PLAYING GAMES CAN BRING LARGE BILLS
It’s so easy to download games on tablets and phones, and get stuck in a virtual, competitive world. But if you’re not careful, you could be paying through the nose just for playing games, finds Angelique Ruzicka
Afew years ago, UK-based father Doug Crossan told the press how his teenage son Cameron had racked up £3 700 (R44 843) on in-game extras like chests of gold. Meanwhile, Cameron had no idea that he’d accumulated such a bill on his father’s credit card, as he thought that the extras in the game that he’d downloaded were free.
In the same year (2013), a journalist relayed in her column in The Guardian how her three children, over a six-week period, had accumulated a total cost of £350 (R4 241) while playing DragonVale and Clash of Clans that they had downloaded for free on their iPads.
Playing app games may sound like an innocent thing to do, but the companies behind these games don’t care who they target. My two-year-old currently plays a toilet training game on my phone, which I downloaded for free. Adverts pop up on a frequent basis, which can link to games that do charge to participate. However, I tend to monitor his game time and disconnect my phone from the internet as well, just in case.
While I can control his game time now, I’m concerned about the future when he’ll want more time to play games himself and may even have control of his own gadgets that hook up to our home’s Wi-Fi connection.
HOW GAMES MAKE YOU PAY
Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx and editor in chief of Gadget magazine, says it’s a very common thing for creators of games to charge you in various ways to make their money. You can be charged either for downloading games or for the in-game rewards, or even for downloading an ad-free version.
For example, games such as Words with Friends, which was created by San Francisco-based Zynga and has thousands of South Africans hooked, make their money through advertising in the app or through selling virtual goods, which can be paid for with “coins” that you buy with your own money.
According to a report on Time.com, players can
use the coins to open new levels on Solo Challenge if they want to play them right away. You can also buy “boosts” that will give you an advantage while playing, such as showing all the squares on the board where an eligible word can be played.
This concept isn’t new. “Games that predate the App Store, such as Club Penguin, have had the same cost structure, and kids signed up and obtained certain accessories or benefits. I’ve heard how some kids have taken their parent’s credit card out, without their knowledge, to pay for them,” says Goldstuck.
These days, however, your children don’t even need to fish your card out of your bag. “If your
account is set to automatically bill your credit card, it will just come off without your realising. Often the way the debit works is not clearly set out.
“Some adults also unwittingly do it when they play these games, but kids do it as well, as they see it as part of the game and don’t take it seriously,” warns Goldstuck.