeholders than what governments do.

There's a tragic irony in the fact that government routinely uses supposed consent to justify violence, while Apple (as far as I know, although shady stuff might happen from time to time) actually obtains consent from its stakeholders.

Apple doesn't have to go around telling everyone "It's okay that we take your money in exchange for our products, because you actively consent to the exchange," because everyone knows that's how it works. And yet government, which plainly doesn't work that way, is the one that hammers into our heads the lie that the exchange is consensual. It would be laughable, except that so many people actually get fooled.


The nation I'm a citizen of has a government that renews the consent of the government on a regular basis with free, fair, universal elections. I'm sorry if you don't live in such a country. The guillotine is a traditional remedy for that.

Apple doesn't have to do that because we don't rely on it to safeguard our life, liberty, and property. If it disappeared tomorrow the economy would take a hit but life would go on.


Elections aren't an election of anyone's consent to be governed.


You are free not to use any of the services offered by society to you, which obviously requires leaving the country.


You are not free to leave the country, unless you are willing to spend your time in between borders. Many people are not as privileged as you are, for example I need a visa to go anywhere in the world. And the elections may seem like freedom, but usually you have to choose between multiple sides of the same evil :P </rant>


You are usually free to leave your country (the GDR likely being one of the few exceptions…), but other societies obviously have the right to reject you entry into their countries. And if you don’t like the choices you have at your elections, nominate yourself.


> You are free not to use any of the services offered by society to you, which obviously requires leaving the country.

You are free to avoid me killing you. Just leave your house and never come back so I can live in your house in peace. Ridiculous logic.


Ah, yes, the old Don't want to be nannied from cradle to grave? Well, here's your ticket to Somalia! routine. One of my all-time favorite thought-stopping arguments.


> The nation I'm a citizen of has a government that renews the consent of the government on a regular basis with free, fair, universal elections.

At best, that just renews the consent of those who do consent. If I didn't vote, or voted for the losing candidate or option, then I am still governed despite not consenting.


"Consent of the governed" refers to consent of the polity (by some form of majoritarian process), not to individual consent. Individuals do not have the unrestricted option to remove themselves from society; universal consent is unnecessary, unworkable, and undesirable.


> "Consent of the governed" refers to consent of the polity (by some form of majoritarian process), not to individual consent.

That's precisely my point. It's a linguistic trick to make it sound like an exchange is justified despite there not actually being consent. The analogy would be Apple forcefully taking x hundred dollars from you, giving you an iPhone, then saying the exchange is justified because 50.1% of the smartphone market consensually buys iPhones. (I made up that number, obviously.)


Nobody alive today has ever consented to government. There is no negotiation. "Consent of the governed" is sophistry.


From time to time people withdraw that consent, like in the Ukraine at the moment.


And yet, they're still governed, and you can bet they will still be governed after this struggle is over.


The people have the right to vote in whatever government they want. If that right is abridged or taken away, they can kill the people doing that until the right is restored.

That is the consent of the governed.


No, that's still just consent of those who consent.


Just to be clear, you want the government to protect you from games that are really, 100% free, but provide IAP for additional things that might enhance your enjoyment of the free game.

Seriously, take some responsibility.


I didn't say anything about in-app purchases at all. I don't use mobile phone apps, so I don't know much about that market.

If products are being sold deceptively, there's a public interest in preventing that. Responsibility has nothing to do with it.


> I didn't say anything about in-app purchases at all.

So? That's part of the conversation? Either join in or leave.

> If products are being sold deceptively

They aren't. They are free. Money doesn't exchange hands. You are getting a game you can play for free.


You said "[j]ust to be clear, you want the government to protect you". I clarified your misconception. The hostile attitude is unwarranted.

Alternatively: Me leave? After you, pal.

As to your second point: The product being sold in question is the in-app purchase, not the original app. The app, however, could be part of a deceptive marketing practice.

Not being a citizen of a EU member state nor an expert in its legal system, I am content to leave this decision up to its regulatory apparatus. If the citizens of any EU member country are dissatisfied, they can elect governments that will leave the union, or elect Members of European Parliament that will change the rules.


> stop asking the government to be your nanny.

But then who will protect my children from things I disagree with???


If you have no power, no personal agency, and are a perpetual victim, then, really, the state is your best friend in divorcing yourself wholesale of personal accountability.

