Everybody deals with those pesky in-app purchases from time to time, especially in mobile games. The in-app purchases help developers make money by luring potential customers in with a free (and often very limited) game, then hitting them with a paywall a few hours in. Sometimes levels are locked if you don’t pay for them, and sometimes leveling up your character is incredibly tedious if you don’t spend real money on in-game currency.
Well, Italy’s Antitrust and Competition Authority sees those in-app purchases as unfair to consumers, as they’ve launched an investigation into Google, Amazon, Apple, and Gameloft, claiming those four companies used deceptive advertising when marketing the price of the games they develop or publish. A big pain point is that a ton of these free-to-play apps are geared towards children, who download the “free” apps then end up convincing their parents to continue paying for the apps, or, even worse, running up their parents credit cards or phone bills.
The Antitrust Authority also claims that the companies failed to show consumers that the free apps actually require payments to enjoy the “full experience” of the games. While this may true in certain circumstances, it’s worth mentioning Google Play has a (small) header that points out that a game has in-app purchases. It doesn’t really clarify if it’s a game that requires a purchase to keep playing or if the in-app purchases are small things, but it’s there.
This investigation won’t put an end to in-app purchases, but it will likely end with those four companies having to adjust how they market their applications to users in the future. Of course, this is also something that only Italy is looking into, so it’s likely going to be business as usual in the rest of the world.
Have you ever had a frustrating experience with in-app purchases in a game? Let us know in the comments.