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

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 up multiple purchases without additional verification from the account 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' Village overtook Angry Birds as 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 investigate the in-app purchasing system.

[Source: Washington Post]

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Mar 10, 2011

Topics

iPhone

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7 comments

  • linksawakening - March 11, 2011 2:59 a.m.

    Wow some people are such dumbasses.
  • Garenm - March 11, 2011 12:06 a.m.

    To confirm the last point, my child did - to the tune of $220 in a three-day spree. I didn't find out about it until I started getting the itunes receipts about three days after the purchases were made. My kid spend most of the money on zombie toxin for the game Zombie Cafe.
  • Heyexclamationpoint - March 10, 2011 11:37 p.m.

    To answer the last two questions: a child would.
  • HarryBalls - March 10, 2011 11:35 p.m.

    Password resets abound! Seriously though, if you're spending real world money on fake world money you need to be tea-bagged by a wii-remote.
  • BloodyShenlong - March 10, 2011 11:32 p.m.

    Jesus...what kind of game is this? Who the hell would pay 60 bucks for a thousand "Smurfberries?"
  • Memph - March 10, 2011 11:31 p.m.

    who the merry bloody chuffing hell-cake is spending 100 bucks a pop for in-game digital consumables for, of all things on this batshit crazy planet, an i-phone game? wtf is this i don't even...?!
  • EliteM0nk3y - March 10, 2011 11:29 p.m.

    I love that 15 minute buffer when purchasing apps. Why not just make it so you can't do in-app purchases without inputting a password.?

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