Ban allowing people to give free samples. They only make people believe that they can get more of what they want for free. Who are they to arbitrarily define how much a "sample" is when they use the word free? It's all or nothing, folks, stop trying to con the rest of us!

Ban allowing people to do charity work. If people don't want to become my personal slave, then they shouldn't have offered to open the door for me. Super simple stuff.


Imagine the beauty of it! Before making an in-app purchase, you'd get to fill out as much paper work as you do for a mortgage. Disclosures, acknowledgement.

We could make Candy Crush as exciting as opening a bank account!


SaaS & PaaS tend to be sold B2B - we have much stronger protections for consumer sales than for commercial.


I wish Apple would self-regulate instead of waiting for the government to do this for them.


Are Candy Crush and PvZ 2 Free? I've been playing them for 4+ months and haven't spent a dime on them. Other than the bandwidth to download them, I would certainly consider them free.


You can play them for free, but advertising them as "free to play" is deceptive as that implies that you get equal access to the whole game without expense.

"Can be played for free" is not deceptive but doesn't push the right buttons to manipulate people in to engaging before you hit them up for cash; they can see it coming and so many won't play.

Mandating better information for consumers seems unlikely to be wrong in almost all cases. [A counterexample would be if it's prohibitively expensive for companies generally to give the information].


Apparently Candy Crush actually gets harder after you pay, because you've marked yourself as a sucker by paying once.


King has publicly stated this is not the case. If it were, that'd take a billion off their valuation.


This is something that should be pretty simple to test. Do you have any more details?


I believe that it's not so much that it specifically gets hard after you've paid (although that's a neat dark pattern that I wouldn't put past some of the current crop of App game developers frankly!) but rather that after a certain point it simply gets too hard to progress without paying. So the developers draw you in with what appears to be a skill game that you can enjoy playing, and then after they've got you committed they gradually turn it into a money game by making it progressively more and more unfair.

I can't remember where the article is that I read about all this though.


> I can't remember where the article is that I read about all this though.

http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/RaminShokrizade/20130626/1949... ?

> Another novel way to use a progress gate is to make it look transparent, but to use it as the partition between the skill game and the money game. Candy Crush Saga employs this technique artfully. In that game there is a “river” that costs a very small amount of money to cross. The skill game comes before the river. A player may spend to cross the river, believing that the previous skill game was enjoyable (it was for me) and looking to pay to extend the skill game. No such guarantee is given of course, King just presents a river and does not tell you what is on the other side. The money game is on the other side, and as the first payment is always the hardest, those that cross the river are already prequalified as spenders. Thus the difficulty ramps up to punishing levels on the far side of the river, necessitating boosts for all but the most pain tolerant players.


Except I have lots of friends who played to the last level of Candy Crush without buying any IAP. The game is not impossible to beat without IAP.


How many hours does it take to reach the last level? Doesn't that game have over 600 levels? At 10 minutes average per level we're talking about 100+ hours, which is several weeks of full-time occupation. If you have lots of friends who did that, we're talking about collectively months of FTE. If those had been paid hours, how much money would they have earned in that time?

I'm not going anywhere with this, just wondering about the staggering amount of time that gets sucked into games like candy crush.


The game has been out for more than a year. So you can get far playing just half an hours or so a day. Unless your goal is to beat the game as fast as possible, you'll get there eventually.

Even I am at level 450 before I kinda quit playing it.

> If those had been paid hours, how much money would they have earned in that time?

This is no different from playing other games or activities. Unless you are pushing this particular game as evil, I don't see the point of saying "he could have spent that time doing better thing than watching movie or playing game I don't like".

Also, isn't it great that I can spent my time on a single game instead of having to move on to new game all the time?


There's a perl script that will talk to the server and complete the game ...


As a father, thank you. Games with in-app purchases are NOT free -- the reason of the intervention is that in a lot of cases, especially children, people were charged without noticing.

These game should not be mingled with free games and parents should have an option to forbid them.


Can children have credit cards?


No, but there are pre-paid Apple Store credit vouchers you can buy pretty much everywhere.


Effectively? Pretty much yes, the same way they can have anything...


It would be interesting if one could differentiate between playable games, and in game purchases are "fun", versus games that are unplayable in the 'free' mode without purchasing additional tokens. Its the latter that people really hate.


It often depends on your skill level, whether you take breaks from the game, and how much of a completionist you are. In some games these factors interact in complicated ways.

