08
Apr
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Last Updated: April 11th, 2014

Update #1: Rovio has since taken to its blog to address the issue. Regarding Android in particular, the company has this to say:

On Android the issue occurs because, for technical reasons, the purchase history cannot always be restored on that platform. Our customer support is aware of the issue and we would recommend contacting us at support@rovio.com to anyone who is still experiencing this.

We've reached out to the company for further clarification.

Update #2: Rovio has confirmed that previous customers should still have access to the original five levels without having to buy anything again, but it encourages them to contact its support line rather than wait for the app to recognize their purchase history. For the time being, the latter approach probably won't bring about much in the way of success.

When Rovio Stars published Tiny Thief into the Play Store last July, the game stole my heart. It was an absolutely adorable, excellently crafted, highly polished, and rather comical point-and-click puzzle experience. The stylized visuals and bite-sized nature of each stage made playing the game feel akin to watching old clips of Looney Tunes, and it was well worth its $2.99 asking price.

Unfortunately, things have changed.

TinyThief

Tiny Thief is now a freemium game containing in-app purchases. There is no way to get the original version back from Google Play (though you can still find it on Amazon, along with the lite version that has also disappeared from the Play Store), and you're going to have to ask for a refund if you want to avoid re-paying for levels. The original game contained five levels, each broken into five stages. Two of those levels now cost $1.99 apiece, even if you already paid for the original game. Alternatively, you can get both of them, along with the newer sixth level, for $4.99 total.

TinyThief2 TinyThief3

There's an option in the game settings to restore in-app purchases, but it means precisely that - in-app purchases. It doesn't honor previous purchases of the full game.

TinyThief4

Or so it says.

To make matters worse, you are now presented with ads whenever you pause the game, ads that also weren't in the original version.

TinyThief1

At the very least, refunds appear to be going out to disgruntled users. I received mine promptly. If you want to request one as well, just visit Google Play in a browser and go to the Settings Cog > My orders > Report a problem > Select an option > I'd like to request a refund.

Refund1

Refund2

Refund3

Tiny Thief, thanks for my money back. Now if only you could mend my now broken heart.

Bertel King, Jr.
Born and raised in the rural South, Bertel knows what it's like to live without 4G LTE - or 3G, for that matter. The only things he likes sweeter than his tea are his gadgets, and while few objects burn more than a metal phone on a summer day, he prefers them that way anyway.

  • http://bertelking.com/ Bertel King, Jr.

    I know, I know. I should have listened to you guys when you told me not to go out with a Rovio game in the first place.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Shawn De Cesari

      Rovio is like that smokin' hot girl that you know will break your heart, but you date her anyway because you're a glutton for punishment.

    • LeLukka

      Rovio should keep the paid Tiny Thief, and release the new one under different name like Tiny Thief Free. Problem solved.
      I don't understand why they can't do something simple like that.

      • Kesey

        It might sounds simple, but it's a PITA and can be more costly for developers to maintain multiple codebases.

        • Rauel Crespo

          Might be a PITA, but so is being a responsible adult, that doesn't mean you abandon your child. Similarly, these practices hurt not only the end user, but Google/Android itself, as it leads to distrust of Google's services. I wasted $3 on this last year, now I can't access the levels I already paid for.

          For an Example how to do this right check out Whale Trail. They eventually made a Freemium version of Whale Trail, called Whale Trail Frenzy. Also, as a developer told me, it's actually easy to make two separate versions(Freemium and Pay) of similar games. Those that say otherwise are just looking to bait and switch customers.

          • Mike Reid

            You said "Might be a PITA" and then said "easy to make two separate versions".

            Both of these are true-ish, but the devil is in the details. It's easier for a multi-person company that hires some top devs, as well as lesser paid people for the "grunt work".

            I'm sure Rovio will make more money doing it this way, AND pi** off many customers. Important thing to businesses of course is the "more money" part.

            Indy devs are less "capitalist" and deserve support.

        • Matthew Fry

          Yeah... except they already changed it to put the IAPs in. At least leave the original build unupdated.

        • bduddy

          Too fucking bad for them.

    • Adrian

      It's not just you. I was the first one to chime in with "spend the money, it's a quality product". What they've done is ensured I won't buy another title from them again. I get that developers want to make money and I'm usually the first to buy an unlock key when I find apps I know I'll use, but this is just bad and their reputation is taking a hit. There was another game that was apparently pretty popular and after people bought it, they stuck annoying ads all in it to double dip.

