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

CityPress - - Business -

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.

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