From a regulatory perspective, I'm afraid the best we can do is:

* Ban tying game mechanics to time outside the game, whether it's "wait 8 hours unless you pay" or "this reward is only available for 4 hours" or an insidious combination of the two.

* Increase transparency, e.g. by asking app stores to show graphs of (time played) vs (money spent).


Quoting "common position" document (whatever it is) http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/enforcement/docs/common_positi...

"The use of the word "free" (or similar) may be tolerated for games which are not entirely free, if it is complemented by appropriate qualifications characterising upfront in a clear manner what elements are for free and which ones can be purchased. In such cases, the consumer should be able to access discrete parts of the game that stand alone without the need to make purchases. "Free" may not be used where the consumer cannot, without making in-app purchases, access content integral to gameplay or play the game in a way that he/she would reasonably expect. "

Essentially, the customer must know what parts are free and which have to be paid for prior download. There is going to be grey zone of course, but if you app have paywall, it shall not be called free.

On the other hand, you can sell custom avatars or additional levels and call your app free, as long as the description says something like: playing first five levels of the game is for free, but custom avatars and additional content have to be paid for.


I don't see how unless you have some third party reviewing each game.


Valve seems like an obvious choice on PC. It'll be interesting to see what their console push leads to.


How is valve the obvious choice? They are making games, and they are also making games that sell things in the game.


The solution for this would be to change the purchase approval model where you have to enter your password to purchase anything. You can have to options: 1) authorize until closed, or 2) authorize just this purchase. This way kids could not run up charges using iAP.

However, if you an adult, and you have purchased $100s of iAP, and now you feel bad about it, I have 0 sympathy for you.

Overall, this is just EU being EU, nothing surprising.


> However, if you an adult, and you have purchased $100s of iAP, and now you feel bad about it, I have 0 sympathy for you.

So you understand that companies like King design their "free" games to be next-to-impossible if you don't give them money, while employing teams of psychologists to determine the best way to subvert your will through forced failure while simultaneously driving manipulative CTAs at you while you are at your (carefully cultivated) most vulnerable? And, understanding that and with that first and foremost in your mind, you have no sympathy for the people who end up on the business end of that psychological weapon?

Because I certainly do. There are economies of scale to the practice of subverting people's will and in this war one side's got all the guns. These games are designed--designed--to hit the same triggers as a fucking gambling addiction, man. I am so very not OK with abandoning those wired less effectively against it. (And as I get older I can see how insidious and easy it is for this shit to worm into me when I never would have noticed it, or thought it possible, a decade ago.)


How do you draw a line between deliberately designing a game to be enjoyable and have hooks in order to earn revenue, and "exploiting/subverting/forcing" them?

You seem to be making a distinction between people who pay money for "legitimate" enjoyment, and people who spend money for what they think is legitimate enjoyment but is actually just a trick. I'm not convinced this is a meaningful dichotomy, and I've never heard anyone even try to explain what the difference is. I'm not a big fan of strict normative statements about where I can or can't spend my money on entertainment.


King is like Zynga - eventually, their whales will migrate or die off and the company prospectus for investors will be weak or damaged.

Not that I don't think Apple should take a step to call out their "free" games that happen to rake in tons of cash - when their top grossing list has mostly "free" games, that's a big sign that "free ain't free".

Many good games have reasonable iAP (e.g.: Carcassonne, Ascension). As soon as I see any tokens, I don't buy it.


Many of old console game are well-known for being next-to-impossible to beat but people have no problem with it; see those Ninja Toad game or Circus game from SNES day.

Unless the game is theorically impossible to beat, then you are a sucker for wanting to use money to substitute for your practice.

Seriously, you are the one paying money just so you can show off to your friend that you beat the same level other spends weeks to beat, and then the company offering IAP is the douche one?


EU doesn't care about capitalism as much as the USA and the like-minded.

It cares about setting proper expectations: you're going to have to pay to finish the game/really use the app.

I think that's not a bad idea to mark it clearly as such.


People in this thread are ignoring where the true responsibility lies here, Apple (or Google).

As a dev I have no control whether to call my app "Free" or "Free to download but contains IAP that are required to use the whole game."

Apple has two categories, "Free" and "Paid" and places your app in the category automatically depending on whether the download price is nonzero.

So really, if you want to blame anyone, blame the app store creators, not the app creators.

