5 Ways Free iPhone Games Con You Out of Your Money
Like 99.9999 percent of all pay apps are either flagrantly useless to our evolutionary survival or just bullshit copies of flash games you can play for free on the Internet. App makers know this, which is why some of the most lucrative apps this year got that way by offering the game for free, followed by a little-known moneymaking technique the industry likes to call "scamming the fuck out of you."
Now, don't get us wrong: Anyone who claims they've never spent money on a smart-phone app is the next Unabomber. However, the next time your finger is hovering over that 99 cent "buy" icon, all we ask is that you take a moment to consider that ...
Apps Intentionally Look Stupid to Weed Out the Willing
Ever wonder why Nigerian email scammers still use the same shit-grammar tale of royal riches to lure their victims, when anyone with half a brain can instantly tell they're full of shit? Because it's the people with less than half a brain that they're interested in. By using such an obvious scam, they're able to weed out the rare patches of people incapable of detecting obvious red flags. It's kind of the same sample you get when, we dunno, you put out a game specifically for Kim Kardashian fans.
Shouldn't have picked the "Say Jews control Hollywood" button.
So while there certainly are apps created with techniques to prey on dumb children or addiction-prone gamblers (three of the current most profitable apps are slot machines), most of us don't see ourselves standing in the sucker column. After all, the average person is way too world savvy to- OH GOD IT'S A JURASSIC PARK GAME!!!
The Nedry "ah ah ah" program pops up when you run out money.
See, you can point and laugh all you want at the people buying Kardashian's digital approval, but to them, spending $50 on a collection of pixels shaped like a T-Rex sounds as ludicrous (?!) as wasting it on cartoon drawings of shoes sounds to you. It's all about exploiting that stupid part of everyone's brain that tells him or her to buy scratch tickets and keep watching The Walking Dead -- because maybe it's worth it this time.
They'll String You Along, but the "Rewards" Aren't Worth It
One of the most successful games this year didn't include celebrities or dinosaurs. It simply reclined on the sweet cushion of gambling. MyVegas Slots is an app where you crank on slots in exchange for fake money that will eventually buy you real rewards at hotels and casinos around the Strip.
Unfortunately, all you can get with 100 points is "drunken fight with pit boss" or "gonorrhea."
Not too shabby, right? If you happen to be in the area and feel like some extracurricular gambling, then why not buy some fake money and use it to get real prizes? Surely 100,000 magic bullshit coins must be worth $50 in freeplay or getting those two $100 Cirque du Soleil tickets for cheap can free up some dough for the mescaline beforehand. It's simple economics.
You've been here for, like, 20 years. It's time to start spelling it "Circus."
Scratch that: It's simple economics so long as you like paying way more than what something is worth. Sure, you can play the game for free and still score prizes if you're patient, but this guy ran the math: One free night at the Luxor, "an undrinkable margarita, [and] a terrible breakfast" cost him 120 hours of playing, or $3,326 worth of his time, based on his salary. You can make it go way faster if you cough up money ... but then we're back where we started. In scamming lingo this is called a "clip joint," which is a business that sells watered-down goods (like, literally watered-down alcohol, for example) for higher prices while throwing in as many opportunities for the saps involved to waste cash. So pretty much the entire economy of Las Vegas.
Any fan of Kardashian's game would recognize this description as "koins" -- a fake monetary system in the game that buys you things like "energy," a crucial element in order to complete tasks in the game.
For 5,000 koins, you get to watch your husband fuck a phoenix.
Five energy costs six koins. And what do koins kost?
Shouldn't an accurate Kardashian game just give you money for doing absolutely nothing?
Those kocks! Actual hard-earned dollars. So, by putting as many steps between your wallet and the fact that they are charging for something that is essentially useless, somehow that makes the buy more logical. Especially when you are under the gun ...
Giving Us a Time Limit Makes Us Spend More Money
Classic cons like the Spanish Prisoner usually exploit the fact that the average human body will secrete hilarious amounts of cash if you stick a timer in front of its face: They'll tell you that you can get rich if you act fast, and your brain goes, "Holy shit, I'd be a Class-A chump if I let this opportunity pass!" This is why limited-time store sales exist and, in a way more literal sense, why so many apps use the concept of time to punish you for not spending money. Remember this little guy?
Admit it: How many of you just reflexively threw all your pocket change at the screen?
But, while games like Candy Crush simply make you wait a half hour to get your lives back, Kardashian's Kash Kow is actually designed so that your ability to win the game is directly linked to how long it takes you to complete a task -- so when they follow that up by not letting you replenish energy for a long amount of time, you have no choice but to pay. They are essentially selling your own time back to you. Time you could have spent talking to a psychologist about why you're still playing Kardashian's game.
There is, of course, Door Number 3, which is to actually get people to download other apps and sign up for stupid shit in exchange for not paying money and not waiting. This means that they are actually making you waste your time so you don't waste more time wasting time on the game. The incredible cherry being that Kardashian's new app is filled with comments like this:
What does the game have to do for you to drop to a three-star rating? Literally take a shit on you?
It's All About Siphoning a Little at a Time
One technique credit-card scammers like to use is skimming off small amounts of change from accounts, or "micropayments," knowing that people won't notice it at first. You only realize you got screwed when the money starts to add up. If you play Candy Crush, you might be familiar with that feeling.
A nose-candy crush saga is a cheaper habit.
Carnival games run a similar racket: When you're spending a buck to toss balls in Hitler's mouth, you feel like it's nothing ... until you leave the park realizing that you dropped $50 doing it over and over again (and you didn't even win the stuffed elephant). With a carnival it's perfectly legal to prey on that financial optical illusion, so thank goodness we're not all walking around with carnie grifters in our pockets, huh?
"All that's missing is the pee stench; that's a dollar extra."
Oh, that's right ... we sort of are doing that. This is why perfectly smart people will blow hundreds of dollars on Candy Crush -- our addiction to the game plus the small prices and the unprecedented convenience of it all essentially allow us to pull micropayment scams on ourselves. The app just has to sit back and watch us make a fool. Why do you think you get charged only every $10 or so, as seen above? Because that way it's much easier to forget that you've gone from "Well, it's just the price of a small burger" to "I could have had a lobster dinner with this."
You might say that the entertainment you get out of these games is still worth the price, and you might even be right, if it wasn't for the small fact ...
They Get You to Pay More by Making You Feel Like Shit
Any fraud helpline or website will tell you that a con artist's primary tool is the ability to victimize you based on your own ego, neediness, or self-esteem. Desperate and/or greedy people make worse decisions -- and the more con artists can play themselves up while hammering their target down, like Mario murdering a goomba, the more money ejaculates out of the mark. Huh, that Mario analogy worked out better than we thought.
Incidentally, take a look at how Kardashian's dating simulator rejects you for not wearing the right outfit:
Cosby sweater was a poor choice for the sex tape level.
You're basically being told how terrible you look in the meanest way possible so you have to go buy more clothes, which of course will end up costing you money. We'd be shocked if it weren't for the fact that the game's first mission is for your character to give Kardashian something for free.
"I mean, I have all this extra cash now from the morons playing my g- uhhh, never mind."
From there she offers you a gig for your troubles -- effectively establishing that the more offerings you freely deliver to this B-list celebrity, the more reward there will be. Luckily, there's an app specifically designed to help boost your self-esteem so things like this don't happen! And because it's aimed at people who already feel bad about themselves, of course it's $50.
"Or $99.99 for PREMIUM self-esteem!"