      The sad thing is that I loved the art, the game, the puzzles. I was waiting for more content and would have happily handed over my money. Whoever was in charge of how this was handled should probably look for other work because this is how to p*** off paying customers 101.

      • martyhalpern

        Adrian: Well said. This is/was my first -- and last -- Rovio game. I'm immediately requesting my refund.

  • jeffhesser

    Meh, I bought the game a long time back but after about 5 or 10 levels I knew I had wasted my money already. haha

    • AssToast

      Well, now is your chance to get that money back :D

  • Bradley Ruiz

    asking for my refund too, crap move by rovio, it was a great game thought :(

  • guyfromtrinidad

    I so loved the style of this game and bought it when it first came out, but it became clear that it was not selling well. this type of move doesn't go down well with me. Refund here I come

  • moelsen8

    what a piece of sh*t rovio is. i hope every one of you who bought it asks for a refund, even if you don't play it. F them and F freemium games.

  • Will P

    Wow, never again will a buy a Rovio game. After all the in game crap they added to the Angry Birds series and now this.

  • remister

    Well the title of the game says it all already, Tiny Thief

  • guyfromtrinidad

    Its funny that the opening description for the game is "In a world of greed, corruption and injustice, one little guy decides to stand up for the little guy! " Guess that guy is you Bertel cause it sure isn't Tiny thief

    • Guest

      Oh the irony!
      The damn irony is strong
      in that company.

  • Chaosprower

    I paid for the game when it was originally released as a paid app, and now I have to pay for levels I previously had access to, not even mentioning the ads. I already requested a refund.

  • Alex

    Great little game, but I've completed it so I'm not worried by this as I likely won't ever play it again.

    Additionally, I got it free on Amazon app of the day anyway ;)

  • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

    Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck youuuuuuu rrrrroooooviiiioooooo!!!!!!!

    • CerealFTW

      Message to Rovio

  • Jake

    Got my refund within a minute of requesting it. Thanks for the heads-up.

  • Robert Blok

    When requesting the refund, I immediately received an e-mail saying that I would not get a refund, because the 15 minute time frame was over. So my question is: How did you manage to get the refund?

    Thanks a lot for your help.

    • Mikeb3ll

      that is some bullshit right there.

      I don't see how a company can do this. Charge you for a game, then change it so it is free and try to make you pay again.

    • http://bertelking.com/ Bertel King, Jr.

      I've actually never had a refund request refused. I don't know what to tell you, other than it looks like you drew the short straw. Sorry.

      • Robert Blok

        Yepp, had to send an e-mail to Rovio. Now I guess I'll have to wait..

    • moelsen8

      google play - settings icon, next to an app's name between it and the price is the menu button (it appears when hovered over), then click it and then "report a problem". explain situation there and ask for a refund. i've done this a few times for apps that i just couldn't test in 15 minutes, and i haven't been denied.

      • Robert Blok

        I did exactly that. But no luck. I already contacted Rovio.

        • moelsen8

          damn that sucks. good luck. make sure you post a negative review either way!

    • Nicholas Polydor

      I received the acceptance e-mail for my refund within about 30 seconds (no exaggeration) of submission:

      "Dear Rovio / Google Play,

      The status of Tiny Thief has now changed from Paid to Freemium ( http://www.androidpolice.com/2014/04/08/tiny-thief-pulls-a-bait-and-switch-runs-off-with-your-original-2-99-and-goes-freemium/ ). Therefore, the basis on which I bought the game is no longer valid.

      Kind regards, Nick."

  • http://nrajesh.com Rajesh

    I can already see the negative ratings rolling in. Don't think Rovio would mind it that much. An app with 4+ rating going to 3+ will hardly put a dent in their finance. I think they didn't develop enough content for the next version and someone from their management decided to act "smartly".

    I guess there's more to it than just one developer. Google stopped protecting the interests of its customers. They should be able to stop the conversion of free or paid app to Freemium. Surely it has to be like pushing a button. Like how 24 hours can become 15 minutes in the blink of an eye :p

    • David Hart

      Well if it's any consolation. I'm pretty sure once an app goes/is free, it can't go paid.
      Halfway there.

  • hairyback

    wait, so if you don't upgrade, it should remain as is right?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      Yes but the update came out a while ago, so if you had it installed, it probably already updated.

      • David Hart

        On a pretty unrelated side note, I wish I could specify independent devices that I want to keep auto updating. (like my dads phone and tablet, he doesn't update apps on his own.) Currently when you select Auto Update, it will enable it across the board for all your devices.