(Of course there's still the ability to blame companies who market their apps as "FREE" in advertisements in other apps).

EDIT: And of course Apple has already added the label "Includes In App Purchases" to free games with IAP. I think that's good enough.


Hm. I see the good intent of protection against 'unwitting purchases' BUT still do not welcome the government intervention here. Governments have a tendency to work on 'soft targets' like software / app development. I would like to see them work first on unwitting charges/terms-and-conditions imposed by credit card or insurance companies.

The order of priority just feels wrong.


That's a move in the right direction... All the nickel-and-diming is hurting the games and the industry in the long run...


What about advertising? It consumes my time and attention, which is generally worth more (at least to me) than a few bucks. And advertising can have a powerful affect on susceptible minds. By this logic, all advertisement-supported games should be clearly marked as well.


And what about people who release free software with no in-app purchases or advertising, who simply want to learn programming or get enjoyment from having people use their software? These people are exploiting their users for personal gain too!


I don't mind "advertising" per se, e.g there's lego apps for kids that, like Saturday morning cartoons, could be viewed basically as advertisements, but are reasonable experiences in themselves.

On the other hand the apps that throw up full screen ads with tiny, hidden close buttons are annoying. Mostly they seem designed to provoke accidental clicks, which don't seem to offer any social value at all.

(Also, no one seems to note that fake free apps are undermining honest for pay apps, a model which people here seem to support).


Seems kind of ridiculous to me.

"Consumers and in particular children need better protection against unexpected costs from in-app purchases."

What are unexpected costs? Are users ever charged without explicitly agreeing to it?

"The use of the word 'free' (or similar unequivocal terms) as such, and without any appropriate qualifications, should only be allowed for games which are indeed free in their entirety, or in other words which contain no possibility of making in-app purchases, not even on an optional basis."

What is the cost of someone downloading a 'free' game only to realize that they need to pay to get the experience that they expected? They can just uninstall the game. I've paid for and downloaded games that didn't deliver the experience I expected.

If the goal is protecting kids from making in-app purchases, maybe parents should learn how to use parental controls, or not attach credit cards to their children's devices. Does this really 'protect' anyone, or does it just change the language that game-makers use for this model, and nothing else?


The unexpected costs would be tied to game elements (like higher levels) that required IAP. If this wasn't made clear when the app was downloaded, it would be a deceptive means of marketing a paid app as free.


I more strongly object to "Buying" DRM'd content that I don't actually own. It should say "License" or something.


Awesome. These free-to-pay apps compromise the artistic implication the word "game" deserves.


Companies will find a different name ... and go on with the same business model.

Just a naming game ... no real progress, yet.

Clever companies will always find ways, to fool not so clever people. I also think, that most people know, that F2P is not really free.


well I'd rather force abusers into mental gymnastics than allow them to outright lie

this could also highlight apps that are truley free


especially for parents who only want their kids to play truly free games.


What does f2p stand for?

Although I'm cynical enough to not expect this, things could be partitioned into "grant access to people with no payment on file" and "need payment on file to download this app".


f2p: free-to-play -- normally with in-game purchases implied.


I would argue it would be ok. There is nothing inherently wrong with apps requiring in app purchases to unlock content or pass paywall.

The point is not to label them as free, so the customers can rely on the usual meaning of the word free. And when the app is about to charge money, the customer should be clearly informed it is about to do so, even if he did not turned on "require password before purchase" option.

The problem is the deception, not the ability to buy things from inside the app.


If it has a different name, at least it'll be distinguishable.


Banning the term "free-to-play" because there are optional features that cost money means you would also need to ban the term "free admission" when a venue charges for food and drinks. You'll also have to get rid of "buy one get one free" and, well, pretty much just strike the word "free" from the dictionary altogether since technically there is not a thing in the world that is entirely without consequence, tradeoff, opportunity cost, etc.


Requiring explicit authorization would be really nice. I recently discovered that even if you set Google Play to always require a password (which apparently isn't even necessarily the default(?)), you still don't require a password for 30 minutes after any purchase. That means that if I buy a game for my son to play with, any in-game purchases he randomly clicks on automatically get approved.

Fortunately I get them refunded when I complain, but it's still a stupid policy.


It'd be interesting if they required games with IAPs to show an "average spend/user" number next to the big "FREE" label, so you know how much you can expect you'll get suckered in. Although I suspect it would be pretty meaningless since users would be split between "doesn't pay a cent" and "whales who spend lots".


