Google will ditch the 'free' label on games with in-app purchases

The European Commission has announced that Google will stop labeling Android games in the Google Play Store as being "free" if they have in-app purchases, as part of an agreement between the company and the commission to offer better consumer guidance when downloading apps.

In their statement, the European Commission offered the details of what Google will change in the app store:

These include not using the word "free" at all when games contain in-app purchases, developing targeted guidelines for its app developers to prevent direct exhortation to children as defined under EU law and time-framed measures to help monitor apparent breaches of EU consumer laws. It has also adapted its default settings, so that payments are authorized prior to every in-app purchase, unless the consumer actively chooses to modify these settings.

The group stated that the changes are currently underway and will be completed in the Google Play Store sometime before the end of September. There's no word yet if the changes will be made to the store outside of Europe. What do you think of this change and will it help consumers or will it end up hurting developers who rely on in-app purchases for their games?

Source: European Commission

John Callaham
  • I would rather just pay for a game upfront than download a so called free game that you pay to get the gear or items that are useful. Posted via Android Central App
  • This! Those free games my kids play cost me a lot if $$$! Lol! Now when they ask for an app I ask if there in app purchases when they say the app is free...
  • I agree. I have nothing against paying one time for a quality game. I won't download a game if it's free, yet contains ads and relies heavily on IAPs.
    Monument Valley and Hitman GO are great examples of games that are well worth the money and I will happily pay full price for, as they don't have ads or rely on IAPs, and are polished, quality mobile games who stand apart from the group.
  • The worst are the games that you fork over cash for upfront and STILL has in-app purchases.
  • Agreed Posted via Android Central App
  • New name for this category should be "P.O.P.".... Play Or Pay. Free, Paid, and Pop games. Posted via the LG G2 Android Central App
  • Uh... This makes me want to kinda try to trademark this. You need to delete this before someone else gets this brilliant idea. Posted via Android Central App
  • That doesn't make sense, that implies you can't play it if you pay for it... Posted via Android Central App
  • +1 >I'm the kind of guy who stops a microwave at one second to feel like a bomb defuser.
  • Another thing that is terrible is when developers take a paid game, make a version that is free w/ IAPs, and then eventually stop supporting the paid one with updates and future device compatibility.
  • Yup >I'm the kind of guy who stops a microwave at one second to feel like a bomb defuser.
  • That is exactly why developers love having IAPs... because they can make a lot more money. Imagine a typical mobile game that's .99 cents. If 1000 people buy it, then it's just under $1000. If the game is free but has "restrictions" programmed into to that requires payment to unlock, open up new worlds, or power ups... they could make hundreds of dollars on each game... a lot more than .99 cents for a flat rate price.
  • IAPs are just fine as long as they don't get in the way of the game itself. I still play many free games that also happen to have IAPs. Posted via Android Central App
  • I hope these get their own section. I don't want the Play Store's regular paid games section cluttered with all of this garbage.
  • Will this just be for Europe? Or everywhere? I think it's a good idea
  • I'm hoping it's global too. I'm surprised they haven't had the same issue in Australia, our consumer watchdog is usually pretty good with this sort of thing. Posted via Android Central App
  • Because people in Australia and Europe are too stupid or un-involved to read the label that says In-App Purchases and just let their children go wild with a credit card? Seriously, there is a disclaimer and they usually verify that you want to make an in-app purchase. Also, technically these games ARE free. You don't have to pay a cent. Take clash of Clans, I have been playing for months and not spent any money. Paying for extras or advantages is not the same as paying for an app. Now, as someone mentioned apps where you pay up front and still get hit with in-app purchases (everything warhammer or WH40k), those suck.
  • I think this is a good move, and I hope that they are labeled to say something to still encourage people to download the game/app
  • I don't think it matters. You will still be able to see which games cost money and which have no initial cost.
  • Good Riddance IAPs!! I rather pay for the game all at once and enjoy the game without needing to pay to advance. Sounds like a hostage situation.. Posted via Android Central App
  • I just want to know upfront that whatever the app is it cost x_$amount. I have purchased plenty of great apps over the years. And have no problem giving my money to the developers who have poured their liveblood into these apps. I just dislike hearing about a "great" app that is free then later finding out it is an in app purchase cost of $1.99 or something.
  • This needs to be world wide. Furthermore, they need to add a filter to the play store that let's you filter out the bait and switch business model. Charge 60 bucks for a game if you want, but give me the whole damn thing when I purchase it.
  • I really wish developers would offer two versions of games if they are going to go this route. It would be nice to have the option to purchase the game up front and have no other costs incurred. Or if you want to get the version with in app purchases for free you can do that if you want to. To me this would be the ideal way to do it.
    Posted via Android Central App from a beautiful Ebony backed Moto X or the amazing Nexus 10
  • I like this idea either buy the whole enchilada up front or choose to only buy what you feel like buying a large carte style. Posted via Android Central App
  • They would never do this because they make wayyyy more of a killing off of the current model compared to if they did what you are proposing.
    They make people feel they have to pay 99 cents 500 times instead of just paying 5 bucks once.
  • That and people are more willing to download a game that is free and sometimes make IAPs, rather than pay even a dollar for a game up front.
  • Not good enough. They should also: 1) Show you the price on apps that you already own.
    2) Force the seller to disclose/list ALL the prices for "enhanced" versions through in-app purchasing (since many do not say at all. One "free" survey app was freaking $99, and you could only tell that by reading the reviews).
  • I think this is a good idea for games or apps that have an excessive amount of in app purchases.. Clear labeling just allows the consumer to be better informed. I agree with other posters that if an app is put together well and has both good functionality and is visually appealing then I am more than willing to pay a developer for their hard work. Especially to avoid ads.
