Big Rort

It’s been quite a week for financial scandals. As a financial journalist specialising in the technology arena, that’s good news for me – bad news is better than no news, as far as I’m concerned. Still, even I can’t help but grimace at some of the fraudulent activity that’s going down at the moment – really shameful stuff.

The lead story this week is the ongoing saga with the augmented reality game Buy Big, which has escalated. It’s a classic example of the need for consumers to take more responsibility for themselves, in my opinion. Although there’s a strong argument for the game being an absolute rort, it’s ultimately a game built around organising networks of conveyancing solicitors for the exchange of small purple beans. How is that fun?

I’ll grant that the AR technology is very smooth; it’s nice to look at. I can see the attraction there, and I suppose that’s how they rope people in and get them to download the game, in the process of which players sign a real-life contract cunningly disguised as an in-game contract, under which they are liable to pay one million dollars within a fortnight.

Players are only now realising this, and have no way to pay the debt other than signing up new players in a manner akin to a pyramid scheme. Of course, now that this is out in the open, no new players are signing up, so the freshest round of players are massively in debt for property purchases that exist only within the game. Unfortunately for them, this was all spelled out clearly in the 70-page contract they signed upon downloading the game.

In following up on the story, I’ve been interviewing a range of experts in related fields, like finance professors and conveyancing specialists. Collingwood, apparently, is the one part of Melbourne in which the corresponding in-game purchases don’t equate to real life debt, due to an omission in the wording of the contract. Whether this was an accidental oversight on the part of the developers or a deliberate strategic move is uncertain at this point.