This is silly. At the end of the day, game developers need to get paid for their effort and time spent. The days of $49 boxed games are over (on mobile). The iAP model is proven again and again across different platforms and the majority of the top grossing apps are following it.

It costs money to develop games and apps. A quality title might cost over a million dollars in development. What makes the consumer believe they deserve to get it for free?

iAPs are not necessarily evil - they are a great and perfect way of pricing things for different subsets of people. If you reduce iAP revenue, you make developers more driven toward ad revenue.


I don't think anybody was saying that games should be free or that iAPs are about to be illegal. But labeling something "free" that isn't really "free" is misleading customers. Games shouldn't be free since games aren't free to produce. But it's a reasonable expectation that games that are not free are not labeled as "free".


How can you claim that this is a reasonable expectation, when the most popular and top grossing games on all platforms for several years have been dominated by so-called "free" games with in-app purchases? For someone to expect "free" to mean "no in-app purchases" would require complete ignorance on the state of electronic gaming, which is hardly reasonable.


It might be "hardly reasonable" to you, but most people _are_ completely ignorant about the state of electronic gaming. The article itself clearly says that complains about this have became common enough that EC needs to take action. So it happens and is common. That is a fact, not an assumption. The only question is whether to allow it, or try to find a solution.

Personally I would like games with in app purchases to be in the "paid" category with a price "0" (or "0+"). Maybe even include how much the average player pays for it. I don't much care whether this is achieved through regulations, or done by companies themselves.


It is about transparency of pricing and being able to compare the actual cost of games.

Apple has featured a game today that they have listed as free. The largest IAP is $55, but that price is hidden behind extra clicks. This means that when a consumer is comparing two apps they have extra work to do to compare true prices.

This hidden pricing has cause harm.

Developers cannot advertise a game with an honest price. An app sold at £5.99 would struggle in todays app store. So devs have to list games as free but with IAPs.


True price of IAP-enabled app depends on whether consumer use that IAPs. What's a true price of "free" e-bay bidding app? What's true price of "free" Amazon shopping app?

And you don't need to buy IAP to beat most game. This is like saying I can't list my shop as having "free" shipping because people prefer to pay more for overnight delivery.


Ebay took measures to prevent people shifting the cost of tems from the item to the post and packing. If the seller pays £1.99 for p&p they can charge £10 and reduce the cost of their item by £8.

Your point about overnight delivery is reasonable. Some games are playable without IAPs. But some games have a degraded experience without IAPs - timers that the player need to wait for is one example - and some games are going to be unfun without IAPs.


Are apps without iAPs but with ads to be considered 'free'?


Sure. The experience is the same for all users. Paying money doesn't change it.


"Free" as opposed to "paid" refers to one specific resource (money) being paid by the user to the developer. So yes, they are free in that regard. Otherwise you could start to argue that loading screens make an app non-free because they cost you time.


I personally don't consider them free. But I think most people do.


In app purchases are fine, but be HONEST about it. Not being upfront about the costs of your game directly misleads the customer and, in my opinion, is a terrible and abusive way to earn revenue.


1. iAP are obviously not evil. 2. How the industry uses them probably is. 3. Your game isn't free if you have to pay to enjoy it. 4. "Developers gotta eat" doesn't have anything to do with it.


> Your game isn't free if you have to pay to enjoy it.

I've enjoyed many free games that others complained they had to pay to play. PvZ2, for example.

And then let's apply this thought process to every startup out there offering a free tier. How quickly people would turn around if I put conditions: "Your Free tier ain't free if I can't use it for real business."


I have enjoyed many F2P games without paying, Candy Crush as a matter of fact. I just stop playing when it gets too tough to go on.


Some of these are reasonable protections, but I wonder if there's that many offenders -- are there really apps that don't follow "in-app purchases should not be made without the consumer's explicit consent?" I don't have an iPhone, but in Android you have to go through a Google Play dialogue to authorize any IAPs I've made.

Some, though, seem rather ineffectual. If the App Store and Google Play replace the button that says "Free" with one that says something else, and the game still doesn't cost anything up-front, is that really going to change anyone's behavior?


>Some, though, seem rather ineffectual. If the App Store and Google Play replace the button that says "Free" with one that says something else, and the game still doesn't cost anything up-front, is that really going to change anyone's behavior?

