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07 November, 2014


I am here to talk today about responsible in-app purchases. And maybe even responsible steam purchases, yes I am looking at you Gabe Newell, you need to allow people to set up a deposit limit. for Steam and Dota 2. This article was inspired by the latest South Park episode "Fremmium isn't free". You can watch it if you have access to hulu right here  and a small clip from it below:


Digital purchases that occur in apps/freemium games and in digital stores  (such as iTunes, Steam, the app stores of Google/Amazon and so on) can be addictive in the same way playing slots is. Since I worked in the online gambling industry and I love gambling, I can see some of the patterns used by casinos that are now employed by digital stores and freemium games/apps. For example: discounts, bonuses, promotions, freebies and so on - they are nothing new to a slots player and now have become part of our digital lives in the freemium world of mobile and social apps. The mechanics of the games are very often encouraging towards the purchases and there are numerous reminders on what you can buy in these games.

Don't trust me that social gaming and freemium games can be just as bad as slot games? Here is a  print screen that shows the type of people that King.com, the social gaming company has hired:



That's right - the VP of Customer Operations at King.com used to work for William Hill and Bwin.Party - both are online gambling companies that operate casino, sports betting and poker sites. You can check the web site for William Hill for example here - http://www.williamhillplc.com/


Psychologists and game designers at these freemium/social gaming companies think on how to hook you up to playing and make you pay eventually.  People from the online gambling industry also find new jobs for freemium companies. The games are created more addictive and they will find ways to make more people pay and then keep the paying customers around with all kinds of retention and "loyalty" tricks. Some people do end up spending thousands of dollars on freemium type of games.

I am going to say that even video gamers are also not safe, many of us give our money for games that we do not end up playing at all. This happens in Steam and with regular purchases too. You want to have that game and put it on a shelf or in your Steam library but you do not have any real use to it. Like it or not we do this to reward ourselves and we fuck up with our brains chemicals by satisfying ourselves with these purchases. It is not crack, but it is kind of the same, maybe like sugar eating. And for all the people playing League of Legends or Dota 2- you know you did not need to pay in any of that money for that skin or cosmetic item but you did anyways, shame on you, you said your previous purchase would be your last for the year.

Government regulation is lacking right now for freemium/social gaming companies but soon I expect this to change. First step for it might be greater awareness for which I thank South Park. I love playing online games, but I know how addictive it can be, sometimes you buy a game on Steam or pay in Candy crush even though you did not budget for it. Thankfully, I have not yet sold my house and I am managing, but there are many people who have addictive personalities, this is why the gambling industry is regulated and somebody playing online slots can exclude themselves for 6 months from an online casino or create a deposit limit.

I hope that you will not find this article hypocritical coming from a guy who runs a casino web site (or at least tries to,  my blog and site are not great I would agree). The reason why I believe I can speak about this is because I have gambled, I have lost and I know also what it is like to start lying to yourself about your own actions.

This is getting pretty long, the point is - any place which allows you to spend thousands for rewarding yourself with in-app purchases for digital goods should be regulated the same way online casinos are. You should be able to exclude yourself from a mobile/social game, create deposit limits or outright ban yourself. If you are interested in making this true, take the initiative to write to your own government authority.

If anybody has read this so far, I am posting this on reddit to try and spread the word around. I hope you do share this article or its message with as much people as you can.
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