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US Federal Trade Commission investigates free-to-play

Concern that some players "unlikely to understand ramifications" of virtual goods

The US Federal Trade Commission is to review in-app purchasing and so-called 'free-to-play' games.

The FTC's chairman Jon Leibowitz confirmed the planned investigation following a request from Massachussets senator Ed Markey. "We fully share your concern that consumers, particularly children, are unlikely to understand the ramifications of these types of purchases," said Leibowitz in a statement seen by the Washington Post.

"Let me assure you we will look closely at the current industry practice with respect to the marketing and delivery of these types of applications."

Markey had raised the issue following media reports that children were unwittingly racking up large bills in mobile and social games, with Capcom's iOS title Smurfs' Village particularly making headlines after claims that an 8-year-old girl had spent $1400 on in-game items.

Observed Markey, "What may appear in these games to be virtual coins and prizes to children result in very real costs to parents."

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Alec Meer avatar
Alec Meer: A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.
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