'Smurfs' Village' iOS in-app purchases reportedly catch Apple's ire

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Apple has reportedly had "strong words" with publisher Capcom about in-app purchases in the free iPhone and iPad children's game "Smurfs' Village," and is said to be considering adjusting iTunes account login times after receiving complaints from parents.



Citing a "well placed source," PocketGamer.biz reported Wednesday that Apple has taken notice of "accidental" in-app purchases of Capcom's "Smurfs' Village." As of Wednesday, the free application, last updated Feb. 4, ranked third among the "Top Grossing" applications on the iPhone App Store.



"Apple has told Capcom in no uncertain terms that its freemium children's game has been causing problems with an increasingly significant number of parents who have complained that their children have been racking up large amounts of in-app purchases without their knowledge," the report said.



Capcom's game includes numerous warnings on its App Store listing. It notes that the title "charges real money for additional in-app content," and informs users that they can disable the ability to purchase such content through the device's settings.



The application's description also notes that iOS keeps users logged in for 15 minutes after entering an iTunes password to purchase content from the App Store. Additional purchases do not require re-entry of the password during the 15-minute span.



"This is a function of the iOS software and not within our control," Capcom wrote.







PocketGamer said it has heard that Apple has refunded numerous parents after their children made "accidental purchases" in the Smurfs game. It also said that Apple could be "looking to tighten up its iTunes log in procedure" and reducing the time to 5 minutes.



AppleInsider has also received a number of complaints and inquiries about Smurfs' Village, as the application has remained one of the highest grossing software options on Apple's App Store.



"I'm curious if you are aware (of) any formal complaints about the iOS game Smurfs Village?" one person wrote. "The game appears to be a scam, but has lasted surprisingly long on the App Store. It's free, but charges outrageous in-app fees to buy varying amounts of 'Smurf Berries.'"



But the game is not the first or only to upset some users due to in-app purchases. In December, users of a free Chinese-language iOS massively multiplayer online roleplaying game complained of unauthorized purchases. In those cases, it was also said that Apple refunded the money.



In-app purchases were first introduced with the release of iOS 3.0 in 2009, and were initially restricted to paid "premium" applications. Later that year, Apple granted developers the ability to offer in-app purchases in free software.



Apple takes a 30 percent cut of all purchases on the App Store, whether they are made in-app or are in the form of an up-front payment to purchase software. This week the company announced recurring subscriptions for iOS content, and also banned links to out-of-app purchases, which have allowed some content providers to bypass Apple's 30 percent cut taken from in-app transactions.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 71
    While it would be nice if Apple offered an option for a zero timeframe interval for In-App Purchases or auto-required this if Restrictions are enabled, this is not Apple’s fault. Parents should understand that putting their password into a different device they will not be controlling can have negative consequences.



  • Reply 2 of 71
    Apple does need to make one simple change. After an App Store download they need to require a re-login to make an in app purchase (even if it allows future in-app purchases for a period of time). They could also consider a preference to enable a password for all in-app purchases which will be on or off by default based on user preference.



    As for Smurf's Village, owning up to the fact I do not own it and the in-app purchases may not be clearly labeled?parents do need to accept some responsibility here. Also, I imagine much of this increased ire is because Smurf's Village has become a media darling as of late?but if these charges people are complaining about truly aren't purchases the parents authorized (and they didn't do something stupid like give the child the password to their account) then the concern is legitimate.
  • Reply 3 of 71
    Props to capcom for explicitly saying that the game is run on IAPs.



    Shame on parents who don't teach their kids well. Those kids need to be mowing the lawn for the next couple months rather than having apple pay for their carelessness
  • Reply 4 of 71
    So much for being free.

    This is why i dont download bullcrap apps

    theres so much junk out there.

    oh well

    p.s(Shameless plug) download my app Lifexpectancy

    and follow us on twitter @Lifexpectancy
  • Reply 5 of 71
    This is not Apple's fault nor responsibility. The parents who are too stupid to understand what is going on here are too stupid to have children in the first place. There are PARENTAL CONTROLS built into every iPhone!
  • Reply 6 of 71
    nasseraenasserae Posts: 3,166member
    I don't think it is the developers fault if parents failed to keep an eye on theirs or their children iPhone/iPods. I bought my son an iPod touch and the first thing I did was disable everything (Safari, Youtube, iTunes, App Store.. etc). When I purchase new game I never hand him back the iPod until I disable the app store and test the game to make sure the game is appropriate.



    It seems that most parents these days need someone to parent them too
  • Reply 7 of 71
    Although Apple could have added an option to use password protection for every purchase, many kids know or memorise their parents' passwords. The problem here is the actual cost of the Smurfberries, and here Capcom is to blame for stealing money from babes.



    When systems have problems, some developers always blame users, but to be honest, if a system doesn't work then it's just a bad system and needs to be changed. That's the case no matter what kind of system you are talking about - a user interface, a game, driving a car, whatever.



    Kudos to Apple for refunding and looking to shorten the login time - although perhaps just an option in Settings would do. Bad hexes to Capcom for designing the game to suck money from children. They're the real bad guys here.
  • Reply 8 of 71
    This is garbage. If they warn you that in app purchases are real money before you download the app and then you don't watch what your kid is doing it's your fault. Or even worse, you've given your kid your password that's linked to your credit card. Capcom may have outrageous pricing but other than that they are not at fault here.
  • Reply 9 of 71
    ktappektappe Posts: 808member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by halfyearsun View Post


    Shame on parents who don't teach their kids well. Those kids need to be mowing the lawn for the next couple months rather than having apple pay for their carelessness



    And if the child in question is 4 years old? Good luck trying to teach them not to click on the pretty smurfberry they need to expand their Smurf village. I wonder if you've ever been a parent. It's a lot easier to criticize than actually do.
  • Reply 10 of 71
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,426member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by scotty321 View Post


    This is not Apple's fault nor responsibility. The parents who are too stupid to understand what is going on here are too stupid to have children in the first place. There are PARENTAL CONTROLS built into every iPhone!



