So I wanted to know how people make money selling these so-called “apps.” The iTunes App Store is kind enough to display the 200 top-grossing apps. What I discovered is that nearly all of these top-grossing apps are games, and that nearly all of the games have in-app purchases. This means that after you install the app for free, something compels you to buy a “Chest of Gems” for $99.99, a real virtual item for sale in the top-grossing game Clash of Clans.
I also learned that within 15 minutes of entering your password to install the “free” app, you will not be requested to provide a password for any subsequent in-app purchase. There have been stories of parents who installed a “free” game for their kid to play, and then discovered a credit card bill exceeding a thousand dollars. The kids didn’t even know what they were doing.
The list of top-grossing apps seems to be dominated by a small number of companies, each with multiple games based around a similar business model of in-app purchases.
There doesn’t seem to be much room here for an independent solo developer. And the idea of making money by tricking little kids into purchasing in-game crap within 15 minutes of the game being installed seems really icky to me. That’s value transference, not value creation.
Now that I know about this, I turned off in-app purchases, as well as the 15-minute thing, by going into Settings – General – Restrictions. I sure don’t want to accidentally purchase hundreds of dollars of virtual crap.