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A game called Smurfs' Village is taking the iTunes App Store by storm, and if you can believe it, in just a short time it has already surpassed Angry Birds as the top-grossing iOS game. But there are real concerns about the game's purchasing system.
Smurfs' Village itself is a free download. The game makes its money by charging players for in-game currency known as Smurfberries. Your average adult ought to be able to identify and knowingly agree to or decline microtransactions in the game, but children may be more easily duped, and that's where the controversy is coming from.
Apparently, here's what's happening: Dad goes into the App Store to download Smurfs' Village for his daughter. He logs into his iTunes account to trigger the download, then lets the daughter have at it. But to Dad's dismay, Apple iOS keeps him logged into his iTunes account for 15 minutes after the purchase, and unless he's disabled in-app purchases in his device's settings, his daughter can unwittingly rack up a hefty bill without ever being prompted for a password.
And we mean 'hefty.' One "bucket" of Smurfberries is $4.99. That's the lowest denomination. Three wheelbarrows of Smurfberries costs a stunning $59.99.
A recent review of the game on Apple.com reads, "Steer clear of this scam. Allows the user to spend a lot of real money without requiring a password. It should be removed from the app store."
Perhaps the game isn't doing anything technically disallowed by Apple, but it certainly doesn't appear to be making an effort to prevent children from buying its unusually expensive content without approval from their parents.
The game is published by Capcom, which hasn't sent out an official reaction to the criticism. For now, though, it's earned the designation of highest-grossing iPhone game of all time... with a possible asterisk.
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