The 7 most expensive in-app purchases

Wallet-busting in-app purchases that iOS users on a budget should probably avoid

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  • Most expensive apps and IAPs 01 money 800 The illusion of free
  • Most expensive apps and IAPs 02 MLP 800 Princess Celestia
  • Most expensive apps and IAPs 03 Real Racing 500 Koenigsegg Agera R
  • Most expensive apps and IAPs 05 SMB 500 God mode
  • Most expensive apps and IAPs 04 Nanotech Sniper 800 Nanotech Sniper
  • Most expensive apps and IAPs 06 Deer Hunter 800 Infinite Knives
  • Most expensive apps and IAPs 09 Apathy Bear 800 Apathy Bear
  • Most expensive apps and IAPs 12 Curiosity Whats inside the cube 500 Diamond Chisel
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The illusion of free

One of the best things about iPhone and iPad apps is that they're cheap. PC owners routinely spend £15 to £30 on a single game (and console gamers are often charged £40 a time), while desktop software packages are frequently more than £20. But a £4.99 iPad or iPhone app is considered pretty expensive, and there's a huge selection of titles for a couple of quid - or even for free.

Best free iPad games | Best free iPhone games | Best free iPhone apps

But the dark side of this apparent generosity on the part of the software publishers is the in-app purchase, or IAP, which for many apps and games is the part of the equation that makes the real money. Many games in particular operate a 'freemium' model, in which the initial download costs nothing but a host of extras (for additional characters, levels or features, or to skip tedious waiting periods built in to encourage you to crack open your wallet) cost you anywhere from 69p to a few quid‚ or, in some unusual cases, even more.

We decided to count down 7 of the most outrageously expensive in-app purchase items we've ever seen in iPhone and iPad apps and games. It doesn't seem right, somehow, but most are still available a year on from the last time we updated this article - one has been taken down, another was only around for a limited period of time, and another has got a little cheaper (but is still drastically overpriced).

Our main rule was that it has to be a tangible item, feature or character, rather than simply an injection of in-game currency. For items bought with in-game currency we've tried to approximate the monetary value for comparative purposes.

If you see any horribly costly IAPs out there, get in touch!

('Money' image courtesy of Flickr user Images Money. Some rights reserved. Published under Creative Commons License.)

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Next Prev Most expensive apps and IAPs 01 money 800

One of the best things about iPhone and iPad apps is that they're cheap. PC owners routinely spend £15 to £30 on a single game (and console gamers are often charged £40 a time), while desktop software packages are frequently more than £20. But a £4.99 iPad or iPhone app is considered pretty expensive, and there's a huge selection of titles for a couple of quid - or even for free.

Best free iPad games | Best free iPhone games | Best free iPhone apps

But the dark side of this apparent generosity on the part of the software publishers is the in-app purchase, or IAP, which for many apps and games is the part of the equation that makes the real money. Many games in particular operate a 'freemium' model, in which the initial download costs nothing but a host of extras (for additional characters, levels or features, or to skip tedious waiting periods built in to encourage you to crack open your wallet) cost you anywhere from 69p to a few quid‚ or, in some unusual cases, even more.

We decided to count down 7 of the most outrageously expensive in-app purchase items we've ever seen in iPhone and iPad apps and games. It doesn't seem right, somehow, but most are still available a year on from the last time we updated this article - one has been taken down, another was only around for a limited period of time, and another has got a little cheaper (but is still drastically overpriced).

Our main rule was that it has to be a tangible item, feature or character, rather than simply an injection of in-game currency. For items bought with in-game currency we've tried to approximate the monetary value for comparative purposes.

If you see any horribly costly IAPs out there, get in touch!

('Money' image courtesy of Flickr user Images Money. Some rights reserved. Published under Creative Commons License.)

 

Princess Celestia

Princess Celestia (£20.06 - My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic)

A drop in the rankings for Princess Celestia, who now costs roughly half of what she did the first time we put together this list. There does seem to be a growing backlash against ruinously expensive in-app purchases, particularly in games aimed at children, and a few have responded by dialling back the more extreme examples.

How to stop kids buying apps & in-app purchases

We say children, mind you, but did you know that a big proportion of My Little Pony fans are adult males? Surprising (they are known as Bronies), but a nice fan base to have when it comes to in-app purchases on the tie-in iOS game.

There are loads of ponies to unlock in this smartly realised freemium title - a number of them based on parody and fan-fiction characters from the Brony community - but to get the lot would take months of work. Or the injection of some cash. The costliest pony available is Princess Celestia, whose price in gems (430) translates into about £20.

 

Koenigsegg Agera R

Koenigsegg Agera R (£55.99 - Real Racing 3)

Real Racing 3 was the third instalment in a noble racing series, boasting beautiful visuals and gameplay that many loved (although there was some debate over the quality of the handling). Less pleasingly, it was the first in the series to operate a freemium model, with the initial download free but most of the unlocks demanding either long-winded grinding or the purchase of 'gold' with real-world cash.

