Push Paws: "Game For Cats" iPad App Makers Stop Kitties From Buying Add-Ons

After four-legged gamers racked up charges on their masters' MasterCards, the makers of iPad apps for pets unleash new controls. Who's LOLing now, cats?

Everything was going purrfect. Until Fluffy found the iTunes store.

The aptly named app development firm Hiccup has finally fixed a major meow mixup: The interface in their free iPad app, "Game For Cats," allowed felines across the world to download premium content add-ons by accident.

Like many iPad gaming firms, Hiccup opted to go for a freemium profit model. Their game comes loaded with a screen emulating a laser pointer, whose darting red dot is irresistible to most cats. But screens displaying other forms of virtual catnip—a mouse on a string, for example—cost 99 cents as DLC (downloadable content). There was only one problem: Early versions of the game had a user interface that made it extremely easy for cats to purchase the DLC with their paws—taking their human guardians (but not their credit cards) completely out of the equation.

T.J. Fuller of Hiccup told gaming industry site Gamasutra that, "We got in a lot of trouble [...] people were accusing us of tricking cats into making purchases. We got a ton of comments on our iTunes page, people accusing us of trying to rip of them off."

As a result, Hiccup added a verification function to Games for Cats that required human interaction. Purchasers are required to "scan" their hand on the iPad screen for four seconds to prove that they are human; in reality, the iPad simply made sure that fingertip touch points would not move for four seconds. Small cat paws just aren't very good at that.

A number of iPad applications aimed at pets are already on the market. While the iPad's interface is perfect for household pets, the challenge for developers is threefold. Dogs and cats have a much different sense of vision from humans, hear things differently, and have very different ideas of what is captivating. A graphic display that would captivate a human would bore a cat, while dogs' dependence on their sense of smell mean they are notoriously indifferent Skype users.

App developers have been working on unique solutions to create pet-friendly applications. High-contrast graphics are in, and moving figures on-screen have to have organic, natural patterns of movement. If the YouTube video below is any indication, cats are especially fascinated by "Fruit Ninja."

Hiccup's newest app, "Paint for Cats," was released several months ago.

For more stories like this, follow @fastcompany on Twitter. Email Neal Ungerleider, the author of this article, here or find him on Twitter and Google+.

[Image: Flickr user Gary J. Wood]

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