Concerned/aggrieved parents and gamers of the world: rejoice. The Apple has now ceased labelling free-to-play games as ‘Free’ within the iOS App Store. As of today the download button reads ‘Get’.
You can probably guess the reason why. Mounting pressure from the European Union combined with what seems like weekly horror stories from parents with huge unexpected bills has forced Apple into making it clear that just because a game costs you nothing to purchase does not mean it is free. This new labelling applies to every free-to-download game, even those without in-app purchases.
This name change was first suggested back in September by the EU within a broader set of guidelines created to remove any confusion surrounding the true nature of IAPs. Rather surprisingly, Apple has actually followed them despite no real legal obligation to do so.
Amazon on the other hand has opted to fight the EU’s push, whilst Google has implemented an optional password lock for IAPs.
It’s a certain improvement over the previous, misleading state, but it’s a little unfortunate that developers of truly free apps with zero IAPs have no way of immediately distinguishing themselves from their freemium cousins.
We’d call it a victory all-in-all, though. This probably won’t put to bed the ancient argument of bad parenting vs corporate irresponsibility that inevitably arises every time a child racks up a £10,000 bill on their parent’s iPad, but it’s a step in the right direction.