Crazy Frog Revisited? If We’re Going to Kill the Goose That Lays the Golden Egg, Can We At Least Let It Lay the Egg First
So along with around 70,000 other people with a vested interest, I’ve spent the past week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and while I, like most other visitors, saw only a fraction of what I would have liked to see, or to be more accurate, would have liked to have more time to see, it was impossible to come away from the event feeling anything other than massively enthused about the potential for mobile marketing.
Because when you go beyond phones and tablets and enter the realms of connected TVs, cars – respect to Ford for their big presence at this year’s event – fridges, glasses, running shoes, bikes – my review sample request for Aston Martin’s £25k connected bike is in, but I have the feeling I am at the back of a very long queue – bracelets, walking sticks (courtesy of Fujitsu), and entire cities, how can you not be excited?
But then you come home and you get a reality check. For me, it came in the form of a story that has been all over the news in the UK today about a five-year-old boy who spent almost two grand of his parents' cash on in-app purchases while playing Zombies vs Ninja on their iPad. His dad keyed in the password to enable him to play the game, but as you can make more purchases without re-entering the password for the next 15 minutes after it has been entered, young Danny inadvertently racked up a bill of £1,710.43, which could be a record for buying virtual zombies, but then again, if you know grown-ups who play this sort of game, probably not.
Apple, to its credit, has given the family a full refund, and however big its cash pile and its finely-tuned ear for PR, I think it should be applauded for doing so.
But it does make me wonder if our adolescent industry will ever learn from its mistakes. To me, it’s Crazy Frog all over again, and when you get people like the spokesman for TIGA, whose website says it is “representing the games industry”, interviewed on 5Live in the UK this evening trying to defend the freemium business model, and refuting the idea that turning off in-app purchasing on iTunes is harder than it needs to be, it almost makes you want to weep. Let’s not defend the indefensible.
(Full disclosure: I have tried to confirm his name and job title with both the BBC and TIGA, as I was stir-frying beansprouts and other stuff at the time the interview aired, but no joy as yet.)
There do seem to be moves afoot in the world of mobile advertising to prevent this sort of nonsense. We have reported previously on Trademob’s voluble stance on clickfraud, and together with companies such as LoopMe and adsmobi, they should be applauded for their efforts to ensure that advertisers only pay for intentional clicks, and that consumers get the opportunity to realise that their fat fingers have taken them somewhere they didn’t mean to be, and give them a chance to get out of there.
The problem is that if freemium games become the next Crazy Frog, the mobile revolution we all think might be about to hit tipping point could be set to disappear in a puff of consumer backlash.
And that, to say the least, would be a shame.
David Murphy, Editor