Fish with Attitude is one of those in-app purchase scam games which I mentioned in a previous blog post. I think this game is aimed at kids, but probably some prole adult women are also playing it. It’s aimed more at girls than boys, because there’s no competition, either against other humans or against the computer AI. Rather, the goal is to collect as many fish as possible, and all you can do is watch the fish swimming around in your fish tank.
I experimented with this game because it’s one of the top-grossing games in the App Store, and because the 2D graphics don’t look all that sophisticated; probably something I could learn to program myself, and you can find freelance unemployed digital artists who will work cheap at sites like deviantart.com to create the animated fish sprites, and some guy in India from a site like freelance.com to help with the programming. There have been stories of people who created apps without knowing anything about programming at all, but it seems unwise to me to place that much trust in some guy in India, because I’ve been very unimpressed by the quality of Indian programmers in the corporate billing and account management systems area which I am more familiar with. Actually, now that I think about it, I’d rather pay an extra $5/hour for a programmer in Eastern Europe.
Fish with Attitude begins with a tutorial that teaches you how to play the game. The tutorial gets you in the habit of using “pearls” to speed up the process of breeding, hatching, and growing your fish. After you’ve successfully bred and hatched your first fish, but the fish into the fish tank, and grown him to adult size, then you are left on your own. And after that, it’s not long before the game incessantly tries to get you to buy more pearls to speed up your fish breeding, or “coins” so you can buy more fish tanks.
The game also keeps trying to get you to link with Facebook, by offering you twenty free pearls, and then every time you accomplish something in the game, like grow a new fish or get some cool object for your fish tank, you are encouraged to automatically post a picture to you Facebook page. This Facebook synchronization is obviously a key part of the marketing scam, because it creates links to this game on Facebook, and the developers hope this will cause the game to go “viral,” which it did. I will have to create a fake Facebook account to see how this works. I certainly don’t want a bunch of fish pictures from a children’s game posted to my real Facebook page.
If you’re a parent, you want to make sure you don’t let your kids play with any game that has in-app purchases of currency. Of course, developers do have to make money, so I think it’s fair if a game is offered for “free” to allow you to play for a while and try it out, but then has an in-app purchase to unlock more of the game. It’s the fact that a game allows purchases of currency, with names such as “gems,” “coins,” “gold,” etc., that alerts you to the fact that it’s a scam game.