      • hairyback

        I knew my procrastination would pay off one day. Going to forward this thread to my mother as a "told you so", and play a bit of Tiny thief complete edition.

  • Sean Lumly

    Putting aside the 'refund' complaint for a moment...

    I actually really like this payment model -- it's basically the same as 'demo' games on PC and Console. It allows you to try the game for free and then offers you the option to buy it outright or by the level. In this case, you can buy 3 complete levels at a discount, or individually. This is the exact same model that the game Wind Up Knight used very successfully.

    The alternative is to have you pay for the game up front without the option of trying it out first. Personally, I considered buying this game but I didn't in that I had no idea if I would have enjoyed it or wasted my money. But now having played it (and enjoying the light-hearted fun), I am much closer to actually buying it. It's hard to feel cheated when the company actually lets you try it before making your decision.

    This is distinctly different than having to pay for power-ups or boosts, or other pay to win tactics, and shouldn't be lumped into the same category.

    The price may be a bit high (eg. $7 for pack of 3 levels) by mobile standards, which I can understand as a complaint. I can also understand the complaint of having your previous purchase being suddenly invalidated (which is not cool).

    • http://bertelking.com/ Bertel King, Jr.

      I have no problem with this model either. The issue is that some of us have already purchased the content that they're now trying to resell to us, and they don't provide a way for us to get that content back short of asking for a refund.

      Had Tiny Thief launched with this model out of the box, it probably wouldn't have affected my review one way or the other (well, except for those ads. They can suck it.)

      • Sean Lumly

        I understand. It would be infuriating to have a purchased item suddenly invalidated!

        Something tells me that the invalidated-purchase-gate is a bug that will be resolved eventually.

        That they have changed the price/model, is OK with me. It just stinks that people are suffering for it.

        • Imparus

          They should just have turned their lite version into the freemium version instead of screwing people over that actually paid money to them :-/

          • Sean Lumly

            Good idea! That would have avoided this entire situation.

      • hp420

        I think they should have turned the paid app into a license for the IAPs, then released a new apk for the game with IAPs for free as a new app entirely. This would have given everyone who bought it already credit to get the levels for free, and everyone would have been happy.

      • David Hart

        Exactly, It would be theft if we weren't held by the play store Terms of Service.

    • Owen Finn

      So imagine if you buy the full version of a game, and then they turn that game into the demo after you've already paid for the full game, and then they want to charge you again to get the full game. That's what happened here.

  • Fredy

    I only paid .99 for it and I already requested a refund. What a joke. The reviews for it are all thinking thet same, a huge thief now.

  • Danny365

    "Hello,
    We understand that you'd like a refund of the app Tiny Thief.

    We've investigated your request, and have determined that we are unable to issue you a refund at this time. Please note that there is a 15-minute refund window for all app purchases, and we're only able to issue refunds outside of this window in rare circumstances."

    Screw you, Rovio.

    • garbagedick

      what did you put as your reason? I wrote "the game went "freemium" recently" and got mine back instantly...

      • Zlatty

        Same here.

      • Danny365

        Similar stuff, I even asked them nicely. Anyway, I'm not mad; it's not about the money, it's about sending a message.

        • moelsen8

          i would keep trying. it's a message worth sending.

      • jmart75

        Refund issued here as well. Used basically the same wording you guys did. $2.99 back in my account :-).

      • Harsha

        You sir are a genius! I used your exact same words and got my refund approval mail the next second I pressed "submit'

        • garbagedick

          Hey I got a cup in case we need another cup...

          • Harsha

            I had to Google that phrase to understand what it means..

            "All these words we use, anybody can be a genius now. It used to be you had to have a thought no one ever had before or you had to invent a number. Now, it's like, "Hey, I've got a cup in case we need another cup." "Dude, you're a genius!" [Louis C.K.: Hilarious, 2011]"

            Sounds like you meant it as me being sarcastic? But no I wasn't 😁 it was just a sheer joy of getting back my money from his developer :D

          • garbagedick

            I wasn't being sarcastic, I just think that now whenever someone says the word "genius"

        • Fonce Falooda

          Yep. Same here, too. Immediate response! Thanks for bringing this to my attention, AP! :)

      • ltredbeard

        I used "in-app purchases" and also got it back immediately.

      • Matthew Fry

        Hah. I said, "You took my money and then changed it to freemium crap." Got my refund.

    • Autumn Raine

      I used freemium and in-app-purchases in my reasoning for a refund and I still got rejected.

