Apple Smurfberries Cost Real Smurfing Money

by Jordan Richardson on December 22, 2010

With the holidays upon us, it’s as good a time as any to look at the lighter side of things. Over the next several days, I’ll be covering some of the kinder, gentler stories from the telecom and tech communities from around the world. Today’s tale may not bring holiday cheer to some parents, however, and that has some feeling a little blue.

Our story began a couple of weeks ago when a game called The Smurf Village became one of the highest-grossing applications in Apple’s iTunes store. The problem was that the smurfing app was free.

So how does a free game become the top-smurfing app in the iTunes store? Smurfberries!

According to The Globe and Mail, a number of parents have been stunned, shocked, surprised, and even downright smurfed over the fact that the Smurfberries, little tokens that “speed up gameplay,” cost an arm and a smurf. California-based mom Kelly Rummelhart found out the awful truth the hard way, as her four-year-old son racked up a $66.88 charge for a bushel and 11 buckets of Smurfberries. She says she considers herself pretty smurfing lucky that her youngster didn’t tap on the button to buy a wheelbarrow of Smurfberries. That tab clocks in at a smurfing amazing $59.99.

Last year Apple introduced “in-app purchases,” a convenient way for consumers to buy all sorts of add-ons in their games and applications using the iTunes billing smurfaratus. As you might expect, developers fully tapped into the new opportunity and have used these in-app purchases as brand new revenue streams. Six of the 10 highest-grossing apps in the iTunes store are actually “free” to download, but the cash comes from all of those little extra goodies. Four of those six games, by the way, are kid-friendly games like “Tap Zoo.” And of those four kid-friendly apps, two of them allow for purchases of $100 in as little as two taps. Easy smurfing money.

On Monday, the developer of The Smurf Village decided that a warning about the “real money” cost of Smurfberries should be supplied with the game. Capcom updated the game Sunday and now a pop-up greets the little smurfers when they start the game. Of course, it’s also easier to purchase large amounts of Smurfberries: you can buy a whole smurfing wagon of Smurfberries in two taps to the tune of $99.99. These purchases, says Capcom, are designed for “power players” so that they can maximize their Smurfberry purchases with ease.

The lesson here is obviously to avoid letting your kids play with your smurfing iPhone and/or iPad, as these kid-friendly apps make it remarkably easy for your little smurfs and smurfettes to throw away a small blue fortune on Smurfberries.

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JC December 22, 2010 at 6:57 am


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