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3 steps before making an in-app purchase

By Claes Bell ·
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Posted: 5 pm ET

"Kim Kardashian: Hollywood," like Candy Crush and Angry Birds before it, has become a social media sensation.

In the past 30 days the app has been mentioned more than 400,000 times on Twitter, according to data on Topsy. Included among them are anguished tweets about the amount of real-world cash players have spent to try to move from the "E-List" to the "A-List" (there's a such thing as "E-List?"), the winner so far being Tracie Egan Morrissey of Jezebel with $494.04.

You see, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood is free to download, but players can spend a lot of real cash on in-game cars, clothes and "energy" needed to play the game.

People's willingness to do so has added up to rosy revenue projections for the game, which is the second most-downloaded game in Apple App Store since its release, according to a report by Bloomberg. Analysts say the game could earn up to $200 million in revenue this year alone, according to the report.

That's great for the Kardashians and all, but maybe not so great for the people supplying that revenue. A 2014 study by the mobile marketing firm Swrve found that of all those who play "freemium" games, only 1.5 percent actually spend real money, and an even smaller chunk -- .15 percent -- supply 50 percent of all freemium games' revenue.

If you think you are one of those high-spending few, you might want to take a few steps that could help.

  1. Put the app down and step away for a while. Binge buying appears to be common with in-app purchases. According to the Swrve study, of those who make two in-app purchases, the second purchase is likely to occur an average of one hour and 40 minutes later. Of all the revenue generated from a user over the first 14 days they play, 60 percent occurs on the first day they play. That's why it might be smart to give yourself a set amount of time to deliberate and go do something else before returning to make an in-app purchase.
  2. Find something in your house that cost as much as the in-app purchase you're considering. Sometimes it's good to get some perspective on the real value of money and what it can by. Odds are you can get a lot of pretty good stuff for the $99.99 it will cost you to buy the biggest box of stars in Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, and even smaller in-app purchases may not look good stacked up against some real-world counterparts.
  3. Do a quick calculation of how long you'd have to work to afford the digital goods in question. If you still think making an in-app purchase is a good idea, it might be smart to take a few seconds to figure out how many precious minutes or hours of your life it will take to pay for the purchase. If the answer depresses you, it might be time to move on.

If you go through all these steps and still think your in-app purchase is a good idea, then maybe it's time to pull the trigger. After all, digital goods aren't necessarily less worthy of your dollars than physical ones.

Just make sure your digital purchases don't lead to regrets IRL.

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