Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
April 23, 2014
arrowPress Releases
April 23, 2014
PR Newswire
View All





If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM TechWeb sites:


European and Japanese devs proactively capping in-app spending by minors
European and Japanese devs proactively capping in-app spending by minors
December 6, 2013 | By Alex Wawro

December 6, 2013 | By Alex Wawro
Comments
    9 comments
More: Business/Marketing



Thereís been a fair bit of news today about developers voluntarily setting age limits on in-app purchases, presumably in an attempt to mollify growing concerns that young people are being manipulated by freemium games into spending unseemly amounts of money on things like coin doublers or XP boosts.

First came a report from Siliconera that Tecmo Koei will be implementing monthly limits on in-game purchases in social and online games based on a playerís age.

These limits will go into effect sometime this year and prevent players under the age of 16 from spending more than 5,000 yen (roughly $50 US) per account per month, while those between the ages of 16 and 19 will have their monthly spending capped at 20,000 yen (nearly $200 US) per month. Anyone over the age of 19 is presumed to be mature enough to spend what they like and can pay without limits, which makes sense given that 20 is the age of majority in Japan.

Then a screenshot surfaced on the Book of Revenant tumblr showing what appears to be an in-game notification from the Japanese version of mobile money-making machine Puzzles & Dragons that outlines a remarkably similar series of payment limits based on age.

Neither Puzzle & Dragons developer GungHo Online nor Tecmo Koei seem to have a clear strategy in place for preventing players from just circumventing the limits by lying, though the Puzzle & Dragons notification does appear to include an earnest entreaty for players to be honest about their age.

Eurogamer did a good bit of follow-up reporting on the Tecmo Koei news, speaking to UK developer Big Bit about the unique pay cap in their spendthrift-friendly game The Snowman and The Snowdogg. Itís a free endless runner on iOS that lets you purchase upgrades with real money, up to a limit of £20 -- once a player hits that limit, everything in the game unlocks and you simply canít put any more money in. Eurogamer reports that Big Bit implemented the de facto spending cap to ensure the game doesnít run afoul of the U.K.ís Office of Fair Trading, especially in light of their ongoing efforts to crack down on apps with overly manipulative in-app payment schemes.

These developers are volunteering to implement in-app spending caps as much to avoid running afoul of governing bodies like the OFT or the Japanese Consumer Affairs Agency as to keep young players from blowing their savings on freemium games. It begs the question of whether or not U.S. regulators like the FTC might ever consider taking similar steps to regulate the IAP market, especially in light of Apple's decision earlier this year to reimburse parents who sued the company to recoup the millions of dollars their children had spent in Capcom's infamous Smurfs Village mobile game.


Related Jobs

Linden Lab
Linden Lab — San Francisco, California, United States
[04.23.14]

Sr. Front-end Web Developer
Linden Lab
Linden Lab — San Francisco, California, United States
[04.23.14]

Sr. Software Engineer, Back-end
Linden Lab
Linden Lab — San Francisco, California, United States
[04.23.14]

Lead Engineer
2K
2K — Novato, California, United States
[04.23.14]

Lead Mission Designer










Comments


John Trauger
profile image
That's nice and all but the problem is primarily games twisting kids arms emotionally to drive IAPs in the first place. Capping spend helps, but $50 per month x 12 months is still $600/year.

Even forgetting about lying to get around the spending cap, $600 per year per player still a mighty nice goal for an unethical game to shoot for.

...which is not to accuse any of the games mentioned in the article of being unethical, except Smurfs Village.

Gil Salvado
profile image
It's a good start, if not the best, to cap IAP. But I doubt they would have done such a thing, if they hadn't been forced by law.

In Germany it is theoretically impossible for non-matures to spend more than certain amounts. For they are limited contractually capable until they reach majority. Even if they lied about their age, their parents can sue the one who sold them whatever it was they were not supposed to purchase and regain the whole amount spent by the child.

Maria Jayne
profile image
Perhaps it would be more beneficial if it wasn't so easy to purchase without the parent present. Storing card details makes it too easy to buy without the card owner being there to authorize the transaction. Of course careless parents will still not give a toss about monitoring their child's spending, but it will make them more aware if the child had to ask for the card each time.

I happen to think this sort of outside parenting is not helpful, not helpful to the child who doesn't learn self control or respect for money and not helpful to the parent who finds it easier and easier to ignore what their child is doing. It's a crutch for both and teaches nobody.

Michael Joseph
profile image
Everyone in a society needs to be responsible for it's future adults. We need to resist the empty rhetoric of "it's the parent's responsibility" which implicitly tells us that we're only responsible for me and mine and fails to address the issue of parents who never learned how to be good parents and who will produce offspring who will continue the cycle of bad parenting. To make parents the sole responsibility of their children is for society to damn children with bad parents and all their future generations.

I'm not saying that a spending cap is a step in the right direction. As you correctly pointed out it doesn't address the real underlying problem at all which is the promotion of virtue to young people. But I don't think we can expect businesses to voluntarily do much more than this.

Maria Jayne
profile image
Everyone can be responsible, but that doesn't mean everyone is equally responsible.

Daniel McMillan
profile image
Good start! When parents authorize the app, they should have an option to choose a responsibility level which best fits the minor. That way, as a minor learns to be a responsible steward, parents may unlock additional privileges.

Troy Walker
profile image
just what we need... more parentless policing of our children. I guess in the long run, we will all get what we deserve for our lack of being responsible for ourselves.

I really do not need any business or state dictating to me or my children what is possible. Give me the options to control what I should be responsible for myself.

Michael Joseph
profile image
How is this policing when it's not done by city/county/state/federal government?

As to your second point, the benefits of a society comes at a cost. To crave all of the benefits but none of the costs is antisocial.

Mike Jenkins
profile image
Sign your kids up for adult accounts and give them your credit card information, Troy. No one is stopping you.


none
 
Comment: