Today the European Commission announced that they have invited Apple, Google and a host of consumer protection agencies from Belgium, Denmark, Britain, France, Luxembourg, Italy and Lithuania to assist them in coming up with a more effective policy to regulate how app creators’ ability to charge consumers micro transactions within the games they publish on mobile devices while still advertising them as being “free to play.” The expansion of the free to play market is great for the industry and consumers as it allows for people to try out new games without having to fork over their hard earned money without knowing whether they’ll enjoy the experience and in turn developers are ensured that proportionately they will be able to rack up a much larger customer base.
Where the problems emerges is that like some more recent titles, Dungeon Keeper being the most controversial example, progression in the game is held hostage unless you agree to pay a small fee. Developers have also made it incredibly easy for you to do so, as long as you have a credit card attached to your iTunes or Google Play account a simple tap of the confirm in app purchases button can be done in the blink of an eye. The European Commission isn’t out and out banning micro transactions, what they are proposing is that developers have to be much more transparent about their existence, perhaps by removing the “free” tag next to the game title in the App or Play stores, making the consumer have to confirm that they are the owner of the credit card being debited for that transaction and making the wording of in app purchases sound less vague, “upgrade now” is not as clear as “pay 4.99 for more gems.”
This is not to say that there are great examples of free to play games with micro transactions, Planetside 2, DOTA 2, and Blacklight: Retribution are all big budget free to play titles that don’t require you to pay to progress, they give you the option of buying either cosmetic upgrades or using premium items on a more limited basis. But all of the game play systems and features are still fully intact. Â Let us hope that mobile app developers will follow suit.