    Agreed but at the same time the game is obviously hoping in app add-ons are purchased 'accidentally' so it is a scam really. The problem is this sort of behavior damages the trust parents have in other free kids games.



    The answer I would have thought is simply for an Apple regulation that states the -default setting- to be that NO purchases can ever be made in ANY free game on the apps store. Only if a user chooses to change the default (and this is on each game NOT globally) to allow so that can they be made and that should require a password log in to confirm.



    This isn't just kids. My wife, while not having her glasses on I assume (lol) accidentally signed up for some crap that was billing $9.99 a month on her AT&T bill while accidentally clicking in the wrong place on some free puzzle. In this case AT&T removed two months worth of this billing without hesitation but never the less it is disgraceful that the free app had such a thing and no doubt the button was deliberately close to a button one would need to press. There was no 'are you sure' dialog obviously just a one click purchase!
  • Reply 11 of 71
    Please don't shorten the login time of 15 minutes. I wish there was an option to always keep me logged in. I'll take responsibility for all purchases.
  • Reply 12 of 71
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Apple has reportedly had "strong words" with publisher Capcom about in-app purchases in the free iPhone and iPad children's game "Smurfs' Village," ...



    I don't think I'll ever understand why companies like Capcom engage in these kind of underhanded tactics.



    Apple builds and entire ecosystem of trust and allows any company with a good idea to use it to practically print money for themselves, yet Capcom puts it's efforts in finding a way to game the system and rip people off. It's kind of a cliche to say it, but if the Capcom employees put as much effort into making a nice game as they do into finding the one way in which they can screw people over, they would probably make more money.
  • Reply 13 of 71
    I vote that any app with In-App Purchases present you with the option to turn them on upon first run (similar to notifications) and then place an option to disable IAP for each individual app in its pane the Settings app. That would solve all issues and do it in a convenient, recognizable system.
  • Reply 14 of 71
    Sounds to me like Steve Jobs needs to have a little talk with papa smurf.
  • Reply 15 of 71
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,426member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SwissMac2 View Post


    Although Apple could have added an option to use password protection for every purchase, many kids know or memorise their parents' passwords. The problem here is the actual cost of the Smurfberries, and here Capcom is to blame for stealing money from babes.



    When systems have problems, some developers always blame users, but to be honest, if a system doesn't work then it's just a bad system and needs to be changed. That's the case no matter what kind of system you are talking about - a user interface, a game, driving a car, whatever.



    Kudos to Apple for refunding and looking to shorten the login time - although perhaps just an option in Settings would do. Bad hexes to Capcom for designing the game to suck money from children. They're the real bad guys here.



    Yep, Apple just need to state the default settings always have to be 'NO IN APP Purchases' on all free apps. User override available with password on any app. ... Q.E.D.
  • Reply 16 of 71
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,426member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by stevetim View Post


    Sounds to me like Steve Jobs needs to have a little talk with papa smurf.



    "Smack!"
  • Reply 17 of 71
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ktappe View Post


    And if the child in question is 4 years old? Good luck trying to teach them not to click on the pretty smurfberry they need to expand their Smurf village. I wonder if you've ever been a parent. It's a lot easier to criticize than actually do.



    If the kid is 4 years old then A. don't tell them your password or B. don't put your password in and let them go wild buying stuff.
  • Reply 18 of 71
    Parents don't know what's going on their children's phone until the bill comes in. Great parenting.
  • Reply 19 of 71
    veblenveblen Posts: 201member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by NasserAE View Post


    I don't think it is the developers fault if parents failed to keep an eye on theirs or their children iPhone/iPods. I bought my son an iPod touch and the first thing I did was disable everything (Safari, Youtube, iTunes, App Store.. etc). When I purchase new game I never hand him back the iPod until I disable the app store and test the game to make sure the game is appropriate.



    It seems that most parents these days need someone to parent them too



    I did the same thing. Just last week my 11 year old daughter asked me to open up in app purchases so she could buy smurfberries because she needed them to get Smurfette. I showed her the tuaw article about a kid racking up $1400 of charges on smurf berries and explained why in app purchases were staying disabled. I think it was a bit eye opening for her to see how such an innocent looking application could be used to extract such large sums of money.



    http://www.tuaw.com/2011/02/09/smurf...400-in-charge/





    That being said. $99 for a single in app purchase for "smurfberries". Capcom knows what they are doing and I'm really surprised that a major game distributor would behave in such a manner.



    I personally was unaware that my password would be cached for 15 minutes after I entered it until I read the tuaw article about smurfberries. I would prefer to have the option to turn that off on my kids ipod touches to prevent them from accidental purchases.
  • Reply 20 of 71
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ktappe View Post


    And if the child in question is 4 years old? Good luck trying to teach them not to click on the pretty smurfberry they need to expand their Smurf village. I wonder if you've ever been a parent. It's a lot easier to criticize than actually do.



    yeah, judging by the posts here most people believe that as soon as you become a parent you become stupid.





    As stated by a poster above, I believe the fix should be a re-authentication for in-apps, not tied to the 15 minute session for app purchases. Just consider the use case: Parent buys app and hands to kid to play... oh yeah, and every iOS device has restrictions turned off by default. Lets assume that all 160,000,000 iOS devices will be managed diligently by their owners.
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