July 18, 2012
Updating your apps can be a tricky process, particularly when those apps happen to be your favorite iOS games. All it takes is one bad bug for your in-app progress -- and in-app purchases! -- to be wiped out. And unless you've taken specific, meticulous measures to guard against such an out(r)age (like backing up existing apps to your computer's iTunes installation before each and every individual update), you might never recover a single bit. Or a single cent. In the past, before the advent of iCloud and the realization that game status could be made persistent and secure by transferring save data to Apple's massive data center, this was a huge problem. It also set the table for one of the more persuasive arguments against IAPs in general, that unscrupulous app-makers could effectively rig the update process to wipe out a user's IAP history, forcing them to buy expensive add-ons and bonuses they'd already paid for. Fortunately, that's never actually happened on a large enough scale to make waves. Sure, a few developers probably tried it here and there, but we haven't come across any glaring examples of such overt abuse. Of course, that doesn't mean it hasn't happened on accident. Reader Karl S. emailed us about his recent run of bad luck in that regard:
Two game updates in the last few months have clobbered the points/stars/etc that I earned and bought thru in-app purchases. In one of the games I had been playing for a long time and was at the top levels. I had also purchased many of these points, it was quite an investment. Then they updated the app and *bang* everything was gone. I would have to start over. ... Last week another update on another game and again everything was lost. This developer was "sorry" but said they couldn't do anything to reverse their error.But Karl's email also shared how that bad luck -- through the help of a pair of honorable, upstanding developers keen on doing right by their customers -- turned into good luck. In the first example, one of the app's representatives sent him an apology and a promo code worth ten times the amount of IAPs he'd actually lost. In the second case, Karl's still waiting for a proper resolution, but the developer in question has exhibited a seemingly genuine interest in going the extra mile. Currently, they're working with Apple to roll out an update that will allow Karl to redeem a coupon to recoup his investment. As a precaution against inviting fraudulent claims of lost IAPs against these two developers, we've elected not to share any identifying information. However, regardless of app or maker, if you've recently updated a game and lost your in-app purchases, don't freak out. Simply contact the responsible party and let them know what happened. In most cases, they'll be eager to help. Because the alternative, like Karl says, is that everybody loses. But with a little communication and a little good faith, everybody just might win.