And there goes the pocket money - cost trap microtransactions

Many online games are basically free to play, but are financed by paid expansions. Here it is important to keep an eye on the costs. We show you how to do that.

For the latest information on the topic of in-game purchases, see our news articles "In-game purchases - expensive gaming fun" and "Record profits at the expense of children?-Mobile games generate 2.7 billion euros in revenue from in-app purchases".

In addition, in our podcast on "Are mobile games manipulating our children?" we dealt with the problem of in-game purchases.

With the klicksafe quiz on the topic of in-game purchases, anyone interested can test their knowledge of rip-offs in games.

Digital games are constantly evolving, as are the business models for earning money with them. According to the Bundesverband Interaktive Unterhaltungssoftware e.V. (BIU), sales for games and consoles broke through the 2 billion euro mark in Germany in 2016. Microtransactions, which are used in online games such as Brawl Stars, also played a part in this success. Sales from microtransactions in digital games increased by 17 percent year-on-year to 659 million euros in 2016.

What are microtransactions?

By means of so-called microtransactions (micro-payment), users spend real money in digital games and acquire virtual goods for the progress of the game or shorten annoying waiting times in the game. The virtual items purchased do not necessarily have to have game-related advantages for the players. Sometimes they are also cosmetic items that, for example, make the player's avatar appear more beautiful or more powerful. The purchase price of virtual goods is mostly in the single-digit euro or cent range, so that the pocket money of children and young people is sufficient for this. However, cost-intensive virtual items are also offered, such as the jewel chest in Clash of Clans, with a proud price of €99. Microtransactions are primarily used in so-called "free to play" games, where the download of the game is free of charge. In addition to creditcardsor PayPal, so-called "paysafecards" can also be used formicro-payments, which children and young people can buy at gas stations or kiosks. Furthermore, some games offer the option of mobile payment. The amount is debited from the phone bill.

You can find more information about microtransactions in the explanatory video of the Spielatgeber-NRW.

What should parents keep in mind?

  • Talk to your child about whether microtransactions are also offered in your child's favorite games and agree on binding rules for them.
  • Also discuss whether "paysafecards" may be purchased, whether and what maximum amounts may be spent on digital games.
  • Check the phone bill for microtransactions from digital games.
  • Search out new games together with your child to identify cost traps and problematic content in good time and, if necessary, avoid them by deactivating in-app purchases.

More tips can be found in the "Digital games" topic area.

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