Buyer Beware: Glu Mobile’s Non-Refundable In-App Purchases Could Leave You High and Dry


Long time app/game publisher, Glu Mobile, has been with Android almost since the G1 days. Since then, they’ve become an almost household name in the Android Market, having many of their games grace the front page of the Google Play store on more than one occasion.

Like most companies as of late, they’ve since moved away from the tried-and-true business model of charging a fixed price upfront for their titles, instead opting for the new “freemium” business model of charging later. The way freemium games work is they’re offered free of charge, but often times, the game can only be completed using in-game items that have to be purchased from inside the app.

Lately, Glu Mobile has come under fire from unhappy customers — one of which uploaded a video to YouTube today voicing his issue — who are accusing the publisher of wrongdoing after purchasing in-game items or “Glu Credits,” only to have never received them. After some sleuthing around, you can find that this is a pretty common complaint in regards to Glue Mobile and something I experienced firsthand after attempting a purchase for myself. What’s strange is my transaction for in-game currency completed just fine but when I attempted to buy some Glu Credits, there was an error. No credits received. My card was still charged (with no chance of a refund). Pretty lame.

Some users in the Market have even complained of a conspiracy regarding Glu’s titles self-uninstalling, causing them to lose all their credits/token purchased with their actual hard earned money and no chance of refund. Checking up on Glu Mobile’s FAQs and you’ll find that they ask Android users to sign-in with their Facebook account when available if they want their game saves and progress to be carried over when upgrading to a new device or in the event of a reinstall. Only problem is this is only available on 7 of their 56 games.

Now, I wouldn’t go as far as accusing Glu Mobile of foul play. Glu Credits don’t exactly cost the company anything and it’s “good business 101” that you would actually want to keep customers coming back. But something is definitely broken on Glu’s end and it needs to be fixed. STAT.

I’m all for supporting app developers/publishers, doing my part to help the Android Market ecosystem. I have no problem spending my money for great games and occasionally, yes, even in-game items. But, if developers are eager to start accepting my cash, they better make damn sure they have all their bases covered. When it comes to the Google Play store, sometimes it feels a bit like the wild west. I just wanted to bring a little light to this issue and warn you guys before you go spending 5 or 6 bucks on in-game currency or items that can’t be refunded. Buyer beware.

Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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  1. Call me old fashioned but the very idea of the in game purchases sounds a bit suspect to me and I guess that’s for good reason. I can see the idea of some like the model of the certain levels being free then having to purchase a non-free program in the market to go beyond that like the World of Goo but in app purchase…  no, that’s just sleazy to me. It sounds a bit like buying a car with four spare donuts on the car and buying actual full size tires after you purchase the car.

    1. Yeah, some game developers/publishers do it right but those are few and far between. 

      In-app purchases should never be necessary for a game to function (unless it’s unlocking the full version of the game). In-app purchases should be for bonus items and/or cheats to make the game easier.Just my 2 cents.

  2. Was playing that game blood and glory and quickly uninstalled because of the freemium model. I’d probably shell out upwards of $5 for that game but no way I’m getting suckered into buying all these credits, especially for a game that pushes ads to the notification bar. Yeah, once that happened it went byebye.

  3. Some times ago I had the same issue. The easiest way was refund it via credit card carrier (bank) but not via the glu company.

  4. Gameloft is just as bad.

    1. I refuse to download from gameloft they push ads in my notifiation bar if thats not bad enugh most the ads go to adult sites. I dont need somone useing my phone then having an ad for finding a f*** budy pop up.

  5. I don’t touch in-app purchases with a 50 foot pole….. Why? Well, things like this, where the app developer, not Google, is responsible for delivery of the content and tracking the sales.

    Similar reason I won’t touch IOS with its “you uninstalled without a backup? Pay again!” design…

    I trust GOOGLE to remember I paid for something and deliver it. I do NOT trust Joe Sznznjk from Outer Timberia to remember/track what I paid for and deliver it.

    The more developers shift to in-app purchases, the less I buy. 

    1. Glu Mobile isn’t a tiny operation with just a couple developers in Outer Timberia. It’s a publicly traded company with offices around the world and dozens of games for iOS, Android and other platforms.

  6. I had the same problem with Defender from Droid Hen. I wrote to Droid Hen 3 times about the issue, and never once got a reply. I rang them in HK only to discover there number didn’t even exist.
    After a week or so I took the issue directly to Google and within 24 hours got a friendly and helpful reply from a gentleman there. Another 24 hours later the same gentleman informed me that Google would refund the money (US$14.99 I think it was) directly to my credit card. Sure enough, a week or so later there it was.
    Google won my heart that day.

  7. First thought: dude on the video was horribly mis-informed if he thought Glu was a garage developer.

    The only company I’ve had successful in-app purchases with is Spacetime Studios with Pocket Legends, because the purchase was tied to my PL character on their servers.

  8. In Glu’s defense, not all of the problems could be their fault.  The Google IAP system is generally flawed.  In my experience as a developer, I attempted to implement IAP in one of my apps only to find that about 10-15% of the transactions (in testing) failed.  Sometimes these failures ended up charging for the items without them being activated in the app.  Some of that was probably developer error, but in general, others have had similar behavior with failed transactions.

    That’s where the defense ends.  There are two types of IAP purchases a developer can choose from:  Managed and Un-managed.  The Managed purchases are stored with the users Google account and those purchases can be restored in the app (if the developer coded properly).  User is only charged once and can uninstall/reinstall and still have their purchases there.  These types of purchases are for one off items like level unlocks, ad removal, etc.

    Un-managed purchases are for consumables.  They are not stored with Google and hence not restorable.  If you uninstall the app, say goodbye to your coins or magic jumping beans. Sometimes developers store and track these purchases on external servers.  That is what Glu is probably doing when they ask users to login with their Facebook account, but in general, most developers don’t track these for restoration.

    From a developer stand-point, it is always wise to side with the customer when they feel they have been cheated.  You can always go into your Google Wallet account and contact the developer to contest the charge, even if it is an IAP.  Those can be refunded, just not through your device.  It has to be manually done by the developer. If Glu wants to keep it’s customers happy, they should issue refunds when requested or fix the issue and give users a credit in the app.

  9. There is no way I’m paying for the stuff if I MUST buy to finish the game. In all history I only bought few premium levels for Dragon Age Origins for PC, and that is done through the website, not some silly in app interface. I find the whole freemium model eroding the whole mobile gaming industry. I’d rather pay decent money for the full game, instead of them milking me cent by cent to let me get to the end of the story line.

  10. I purchased credits for SVZ and I never got them and I thought I was never charged so I purchased 2 more times and then I received the credits on the third purchase, in lump sum, but still I only wanted 40, not 120. And after that the game stopped working so I uninstalled and reinstalled it and lost everything.

  11. This is a Google issue, not a Glu issue. I’m guessing Glu just has so many purchases a day that there is no way for them to deal with it. It’s a very manual process. 

  12. Hi Chris, I am the maker of this video known as Chivasjorge90 as my youtube username or Techzpert from

    I feel obliged to tell you that shortly after I posted this video Glu contacted me via e-mail and informed me that they were sorry I had a bad customer experience and refunded me both transactions. 

    However, I still stand by my original opinion and will not download another Glu game or recommend them in my videos nor on my website. Their games a process hogs, they present ads that are very obtrusive and have shoddy customer support. Thanks for picking up my article though. 

    If any of you guys want to read the full update it is on my website

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