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One of the most common criticisms levelled against microtransactions in video games is the way in which they incentivise young children to spent large amounts of money with little thought to the consequences.
We've seen countless reports of kids gaining access to their parents' credit cards and draining them dry as they attempt to purchase certain items in games like Fortnite, FIFA, and Call Of Duty: Warzone. It's become such a regular occurrence, in fact, that you probably won't be all that shocked to learn that it's happened again.
As reported by The New York Post, a six-year-old boy from Connecticut was able to nab his mum's credit card and sink more than $16,000 into the mobile game Sonic Forces: Speed Battle - a free-top-play spinoff of 2017's awful Sonic Forces for console.
The six year old's mother, Jessica Johnson, first noticed the charges on July 9th, which had by that point hit $2,500. Speaking to The New York Post, Johnson compared the microsotransactions to "lines of cocaine". It seems that her son was buying the most expensive $99.99 gold ring bundles for the game, meaning he must have purchased around 160 of them before his mum realised what was actually going on.
At first Johnson didn't realise that these extortionate charges were from a video game, because why on Earth would you think Sonic The Hedgehog just rinsed you for two-and-a-half grand? Her first thought was fraud, but the time she'd worked out the truth, her son had amassed $16,293.10 in charges.
Johnson's credit card company, Chase, told her that she'd need to contact Apple to see about some kind of refund. Unfortunately, as is so often the case when kids spend a crap-ton of money on a video game without their parent's permission or knowledge, the tech giant was exactly sympathetic to her case... even after she informed them the charges meant she would fall behind on her mortgage.
Apple explained that if Johnson had called within 60 days of the charges, something could have been done. However, she explained that her credit card company had informed her it was probably fraud and not legitimate transactions - which is why she didn't take action sooner. The Apple customer service rep also informed her there were settings she could have enabled to prevent this from happening, which is a super helpful thing to be told after the fact.
"Obviously, if I had known there was a setting for that, I wouldn't have allowed my 6-year-old to run up nearly $20,000 in charges for virtual gold rings," she explained.
Johnson also hit out at the "predatory" monetary systems in Sonic Forces: Speed Battle, and suggested the game takes advantage of the fact that young children don't understand the money being spent is real. She also said she was "apalled" that Apple devices aren't set to prevent things like this from happening by default.
In 2018, loot boxes and other similar practices were outlawed in Belgium after the Belgium Gaming Commission ruled that they were "in violation of gambling legislation". The UK government has been a little slower to act, but it recently asked the public for its thoughts on microtransactions in gaming - the more things like this happen to people like Johnson and her son, the more I think we'll start to see real action taken.
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