Do your children play with your tech?

Do your children play with your tech?There are many examples of kids racking up huge bills with in game purchases, but how does a bill for £4,000 sound?

In a BBC news article entitled: Mother’s anger as son racks up £4,000 FIFA 14 bill  the mother known only as ‘Sue’ tells how her teenage son racked up a huge £4,000 bill on FIFA 14  and requesting that there should be tighter controls on “in-game” purchases.

Now forgive me for speaking from a position of not having any children, but how can this possibly be the game’s fault. Although I realise that it is an extremely difficult thing to stop, surely this comes down to a position of responsible parenting, and that a 13 year old should know better.

In-Game purchases are a way of making money from game players who have already purchased the game – a continuous revenue stream if you will.

By offering the latest ‘must have’ item or accessory for a small (ish!) sum, the people running the game can tap in to the constant desire for the latest thing and continue to make money; the very thing that games companies exist to do – make money.

It would seem that some people believe that games companies exist simply to provide a way to entertain people without the burden of money holding them back.

Not as bad as you may think..?

There has recently been a study of revenue generated by players within the mobile games industry by a firm called Swrve, and it indicates that just 0.15% of players generate over 50% of a games overall revenue. This was a survey carried out using data from tens of millions of gamers. Though this does amount to 1.5 Million mobile gamers at least. – source: Analytic firm Swrve finds double-sided impact of mobile market’s reliance on “whales”

Lets put a few simple statistics to this to maybe explain why the games manufacturers provide this service; I’ll use the recent ‘freemium’ game Flappy Bird as the example as a recent report by PSMag reported the statistics.

I hope you are sitting down for this…

Flappy Bird was a freemium game. A rather ugly word that means that it was free to download but had a cost element, in this case we’ll look at the online advertising as it’s a freely added element of some online and mobile games.

If we take a rough industry charge for advertising to 1000 people (known as the eCPM – Effective Cost Per Meg (thousand) users) of $3 as the original app was created in Vietnam and it costs more in western countries than eastern to advertise online ($1 as opposed to $5!).

App developer  Dong Nguyen reported that at the point he removed Flappy Bird he was making $50,000 dollars A DAY from ‘free’ advertising then the game was showing about 16,500,000 adverts per day (rounded). That doesn’t necessarily say that there are that many players due to rotating adverts, but let’s say that there are 100 adverts rotated through for 1 player (a number that would be way too high); that equates to 165,000 players.

And that’s not even on the list of highest high-end app revenues…

Apple’s 2013 list of its highest-grossing apps had the viral matching game Candy Crush in first place, followed by Clash of Clans, a medieval strategy game. According to Think Gaming, the two free-to-play games are still the top-grossing iOS apps, with daily revenue in the U.S. market of £ 595,910.95 ($994,344) and £ 471,353.52 ($786,506) respectively.

Going back to our example, if each of our Flappy Bird players decided to get the latest ‘in-game’ accessory for $10, that means that $1,650,000 (£992,475) drops in to the bank account every time a new accessory is released, on top of the advertising revenues noted above.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 live’s Breakfast Sue commented: “There should be more controls in place to ensure the card holder or adult is aware of what’s happening.”. I think the above makes the point of why these controls are not in place. Even if the game companies have to refund someone who’s child has made these purchases ‘accidentally’ (and I used those quotations on purpose).

As to how to stop this – make sure your little one doesn’t have access to spend your money; would you really take your child to Toys ‘R’ Us and give them your credit card? As that is really what you are doing when you give them access to these Freemium games…