Smurfs Village is free but still becomes the highest grossing iTunes application

Capcom has figured out a way to create the highest-grossing application in the iTunes store with a completely free application, The Smurfs Village.  What’s the secret?  Selling in-game items that you purchase with real-life money.

Facebook applications have been doing this for years with games like Farmville and Mafia Wars.  Players purchase tokens that allow them to build bigger farms or replenish their energy so that they can build up their empires quicker.   When players want to purchase these tokens, they enter their credit card information, click submit, and they’re in business.

With devices that link directly to iTunes (like the iPad and iPhone), users can purchase these items without needing to provide credit card information because that data is already part of the iTunes store.  The result is that children playing the game can potentially spend their parents’ money without any adult knowledge.

Apple requires a password for iTunes after 15 minutes of inactivity, but some people are claiming that the Capcom game is bypassing this requirement.  One user said that he hadn’t entered his iTunes password at all for the entire day but his son was able to purchase $67 worth of Smurfberries anyway.

To Apple’s credit, all of the people interviewed for the story received full refunds for the accidental purchases.  In addition, Apple has stated that parents can restrict in-app purchases for extra protection.

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Kids can make much more expensive things with the cell phone like hours of long distance calling, parents should know whats going on with the phone and have rules. simple.

do you have to enter your password for the app store to make in game purchases? I know anytime I want to buy anything it seems to ask me for my iTunes store password.....

And of course the parents look to blame anyone but themselves.

From the actual news source: "The game publishers and Apple point out that device owners can turn off the option to conduct in-app purchases by going to the Settings app, then hitting the General button, then the Restrictions option"

But why in the world would we expect device owners to take responsibility for themselves? So much easier to cause a big stink and then apply to Apple for a refund.

The ONLY way that "children playing the game can potentially spend their parents' money without any adult knowledge" is if the parents FAIL to properly configure their device. It's not Apple's faiult and it's not Capcom's fault.

C_Guy said,
And of course the parents look to blame anyone but themselves.

From the actual news source: "The game publishers and Apple point out that device owners can turn off the option to conduct in-app purchases by going to the Settings app, then hitting the General button, then the Restrictions option"

But why in the world would we expect device owners to take responsibility for themselves? So much easier to cause a big stink and then apply to Apple for a refund.

The ONLY way that "children playing the game can potentially spend their parents' money without any adult knowledge" is if the parents FAIL to properly configure their device. It's not Apple's faiult and it's not Capcom's fault.

I don't recall ever turning any of my Apple devices on and it giving me a pop-up saying that those settings even exist. Should the parents do their job and actually learn about what they are giving there kids, of course. Is that ever going to happen in the real world, of course not.

Always thought it was dumb as hell to buy in game items. Waste of money IMO. But I guess it is not as bad as people on WoW paying ebay for virtual gold bought with real money to use in a virtual world.

techbeck said,
Always thought it was dumb as hell to buy in game items. Waste of money IMO. But I guess it is not as bad as people on WoW paying ebay for virtual gold bought with real money to use in a virtual world.

Agreed. Except I believe both are even as bad, what matters is the price being paid.

techbeck said,
Always thought it was dumb as hell to buy in game items. Waste of money IMO. But I guess it is not as bad as people on WoW paying ebay for virtual gold bought with real money to use in a virtual world.

I would agree but there are some circumstances where it makes sense to buy the "virtual gold". For the smurf game its flat out retarded since it doesn't actually save you any time. Instead of planting or whatever tomorrow for ten minutes you do it today for ten minutes. There is no actual net gain in that transaction. In the case of WoW, assuming your not blowing massive amounts of money in order to do it, you are actually saving time. You are not paying for virtual money, you are paying for the time it takes to get that virtual money. If it would normally take you an hour to make 500g on WoW, and it costs less than min wage to buy 500g, you have a net gain because that's time you don't have to spend in game and can be doing something else(read getting a gf) Also, if you have the money to spare, for a gamer that has a family that means they get to enjoy WoW without the grind and spend more time with their family since they don't have to farm up all that gold.

