Paying with a promise

Interesting and yet unsettling.

BUSINESSES don’t let 13-year-olds pay for purchases with a promise. At least they didn’t before last week.

A new payment option for anyone without a credit card or a debit card, no matter how young, has just become available. It’s initially offered by FooPets and Puzzle Pirates, online game companies that are business partners of, a start-up based in Mountain View, Calif.

Minors as well as adults can buy items in the games with a “Kwedit Promise,” which can be paid off later in a number of ways — with a credit or debit card, for example, or with cash sent in a mailer that Kwedit supplies.

Systems like these — known in the industry as nurturing games — are built to require regular investments of time and, for fullest enjoyment, money. The games are usually hosted by social networks like Facebook, or can connect to such networks so friends can follow one another’s progress. They feature living digital property — the crops in FarmVille or the fish in Happy Aquarium — that can die without care and feeding. At FooPets, death is averted because, after a short period of neglect, the pet goes to a FooShelter. (And reclaiming it becomes an expensive proposition.)

Read the full NYT article.