    • Jon

      Sorry to hear man. I got an immediate refund, mostly for sure it was automatic. It was also the first refund I ever asked for. Did you ask for refunds previously? Which country are you in?

  • Jalok Xlem

    I have never played that game, because it looked like a Facebutt(book) due to the art style. So yay me not getting jipped! ^_^

  • Zlatty

    Welp, I got my $0.99 back. Thanks Android Police!

    • https://play.google.com/store/apps/developer?id=iWizard Bikram Agarwal

      Google needs to update their auto-reply template. It's not a "recent Android app purchase", Google.

      • Zlatty

        Yeah, I bought the app last summer. I'm glad that I am able to get my money back nonetheless. :)

    • Matthew Fry

      Don't forget to rate it 1 star on your way out!

  • mustbepbs

    I don't get it, hasn't this game been out for like a year? Yeah it's freemium now, but you got to play it for a long time for that price. Why are you entitled to a refund?

    • Mike Harris

      Besides the fact that it's just a dick move anyway, not everyone purchased it on Day Zero.

    • duke69111

      IMO, the should of left the paid version up for download by those who paid and then created a new version of the app for the freemium with iap's.

    • jmcyeah

      I feel like if you buy a game under the premise that it won't ask you for money again and it switches it up like this, you deserve a refund no matter how much you have played it. Imagine if you bought a car with air conditioning and power windows and then 6 months later Ford came to your house, removes the air conditioner and power windows and tells you if you want to continue use you have to pay them again. You shouldn't have to pay for something you already paid for. Additional content is one thing but something you already owned is another. It's not the amount of money, it's the principal behind it.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      If you reinstall, you lose what you paid for. That's the problem.

      • mustbepbs

        Ahh I see. Thanks.

    • NexusKoolaid

      How about any of the music you've purchased? Would it be fair if your CDs and media were confiscated any you were forced to repurchase it at a higher price? How long have you owned your car? You've probably driven it for a long time and enjoyed many rewarding road trips - why should you be entitled to a refund if the dealer were to take it back?

  • Jeff Moreira

    Requested, purchased it on the first day that it was released. Don't feel it's right.

  • http://www.emuparadise.me/roms-isos-games.php Apple is a patent troll

    Can't wait for thr

  • Dario

    Thanks for the heads up AP. I noticed it has been slipping lately but I didn't know they were charging for stuff that came with my original purchase. I bought it full price so I asked for refund. First refund I ever requested. Congrats Rovio, you are my first.

  • Stephen Feehily

    Thankfully I didn't pay for it! It was a free app from Amazon, and I played it out. But I'd be pissed if I had paid for it. It's one thing to change the game to freemium, but to to include those that already paid for the full game in that change is ludicrous!

  • Owen Finn

    Another case for piracy.

  • dontsh00tmesanta

    Zombie gunship did the same

  • mlj11

    Are you more likely to get a refund if you don't currently have the game installed?

    • ltredbeard

      I had it installed and the refund went through no problem.

  • alexcue

    Chiming in, got my refund in about 5 minutes. Now I can support decent devs instead with my $0.99. To the wishlist!

  • Lexster

    When will people learn to stop patronizing these shady freaking game companies?

  • ace

    thnks. had no idea you could request a refund past the 15 minute's using the browser.. just requested a refund for WeatherBug Elite. they pulled it from the playstore but its still in my purchased apps section.

    • David Hart

      When Terraria first came out it was a Free version with a $5 IAP to unlock the entire game. Like 3 or so days after that, it came out with a paid $5 version, and I was able to get my money back then as well so I could buy the real full version.

  • s_bomb

    Yea thanks AP for bringing this to light. Kudos to Google for being super fast with the refund, I got mine before I was done leaving a nasty 1-star review on the Play Store!

  • fishermanners

    Really did not like this game, but I found that out after I paid for it and passed the original refund period. So, I'm really glad I have a second chance to get my money back. This game was too dull to hold my interest.

    • s_bomb

      Fully agreed, it is a dull game after a couple levels; cutesy animations can only hold my attention for so long. I likewise am glad for this second chance to get my money back, and to perhaps try another game that might actually respect their existing customers.

  • Berge

    This is bullshit, so I submitted a lengthy Policy Violation submission to Google Inc., regarding a Play Store policy violation detailing the "deceptive behavior," marking it as an "inappropriate app," categorizing it as "other" for submission, and connecting it to the Developer Distribution Agreement, asking that Pricing & Payments 3.3 section be updated to better ensure consumer protection for software purchases, so we cannot be baited and switched, and instead have our purchases be honored.