ILikeTobacco said,

In the case of WoW, assuming your not blowing massive amounts of money in order to do it, you are actually saving time. You are not paying for virtual money, you are paying for the time it takes to get that virtual money. If it would normally take you an hour to make 500g on WoW, and it costs less than min wage to buy 500g, you have a net gain because that's time you don't have to spend in game and can be doing something else(read getting a gf) Also, if you have the money to spare, for a gamer that has a family that means they get to enjoy WoW without the grind and spend more time with their family since they don't have to farm up all that gold.

It is still stupid to do and a complete waste of money. and it is cheating as well. if anyone gets caught buying gold for WoW, they can get their account removed. At least thats how it used to be.

I never played WoW and prefered guild wars instead. In GW, I farmed all my gold and I had a TON of it. If you research how to make money, farm, and get stuff...doesnt take much grind at all. People who buy gold are not learning anything or how to play teh game better. They are just lazy asses who dont want to spend the time to play the game how it was intended.

Of course all of this is my opinion.

I tried this game out after hearing about it. You'll get about 5 minutes on enjoyment out of it, before either having to pay for smurf berries or waiting a large amount of time for something to get done. There was even less to do without paying or waiting then We Rule. If you ask me, these games are pretty stupid.

PhillAholic said,
I tried this game out after hearing about it. You'll get about 5 minutes on enjoyment out of it, before either having to pay for smurf berries or waiting a large amount of time for something to get done. There was even less to do without paying or waiting then We Rule. If you ask me, these games are pretty stupid.

+1x10^37

Hate farmville, hate zynga, if any service should be targeted by a low orbit Ion cannon it would be everything related to this tripe. pay $150 for something like COD/Halo/MoH it will be way more rewarding that some flippen "smurfberry"

Auzeras said,

+1x10^37

Hate farmville, hate zynga, if any service should be targeted by a low orbit Ion cannon it would be everything related to this tripe. pay $150 for something like COD/Halo/MoH it will be way more rewarding that some flippen "smurfberry"

To you maybe. To the millions of people (yes millions) that play zynga games your comment made no sense at all.

A lot of parents are upset that the game indirectly links to the app store and kids can purchase $60 worth of Smurfberries faster than the parents know what to do about it.

Fred Derf said,
A lot of parents are upset that the game indirectly links to the app store and kids can purchase $60 worth of Smurfberries faster than the parents know what to do about it.
Yeah it seems stupid to me that that is possible. I mean they can restrict it after the first time, but the first time the child can buy all the smurfberries they want.

It's a stupid idea but it works. People will buy things like this within an app/game. Hence why Valve introduced the Mann Co Store, it's another way to get the items, but it earned the Polycount winners a ton of dosh.

Chasethebase said,
It's a stupid idea but it works. People will buy things like this within an app/game. Hence why Valve introduced the Mann Co Store, it's another way to get the items, but it earned the Polycount winners a ton of dosh.
Stupid idea? It's a brilliant idea. People are social. People want to impress. People will try to impress in any means. Popular games, with a lot of people, will be a way to impress. Free games tend to have a lot of people playing. To impress you need to buy in-game stuff. Profit.

Victor V. said,
Stupid idea? It's a brilliant idea.

Technically speaking, even the Nigerian prince scam is a brilliant idea. But that's a scam. While I wouldn't go to compare Capcom to the prince scams, this is nevertheless unethical. The game is targeting naive tweens playing the game on their daddy's iPhone. And basically tricks them into spending money.

Steve Jobs, who speaks so much for the kids when it comes to allowing p0rn and stuff, should grow a pair, take a stand and ban games as these that are good for their business, but bad on ethical terms.

PS : Before fanbois pounce on me, let me say. The number of people who go to the extent of asking for a refund are too small. Most people who lose money just assume it's their bad luck and move on