Yes. Customer psychology is a fascinating thing. Even changing $100 to $99.9 generates more sales. And there are tons of examples like that (from the importance of colors to the important of shelf placement on supermarket). Wording is important.

I think it's not about in-app purchases being made without consent. The real issue is that a game with in-app purchases is not a "free" game exactly, it's like what we used to call shareware or light version. It's a different experience than with totally free games.


This is not unlike 1900 numbers that children called to hear bedtime stories. Apple and other OS providers should be regulated to conform to standards that include parent control over purchases done by their kids.

Better labeling is always in the consumer's interest. If games and other apps encourage in-app purchasing for a good experience then this info should be clearly on the packaging. And I say this as an app developer with in app purchases!

Apple already shows this info but may have to label it better.


As an adult iOS/Android user, I am annoyed by IAP games, but I don't feel like I'm being bamboozled or defrauded. Nothing warranting government interference.

But as a parent of a 2 year old, I am not pleased with some kids games developers trying to take advantage of children (and I'm talking toddlers) using devices where parents haven't blocked IAP, or placing ads that they presumably get click-revenue from kids not understanding what they're clicking on...


BHAHAHAHAHA I just love how many people are getting their arms up about this, then you find out its because they're the CEO of Supercell.

"Free to play" should not be a model which says, "Free, but in order to actually, well, WIN, you need to pay". Take a look at Dota 2. Thats a successful f2p model. Game itself is 100% free and you can be a top player without paying a DIME.


I actually think if Apple were to rearrange the App Store so that we had 'free', 'paid', and 'free with IAP' categories it might make discovery a lot better too. The 'top grossing' chart if currently pretty much an 'IAP' chart so just remove IAP apps from the free chart and replace 'top grossing' with top grossing IAP apps.


There should be 3 classifications of apps. Free, Paid, IAP. I absolutely agree that IAP apps should not be able to be marketed as 'Free'. It's quite disingenuous to do so.

It's like a store saying everyone can have a free t-shirt. But then requiring that you buy $10 of stuff from the store first. You would still call that shirt free?


I've said it before and I'll say it again: in-app purchases are the premium SMS scam of the '10s.

Companies making a killing on IAP these days are no different from Jamster mobile club and its kin.

Regulations will catch up soon enough but no doubt by then some other avenue for bilking kids out of their cash will have presented itself by then.


Similarly misleading advertising: Telling that you can "buy" digital video when it comes encumbered with DRM that turns your "buying" into "renting for an undefined time period".

Maybe European Commission could do something about that too, it would most definitely be welcome.


This used to be much easier when I was young. Freeware vs Shareware. Just searching for "freeware <x>" would normally find me the truly free (as in beer) thing if there were multiple versions.


God Bless the EU.

They are the only ones fighting the good fight for the consumer these days. Thanks to the lack of campaign finance reform in the U.S., all our pols are on the take to those with the deepest pockets.


It just boils down to the EU preferring to protect it's citizens/consumers/public, whereas the US loves to protect it's companies/corporations/lobbyists.


What's it with America and its need to protect greedy, fraudulent business models at the expense of honest businesses and their customers?


I propose to just call them sharewares. I, for one, like to be able to try a new app or game before buying it.


There should be two different classifications for F2P games : Those who are pay to win, and others.


PAYGRESSION is what I call them as you can progress, but usualy pay to progress much quicker.


Maybe instead of calling them free, use Freemium instead?


There's a clear definition of what is free software: https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html

The EU should not invent its own.


That definition is wrong, it implies that "free to use" also means "free to read/modify the code" and "resell it". By GNU definition, software like Opera isn't free. Not even something as basic as (most) Windows drivers. It also completely ignores microtransactions (though of course those wouldn't really be an issue if the user had the source). Completely useless definition for this case. It works with "free" as in "freedom", not "free to use" (it's right on the 4th line). I'm sure the people who don't breathe without looking up what Stallman thinks about it will down-vote me to hell, but that won't make this definition more relevant for this.


The EU isn't defining "free software" they are defining the permissible uses of the word "free" in advertising. This has nothing to do with software per se: if someone were to sell an orange for "free" but after eating the first two segments you had to pay more to get at the other segments then the exact same regulators would be getting involved.


Free as in speech, free as in beer, free as in-app


Such games should not be classified as free..


Netflix is a free download, will it have to be banned?




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