Smurf app for iPhone, iPad accused of encouraging kids (and adults) to go on Smurf spending sprees
Smurfs, those cute little blue cartoon dwarfs inspired by the trolls in Nordic fairy tales and beloved by kids (and childish adults, you know who you are) since the 1950s, are arguably one of the greatest gifts Belgium ever bestowed on the world.
And when "The Smurf's Village," a game for iPhone and other Apple gadgets, came out in November, it promised to sprinkle some of that magic on the world of apps.
The game shot up the charts, becoming the highest-grossing app in the Apple store. And, get this, it was free.
Smurfberries. One California mom realized her 4-year-old had spent $66.88 on virtual Smurf stuff in the game on the iPad before she figured it out and stopped him. Fortunately he did not discover the "wheelbarrow" option, which can be purchased with two taps and sets you back a whopping $59.99.
"My biggest concern was them scratching the screen. Never in my wildest dreams did I think they would be charging things on it," the mom told the Associated Press.
Now, don't go complaining that we are picking on the Smurfs. The makers of Smurf's Village have added a warning ("PLEASE NOTE: Smurf Village is free to play, but charges real money for additional in-app content. You may lock out the ability to purchase in-app content by adjusting your device's settings") and are considering warnings inside the game. Capcom Entertainment Inc., the publisher of "The Smurf's Village," says inadvertent purchases by children are "lamentable."
And the Smurfs are certainly not alone: Six of the 10 highest-grossing iPhone and iPad games are free but encourage purchases. And we are wagering that the bulk of the Smurfs' haul comes from "addicted adults" who want to quickly build their villages, adding bakeries and zoos (I mean, who wouldn't, right?). Right now the game is the fourth-highest grossing game in the App store.
-- Jessica Guynn