    I suggest you all do the same: https://support.google.com/googleplay/android-developer/answer/request.py?contact_type=contact_policy

    P.S. I love the game, and think moving to this model is OK, but that it was either done in poor judgment, or Rovio just F'd up...

  • hp420

    This is why I never pay for any android apps....I feel like they are always out to scam users, make a quick buck, then run like hell with your money.

    • David Hart

      You're looking at all the wrong paid apps

      • hp420

        I never said I won't use paid apps, I said I won't pay for them.

        • pirate

          Pirate. You should be ashamed of ripping off devs.

  • Atique Ahmed

    freemium is worse then paid app

  • fzammetti

    I took things a step further: after I got my refund, which was quick and painless at least, I went and removed every Rovio game I had installed on my SGS4 and N7. That is incredibly weak sauce Rovio and you've lost a customer over it. I don't like freemium to begin with, but if it starts out that way so be it... but switching to freemium after the fact AND basically giving a big middle finger to existing customers who bought the game? No way, that's BS and I won't be back for your stuff in the future. Shame, I like your games, but that's that.

  • MyLeftNut

    Plenty of apps do this and get away with it. I always make sure to buy the paid version of an app whenever one is available just to avoid ads and IAP but over the years I've had many of the apps I've paid for become suddenly "free." I've actually had a few replace my paid version with a free gimped version and then offer a licence thru Paypal to avoid paying Google. This shit happens all the time, and you notice it fast if you're in the habit of buying paid apps.

    It's either that or they stop releasing updates and release a "new" version that's somehow exactly the same as the old plus a few new lines of code.

  • http://bkbooth.com.au/ Ben Booth

    Am I the only one that hasn't had this problem? I updated Tiny Thief to the latest version as soon as the update was available, but all the original levels were still unlocked, I was still able to play them without being asked to pay for level packs. It was just the newest 'Bewitched' levels that were locked and it asked me to unlock with IAP, I was hesitant at first but because the game has been so good so far I eventually paid for the new levels.

  • http://www.mrqwak.com Jamie Woodhouse

    How about people start buying games from lesser known, smaller, indie studios? Rather than profit driven larger more established developer publishers? Far less likely to get screwed over by the smaller guys...

  • Sir_Brizz

    This happened to me with Early Bird. It was a pretty cool game but the dev screwed over all paying customers. I didn't realize you could request a refund through this automated system. I just requested one for Early Bird and they issued the refund. This is how you keep customers.

  • Sir_Brizz

    This happened to me with Early Bird. It was a pretty cool game but the dev screwed over all paying customers. I didn't realize you could request a refund through this automated system. I just requested one for Early Bird and they issued the refund. This is how you keep customers.

  • ischemic

    This is both the publisher's and Google's fault. The same thing happened with galaxy on fire

  • SK

    This breaks my heart too! I was waiting for an update to play more levels and would have gladly paid another $3 for another set of 5 levels. But releasing 1 new level and asking for $2 (or was it $3) and now changing it to freemium+screwing original customers is just greedy and disappointing behavior. They killed a game that could have been great.

  • http://www.andiance.com/blog Andreas

    I don't care for the small amount of money, but I was quite upset when I found out what they did to one of my favorite games - so thanks to this article I will make them pay. ;)

  • Rami Selin

    Thanks for this article. I got back my 2.69€ immediately after submitting a request for refunding.

  • merri

    Mobile shovelware doing shady things? Are we to be surprised or something?

  • Flare_TM

    fucking disgrace.

  • Histirea

    Getting tired of your shit, Rovio.

  • David Crawford

    I bought this on 12 July 2013, google refunded, thanks for the tip, wouldn't play it again anyway :D

  • Rob L.

    In-fucking-credible. How is this even legal? Its a shame too, this was actually a good game and I felt I got couple of dollars worth out of it and then some. I just requested my refund through the Play Store... hopefully it goes through, I'm not going to support any company that chooses to do business that way. They must look at their customers as wallets... I'm getting tired of this mobile shit. What a crap market......
    EDIT: And the refund came in after about 3 minutes... boy that was quick, they must have been expecting this.

  • http://www.jeroenheijster.com/ Jeroen Heijster

    http://www.rovio.com/en/news/blog/488/important-information-concerning-the-latest-tiny-thief-update/

    They claim it was a mistake after all of this, but still, in doubt what I should do now.