Apple changes iPhone in-game purchase policy, Smurfberries crop expected to dry up

15-minute purchase buffer has been eliminated

After growing concern over children unknowingly making huge purchases inside "free" iPhone and iPad games, Apple has added a new restriction on how these purchases are made.

Previously, when users signed in to their iTunes account to download an app or game, they remained logged in for 15 minutes before being prompted to authenticate their account again. This means someone playing a newly downloaded game could go in and rack upmultiple purchases withoutadditional verification from theaccount holder.

The change, which comes as part of the iOS 4.3 firmware update released today for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, eliminates that 15-minute buffer. Now, users will be prompted for their password any time and every time they try to make an in-game transaction.

It doesn't seem like a huge issue at first, but it became the subject of strict scrutiny after the game Smurfs' Villageovertook Angry Birdsas the highest-grossing iOS game. The reason? Smurfberries - the lifeblood of Smurfs' Village, which are bought with real-life money.

In an easily accessible menu, players are greeted with irresistable pictures of buckets overflowing with Smurfberries. A simple tap on these pictures can trigger a transaction for as much as $100. The concern was if a parent downloads the game and then lets a child play the game for a few minutes, the child could rack up a huge bill without knowing any better. Critics cried that the game's publisher was relying on these kinds of inadvertent transactions, especially since it seemed unlikely that most players would ever willingly click on a $100 purchase button on a free game.

Prior to today's update, the FTC had announced it plans to investigatethe in-app purchasing system.

[Source:Washington Post]

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Mar 10, 2011

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