Remember the infamous scam that utilized a rounding error to skim a fraction of a penny off of every digital transaction? So small of an amount was it, that it went unnoticed. With so many transactions taking place, the pennies added up to millions, tens of millions and more in no time. It’s no surprise in finding digital pickpockets saturate the powerhouse of a global market, Mobile Gaming. In 2018 the Mobile Gaming market made up 51% of all revenue earned by Video Games. Its 70.3 billion dollar 2018 revenue and a 25.5% Year over Year growth, make it worth tapping into.
For the very first time, I handed out a 1 star review on the Google Play store. I don’t often leave app reviews and even more rarely are they negative. If you have ever browsed through some reviews in the app store i’m sure you’ve noticed their absolutely atrocious quality. You’ll quickly find on about any app’s page, some negative reviews because of a technical issue. The problem with this is every device is different including its content/data. An app might be crashing due to ill coding in another app, it might not launch due to low resources from too many background processes, etc. When the possibilities for the cause of a technical kind of issue can be a large number of excuses external to the App in review, I won’t leave a negative review. I don’t think its really fair to knock them down when I’m uncertain if it could be something else. Of course if it is the app then by all means they should be negatively reviewed and you’ll be able to confirm this by seeing a trend in similar/same common issues.
Even though I don’t like these too ambiguous type of reviews, I made one myself. I had to! Released on Feb 26th of this year, RAID: Shadow Legends developed by Plarium Global Ltd is a graphically attractive hero idle mobile game. Age of Magic, released 5 months earlier in the Fall of 2018 is the closest hero idle styled mobile game to RAID I’ve played. Raid did something i’ve never seen before, it offered gamers a 7 day free trial of their 1-month subscription plan. The 1 month subscription plans are quite common of course, but the trial on the hand was new. Heck yes I want free stuff, who doesn’t, but there’s one catch. You needed to remember to cancel your subscription before the end of the free trial. Failing to cancel would immediately charge your card on file for the cost of the 1 month subscription.
Okay still not that big a deal quite yet. I’m sure you’ve seen similar sales tactics used elsewhere to reel in customers. After closing out the app the first time, I was continuously met with an error about being unable to load all assets. I even tried other networks as they suggested. After a clean fresh install the game would launch until you tried to gain access to your old account that had that 7 day trial active.
RAID has taken off to be a pretty popular game with a score of 4.6/5 Stars from 76k reviews and over 1 million downloads. I browsed through some reviews and was able to occasionally spot others describing the same issue; game resources stopped loading at 61 of 64. Thankfully If you have any subscription with an app, you can view and cancel the sub from within Google Play itself. I was able to avoid accidentally paying for a monthly subscription only because I previously knew about Google Play handling subscriptions. Raid: Shadow Legends doesn’t mention anything about how to cancel its subscription during the sign up of the trial nor had it given me any push notifications to remind me about my 7 day trial period approaching its end date.
Luckily Kindly, they have placed a ticketing system in the game that can be accessed when on the game’s launch screen even with the issue blocking further access in. It’s a nice touch, but after 4 or 5 days of giving Plarium Global Ltd the benefit of the doubt, I still hadn’t received a response. That was the last straw for me. Next, I did what any hobby consumer critic would do, review! I did receive a fast response by doing this, but they could not help me and suggested I try to contact support again or via their email. There wasn’t any mention about helping cancel my active soon to be fully paid, free-trial monthly subscription.
I went on to cancel my subscription as it approached the 7 day mark via the subscriptions section in Google Play. I may of made it out with only time lost in the end, but how many others found their wallets lighter than before from this same situation? Indy developers in the mobile gaming genre are notorious for being money grabs and open honey pots. I couldn’t help but wonder, could this “error” have actually been purposively a secret play to create a needed spike in revenue? With 1 Million Google Play Downloads, if only 5% of its total amount of users ran into this supposed error, that would result in a whopping $500,000! 5% doesn’t sound like a lot of players but 5% of 1 million, that’s 50,000 frustrated players. If you’re not a mobile gamer you might not know, but I think it’s safe to say a majority of games that have a monthly VIP service are priced at $5 a month. Most games have this “VIP monthly” service and it just so happens that RAID’s is an oddity by standing out with a price of $10 a month. $10 charge x 50,000 players (5% of Gplay downloads) = $500,000.
Half a million dollars earned in only around a month after launch! They only have to push back the fix for this issue far enough in time where the 7 days will run out and perhaps a few more for some extra. Half a million is a lot for a small to medium sized mobile game publisher out of Israel.
At the end of it all I posted my negative review, explaining the game wasn’t accessible, yet a free trial membership (soon to turn paid membership) remained actively ticking down until it could withdraw from my bank. I don’t think it was an issue specific to my device, even though it was more rare than not I did see others complain of the same issue. With as many downloaders as they have, they don’t need to scam $10 off of everyone to get a wealthy amount. If you’re thinking 5% is still a bit high, I can see where you’re coming from and would even come down to perhaps, let’s say, 2.5% of users who downloaded the game and ran into this situation. Now I only have to call into attention all the downloads via apple’s iOS app store! With another 2.5% of their users I’m sure the revenue earned from this sneaky scam is back above that $500k mark. I’m not even sure if the download counter in Google Play is specific to my country/region because RAID is globally launched and available to a lot of others who may not be represented in this download counter.
*Some of these numbers are not exact (such as iOS downloads), but estimations.
Brilliant scam, all premeditated so you can’t be caught “in action”, hard to prove the error wasn’t genuine, terms say some products are not refundable (didn’t dig deeper if that was referring to the Monthly Membership, but it probably was) and support is already trained to reply with non-invasive or pro-active responses (“Try a different network, other wise we’re sorry. I’ll let the developers know” is what I was told in a nutshell).