The most expensive car in the game clocked in at 800 gold; a pack of 1,000 gold sets you back £69.99, so by our calculations the Koenigsegg Agera R is worth £55.99.

This was the price last time we updated this article, at least. But it's possible that, like My Little Pony, Real Racing 3 has pulled back on the 'spend, spend, spend' side of things; it seems to have prevented new users in the current version from buying high-powered cars right at the start, requiring unlocks before players can access the advanced sections of the store. Regular players of the game are welcome to clue us in.

Best iPad & iPhone games

 

God mode

God mode (about £58.99 - Super Monster Bros by Adventure Time Pocket Free)

Tip of the hat to IGN for discovering this execrable example of the ripoff merchant's art, which has since, happily, been taken down. There are games that offer more expensive individual in-app purchases, as we will see, but few can be quite so shameless.

Of the six playable characters, one was available for free; the others cost anywhere from $4.99 to an utterly astonishing $99.99 - that's nearly £60. You got a limited number of fireball-style ranged attacks, and topping up your supply cost $0.99 a time; and when you died the game offered a sort of God mode cheat (attacks and energy set to infinity) that also set you back $99.99.

In gameplay terms it was total tripe, too: the most appallingly basic and derivative platform game drivel, with gaps you couldn't fall down, feeble effects, and visuals and sounds that seemed to have been lifted wholesale from other games. Enjoy the full horror in IGN's video review.

 

Nanotech Sniper

Nanotech Sniper (£64.39 - Contract Killer)

Contract Killer is a charmingly amoral game of systematic murder, an activity that can be made more efficient by the use of the Nanotech Sniper Rifle. Only problem is, it'll set you back more than £60 in game currency.

Contract Killer 2 is more reasonable, asking the equivalent of only £40.38 for its most costly armament (the Hellfire).

 

Infinite Knives

Infinite Knives Pack (£134.60 - Deer Hunter Reloaded)

The most expensive gun (or rather guns) in Deer Hunter Reloaded are a trio of - in our eyes - ludicrously overpowered firearms: the .50 SpecOp, MIL-3000 Assault and Elkmaster Pro, each of which cost 5,000 gold (the equivalent of £67.30) and presumably pack enough firepower to stop a brachiosaurus.

But then we checked the Items tab, and found the Infinite Knives upgrade, twice as costly as those bargains above. £134.60! They'd better be some high-quality knives.

 

Apathy Bear

Apathy Bear (£394 - Gun Bros)

Sometimes an app can disguise how expensive an upgrade is by charging in-app currency for it, instead of real money: hey, that's not expensive, it's only 30 Magic Coins. But if the in-app currency is itself for sale - and if the game makes it difficult to earn enough currency to pay for its best gear - then you can easily find yourself paying through the nose.

Gun Bros is a perfectly fun little multiplayer shooting game, but it's notorious for its extravagantly named and extravagantly priced weaponry upgrades. Currently the most costly piece of firepower is called the Apathy Bear ("This gun filters a child's love through a screen of inverse anti-matter sub-particles, killing your enemies with the most adorable haemorrhages imaginable"), which costs 3,999 'War Bucks'; this took top spot from the Kraken gun, a snip at 3,499 War Bucks, or just over £300.

To give you a feel for the prices, the game gives you 3 War Bucks to get started with. You can earn War Bucks in-game, but it's a slow process. Or you can buy them as in-app purchases. A pack of 710 costs £69.99, making the Apathy Bear worth about £394.

(We've been playing the sequel, Gun Bros 2, incidentally, to see if there are any similar bargains. But the costliest we've seen so far is a pair of pistols called Sharkettes, which are worth about £252.)

 

Diamond Chisel

Diamond Chisel (£47,000 - Curiosity: What's inside the Cube?)

Peter Molyneux, the legendary game designer whose glorious, wayward ideas are the subject of a nice Twitter parody account, most recently expressed his unique vision for gaming in the form of Curiosity - What's inside the Cube?, an iOS game/social experiment/ingenious extended marketing stunt.

Lots of people pointed out that the free app really just involved clicking pixels on the surface of a black cube, but they still queued up to play nonetheless. It was based on the oldest narrative device in the book: unlocking a mystery. Each layer of pixels removed by the participants revealed something new, and right at the inside lay the final secret, which Molyneux promised would be a life-changing experience for the first person to see it.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that Molyneux had said the game was "a test about the psychology of monetisation", there were in-app purchases. And one of them was as far as we're aware the most expensive bonus item yet seen in an iOS app. The diamond chisel, which increased the player's tapping strength by a factor of 100,000, cost an astonishing three billion in-game coins, which translates to £47,000.

Funnily enough, the lucky winner had only started playing the day before making it through to the core - a sickener for the other players, we'd guess, and one in the eye for anyone who shelled out on a diamond chisel. The life-changing reward? To be the god figure in Molyneux's next game, deciding how it plays out and how the world develops. (In fact things turned sour, as is discussed at various points in this painful interview.)

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