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Mobile gaming: unauthorized spending increases with people at home

by Erin Johnson | April 6, 2020

 

With more and more companies providing work-from-home possibilities, and children spending more time at home during school breaks, many tend to fill the time previously spent commuting or at after-school activities on picking up new or old hobbies. It comes as no surprise that playing video games is one of those favored hobbies.

Erin Johnson

According to Forbes, video games are currently being played at record levels and will continue to rise. In cases such as Supercell’s Brawl Stars and Niantic’s Pokemon Go, both the number of weekly installs and revenue have seen a recent surge.

 

As virtually all families have mobile devices, pretty much every child has access to great games on the go. That being said, younger children may not necessarily grasp the concept or value of in-app purchases, nor have the understanding mobile devices are often tied to credit cards. This can easily lead to unauthorized spending, of which many stories are eagerly picked up by the media.  An interesting parent perspective and comment is ‘’Small cumulative amounts that don’t seem significant until you add them up over eight months”.

 

Last year GameByte reported three significant findings that were pretty interesting:

  1. Parents’ spending on gaming content had increased by 34% year-on-year for children aged between 3 and 12.
  2. An interesting result of that same report was that 91% of children in that age bracket ask permission before making in-app purchases.
  3. This leaves 9% of purchased gaming content being potentially unauthorized spending.

With unauthorized spending poised to grow under the aforementioned circumstances, there are a few things gaming studios and publishers can do. Not only can they help educate parents on purchasable gaming content, but it is important to also work on proactive measures and learn to spot discrepancies in the spending behavior of players.

 

From a publishing platform perspective, both Apple and Google currently provide their own set of parental controls to aid parents. Unfortunately, from a gaming studio perspective, it is not that easy as they’re not billing the player directly but rather via the platform.

There are however certain mechanics studios can implement to spot suspicious activity.

  • Much like banks can warn customers of unusual transactions on their account, game studios can reach out when large increases in in-game spending or multiple successful purchases occur in a short timeframe.
  • Another method to decrease potential unauthorized spending would be the introduction of a cool-down period after each successful in-app purchase. While it would not completely eliminate the possibility of friendly fraud, it could at least minimize the risk of large sums being spent in a relatively short amount of time.

 

6 Things from a player support perspective:

  1. Improve the Customer Experience for those affected, by prioritizing unauthorized spending resolution in player support departments. When feeling ignored, disgruntled customers leave negative Reviews and lower App Ratings on Google Play and the App Store. Unmanaged, the conversation will quickly spill to other channels.
  2. Create a structured and responsive online engagement process, to be prepared when complaints escalate on social media channels and beyond. Time is off the essence here. Viral complaints will damage brand reputation and affect the organic growth of the playerbase negatively if not handled in a timely manner.
  3. In addition to spotting discrepancies in in-game purchases and placing preventive measures, it is paramount to invest in the education of both players and the company player support agents.
  4. Proactive PX: Offering online unauthorized payment and account support directly from the self help or settings, where descriptive recommendations are explained to support the reduction and minimize these challenges with:
    • Central control of payments
    • Enabling parental controls on in-app purchases
    • Set a maximum purchase amount per account
    • One main account holder for the entire household
    • Require an additional passkey for purchases
    • Communicate when discrepancies in spending occur
  5. A lot of good will can be bought when companies provide helpful and concise information for parents in their player support knowledge base on how to avoid unauthorized spending, outlining the processes and creating clear expectations.
  6. Ultimately, trained player support reps are a necessity to handle the one-on-one communication in these delicate cases when things turn sour:

None of these measures will however guarantee that games will be free of unauthorized spending. That is why it is of utmost importance to assume any studio will encounter these situations and has to ensure they have the right mechanics and personnel in place to tackle these challenges.

What is your company doing to be prepared?

Erin Johnson

Account Manager, Mobile Gaming CX Solutions