  • Have to agree, this should be put in place everywhere. I play many games with iap's, but would like to know up-front that they have these without having to dig through descriptions and comments. another section for these would be nice too, rather than cluttering the paid app section. I'm pretty sure it's going to affect how well these apps do. Hopefully that will get them to understand that there are other, better options though.
  • I would like it if people were a little more thorough in their reading of the app descriptions and reviews. I have many freemium apps and I read the fine print in all of them. I have managed to avoid many potentially problematic apps as well by doig this. Also, if you have kids with devices associated with your bank/credit cards, maybe you should require the password with every purchase. Posted via Android Central App
  • But BrockS, why would you insist on this instead of more government hand-holding? Why should people be forced to think for themselves? Heaven forbid that someone reads the disclaimer that is on both IOS and Android that says "in app purchases." Hell, iOS goes one step further and lets you click a link and see a breakdown of all of the in-app purchases and their prices. Sadly, I'm not that old, but even a large portion of my generation appears to want to have their hand held on every decision and are quick to blame someone else for their own stupidity.
  • This is great news. I'm interested in Age of Empires, but I'm sure it's going to be "free" with a ton of in app purchases. I'd rather pay for the game.
    >I'm the kind of guy who stops a microwave at one second to feel like a bomb defuser.
  • I would much rather pay upfront for games. In cases like clash of clans, you can't really pay upfront for it though...
  • Its a pity they were made to do this, it should have been this way from the start. Now hopefully they add "TRIAL" and other appropriate labels to the different categories of "free" apps. For a search company they do a really shoddy job of searching anything other than the web. If apps had tags to indicate they were wallpapers and "freemium", "trial" etc and allowed filtering and sorting, then this issue possibly would not have come up for them in court.
  • You realize their is a label on apps that have in-app purchases that says... wait for it... in-app purchases?
  • You realise, wait for it, that you can't filter them out?
  • I have no problem with the IAP concept, but I would like to see these costs listed in the app's description in the store so that you know what you are getting into before you bother downloading the app. As much as I dislike Apple, they do this so it can be done.
  • Frifred, you have one of the most reasonable requests so far. It does make sense to have a breakdown of what all of the in-app purchases are, listed in the description. I know that I appreciate that feature on my iPad. If the Play store added something similar, I think it would be pretty much complete, not idiot proof, but complete.
  • The word free in these apps is extremely misleading. Posted via Android Central App
  • It would also be nice if Android Central would also mention IAPs when writing articles about games. Scrolling back and looking at the article on the Game of Thrones Accent game, you say it's free but no mention of IAPs. It would also be helpful if you can tell us how they affect gameplay for that game assuming you have a chance to try it out before writing the article on the game. Posted via Android Central App
  • When it comes down to it the parents have to shoulder half of the blame. Posted via Android Central App with my Nexus 5
  • The parents can only shoulder the blame if there are proper controls in place from the vendor, aka Google.
  • There are proper controls in place. You don't give your child access to a credit card and the password as well. Make them have to have you enter the password before they can buy an app or make an in-app purchase. As for shouldering half of the blame, it really all comes down to parents. Teach your children and set limits. If your children exceed these limits, punish them.
  • It is about time that some regulation is being out into place for these apps. The word "free" should mean just that, free!
    Though, is it me or there appear to be less and less games and other apps that you pay once upfront and that's it? Posted via Android Central App Runnning on Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Aliasuk, these games are "free." They cost nothing to download and most of them cost nothing to play. Can you choose to speed up the advancement process by paying more? Sure. Do you have to? No. So far I play Boom Beach, Candy Crush Saga, and Clash of Clans. I have never once spent money on any of them. I did spend some money on PVZ2, but that was after I beat the game and they released the far future as a free expansion. I bought a plant or two to support what I felt was a great game. With candy crush, I don't even use tickets from facebook to advance zones. I just disconnect it from facebook and do the 3 quests over 3 days. The thing is, you don't have to pay to play these games, or at least a lot of them. Now, I realize some do suck with how crippled the game is if you don't pay, but many are not.
  • Labeling a game as "Free" with in-app purchases in order to get the full features of the app is deceptive. The EU is right. Google should only allow in-app purchaes for add-ons that have nothing to do with the core of the app, and do not interfere with the full functionality of the app. Otherwise, an app that is labeled as "free" should include full functionality at no charge. The issue here is full disclosure. Case in point: EA Games with Dungeon Keeper.
  • I don't understand the outrage... most moderately intelligent humans can figure out the differences between free and paying for in app purchases. I DO feel that it needs to be controlled so that no accidental purchases or limiting purchases made by children, and I can't argue with clear labeling... but I have played many games with in app purchases and never once purchased any of them. It looks like I might like Hitman Go, but I am not going to pay for it. That leaves me 2 options... neither one is good for the developer. Not buy it, or well, ummm, you know, some people find ways to play games they didn't pay for. Either way, the developer loses! Look how successful SwiftKey Keyboard has become since it changed pricing models. Hey, if YOU don't like it, fine, but don't take it away from the rest of us.
  • What I hate is the word In-App Purchases now in the place of when the app was last updated. Put the text somewhere else. How do i know when a program was updated? I will not be the first one to update the program. i will let others be the guinea pig and test it. Then I know how long after the app was updated that there was someone that used the new version.
  • I agree that ANY apps that are totally free be listed as free and any apps with in-app upgrade purchases should never be listed as free, never ever!