Last Christmas I logged onto Portable North Pole, a video message service enabling Father Christmas to send personalised videos to children. The process was simple and I was able to input a few photographs with details about the event, and these were incorporated into the video to make it truly personal.
This year I was offered a review code for the video and I eagerly accepted as I knew how much he would like it. I sat down to start inputting the information and was met with a few hurdles along the way. First of all (despite being told the contrary) the code I was given was for the basic video, and I paid for the upgrade to the full version as I knew it would make the experience more exciting for him.
The process should be relatively simple; select 'nice' or 'naughty', boy or girl, input name (and check the pronounciation), date of birth, country of residence, etc. So far so good. There then follows a series of options about a target the child may have been asked to meet that year, and there were quite a good range. The next step is to choose what toy the child would like and this is the first problem, under the broad category of 'toys and games' there is the choice of: a certain toy (not customisable), Barbie doll, board game, construction game, doll, figurine, Lego, plush toy, or puzzle.
No car. The Boy wants a car.
It's a fairly innocuous choice of present, but it's not on the list. Therefore his video has the words, 'Wish list: a toy' on it, which I think it fairly poor to be perfectly honest. He's old enough to read those words now and he'll see that Father Christmas has no idea what his present request is, which is odd because one of the photographs I submitted was of him writing a letter to the big man asking for a car…
The next step is the first stage of spending additional money. An extra £2.49 will unlock the 'all the premium options' (additional scene selection, 3 additional pictures, twice as much video (almost 6 minutes), unlimited online views during the Christmas holidays, plus a bonus video from Santa for Christmas Eve). I paid it because I wanted to make his video even more special, but it's the first step of many of being confronted with the option to spend more money.
On the next screen is where the child's photo and one other is entered (if the premium package has been paid for then up to five can be entered). However once you enter the initial two photographs, then the options for what the photos can depict is significantly reduced to only five or so. If I'd known that I'd be having to choose a photo of a pet (we don't have one) or an object (really?) then I wouldn't have paid the £2.49 upgrade.
If you haven't upgraded, then you're prompted again before the confirmation screen with additional parental information. The video is then ready to play, again a range of additional costs appear; for example you can download the video for £4.49 because the website version is only available during the Christmas period (don't forget!).
On top of the £2.49 already paid.
Don't get me wrong, I think the video is a wonderful thing and Father Christmas is so genuine and warm in it that I know The Boy is going to find it magical.
However, if I purchase the downloadable version on top of the premium cost then I will have spent £6.98 on a six minute video for him. And I've got one child. If I had more than one, it's going to start getting costly pretty quickly. Added to this, the iPad app with a range of games and access to the video is £2.49. There is also an iPhone app, which is the one that I accidentally downloaded onto the iPad.
So far we're looking at:
- £2.49 for the premium video (a more customisable video)
- £4.49 for the downloadable version
- £2.49 for the iPad or iPhone app.
Is it just me that thinks this is wrong? There is something so intrinsically wrong about charging so very much for a simple message from Father Christmas for your child.
But of course parents do it because they feel they have to in order to feed the magic of the season.
I chose to pay for this product, however I wanted to write an honest review to show parents what to expect when visiting the site.
I didn't need to download the iPad version of the app as the iPhone app worked perfectly well on the iPad. And downloading that has made paying for the upgrade worthwhile. When I installed the app I was given 5 credits which could be used in various ways. One of these ways was to download the video onto the iPad, downloading it via the laptop would have cost £4.49 however it was easily done onto the £2.49 iPad app. Bizarrely, when I started the download onto the iPad, it enabled it on the laptop without needing to pay the additional £4.49! In addition to this, there are a few other videos (birthday and Christmas Eve messages) which can be downloaded onto the iPad app, and there are games and an advent calendar. It's also possible to spend the credits on a 'telephone call' from Santa!
The Boy has watched the video several times a day, every day since I did the message for him. In the future I will happily pay for the premium upgrade (£2.99) and the iPad app (£2.49) but forgo downloading the HD version on the laptop because I don't think it's needed when you have the others.