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Channel 4 App Helps Curb Children's Mobile Gaming Habit

Thu 19 Dec, 2013 // Firstnumber Team
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An app inspired by Raymond Briggs' The Snowman has introduced a cap on how much users can spend while using it, tackling the issue of in-app spending by children. Suitable for iPhone, iPad and Android phones, the free game was launched by Channel 4 earlier this month and is a sequel to a free game that topped UK app charts last Christmas.

Following a report by the Office of Fair Trading into children and in-app purchases earlier this year, The Snowman and the Snowdog is the first app to introduce this type of limit in the UK. The consultation was held after an avalanche of horror stories about parents being left with huge bills run up by their children's mobile gaming. 

In an effort to avoid parental "bill shock", children are able to spend between £0.99 and £3.99 at a time on gameplay boosts and customising the Snowman character. Furthermore, total spending has been limited to £20 per player.

While developing the game, Channel 4 paid close attention to the Office of Fair Trading's September report, which aimed to set out best practices for freemium games following a five-month consultation.

"While we had to figure out a way that we could make money from the game, we absolutely could not have anything that might give rise to anyone feeling it was exploitative," Channel 4's games commissioning editor Colin Macdonald said in an interview with the Guardian newspaper.

"Every free-to-play consultant will tell you that a pricing cap is commercial suicide, but we have bent over backwards to do this game responsibly because we knew it would appeal to so many kids," he added.

"We're not proposing the cap as a model for all our games or the wider industry. We're just very sensitive around kids and around this brand," stated Macdonald. "We've gone through the OFT recommendations, and tried to get that balance where hopefully there's enough money coming in to fund next year's game, but not anything that would be exploitative."

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