The Daily Show Rips Into Free-To-Play Gaming

Monday's episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, shouty correspondent Aasif Mandvi took on free-to-play iOS games like GameView's Tapfish.

In the game, which is entirely free to download, players maintain an aquarium full of virtual fish. There's a catch, of course -- at some point your fish will probably die, and if you'd like, you can revive them... by paying real money. As Mandvi so eloquently puts it, "So it turns out these games are free... until you don't want them to suck."

Kids (or any other kind of player) can very easily hit a button to buy 3600 "Fish Bucks" for $US99, ensuring that their fish will stay happy and alive for a very, very long time. Apparently, at least one family has given the game to their kids to play and been hit with an unexpected bill -- the children in the family Mandvi interviews bought $US1500 (!!) worth of fish bucks before their parents discovered what had happened.

In another humorous bit, Mandvi convinces Rizwan Virk, the CEO of GameView (whose other games include Tapfish Exotic, Tap Jurassic, Tap Town and Tap Mall) to take a call from an aggrieved parent; it's the kind of thing that we could never get away with, so it's fun to see.

"You provide a product," Mandvi says Virk, attempting to break down the free-to-play model. "The first one is free. And then as they get more accustomed to your product, the price rises.

"So... you're like a drug dealer." Heh. Mandvi then speaks with a child psychologist who points out how the game exploits children's tendency to not want their pets to die to make money.

As humorous as the bit is, it's also something of an indictment of this kind of morally questionable game design. It's cool to see The Daily Show tackling the subject -- hopefully next Mandvi can give us a segment devoted to gamification?

December 5th, 2011 [The Daily Show]

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Comments

    Or... parents could lock the access to just purchase more stuff in-game. You need to have a purchasing facility to do any purchasing, guys.

    Of course, the other problem with this media scare-up (at least in Australia) is that under 18s cannot enter into contracts or own a normal credit card. I understand that they can own debit cards, but these are entirely different.

    A parent who gives their child effective access to their credit card is just being stupid. A company that earns money from that child may well find itself forced to return the money.

    Seriously - $1,500 on fish food and the parents didn't fail in their duty to the children?

      Hit the nail on the head!..... I mean +1 to your comment! What's wrong with these people?! Exclamation mark!

      Yup. totally right. I love how its the company's fault for the parents inadequecy.

        while this is most likely a case of stupid parents...im reminded of my schoolyard friends who knew their parents credit card numbers and were experts at forging their signatures, lets be honest to buy something online you only need an address and credit card details.

        Then again ive never been a fan of the so called free to play when its really pay to win.

      Depends when it happened Stephen, remember that once your purchased something from the App Store it keeps you logged in for a short period, and used to (maybe still does) allow you to buy in game items without using your password.

      So you happily buy your kid a 5 dollar game, put in the password, he gets in and spends your real money on in game junk.

      Hardly the fault of the parents, more the fault of an incredibly dodgy payment method.

    Correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't th Apple app store make you put a credit card in to create an account? Shouldn't Apple at least provide an option for underage kids to set up a free stuff only account?
    I'm hoping I'm wrong but if I'm right its a little dodgy, especially since my android account had access to the market without a cc attached.

      Well I have no credit card details on my apple pp store account.

      Because I don't have a credit card.

    Uh this is why they created iTunes cards people - prepay and don't link your credit card to your phone in the first place!

    Still that report was funny and I'd rather see Fre2Play get a whack from the media rather than thelatest adult shooter that was never intended for kids anyway.

    The stupidity of parents is legion, equalled only by the greed and immorality of people ready to devise ways of seperating suckers from their cash. I think the show did a good job of informing the uninformed.

    Remember, it's easy for us who have been around forever, have some programming knowledge and have seen the net develope into the incredibly intricate and complex place it is, to poo poo those who still live in the real world.

    From outside the fishbowl can look opaque.

    When I hear the word free, I don't think that I have to pay for it.

    When I hear Free to Play game, I think so what do I need to buy to actually play the game? The non tech Savy see Free to Play game and assume the first one.

    Example it's a FPS game Free to Play, Ammo for anything but your single shot pistol is $1 a bullet.

    Also did you not notice the default purchase is $99,99? this game is a scam to trick people out of money, some people who are less tech savy than ourselves will fall for it. My Mother signed onto a phone contract many years ago, because the guy lied through his teeth about the service. I called the ACCC and sorted it all out, but not without a lot of hassel.

    But her only mistake was trusting this person.

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