Japanese Social Games Risk Seeing Crackdown

By Ishaan . May 7, 2012 . 3:33pm

Publishers of social games in Japan risk seeing the legality of one of their business models questioned by the Japanese Consumer Affairs Agency, according to a report by the Daily Yomiuri.


The business model in question is called “compu gacha,” short for “complete gacha”. The “gacha” model entails making players pay real money for items without knowing what they will be—similar to gambling. You might pay for an in-game item and end up with a rare commodity, a completely worthless item, or something in between. Compu gacha takes it a step further, where completing certain sets of items nets even rarer items as a bonus.


The compu gacha has led to players spending thousands of dollars on virtual items across various social games, and is criticized for taking advantage of users’ gambling spirit. A source close to the Consumer Affairs Agency reportedly informed the Daily Yomiuri that investigations into the compu gacha practise began after the agency began to receive complaints of high charges imposed on players by games published on social network platforms such as GREE and DeNA’s Mobage. One example of a game that uses the compu gacha model is The [email protected]: Cinderella Girls, pictured above.


A significant portion of social game revenue comes from the compu gacha model. While there were only five complaints against the model in fiscal year 2010, that number rocketed to 58 by fiscal year 2011. The Consumer Affairs Agency reportedly plans to ask Social Game Platform Renraku Kyogikai, a council of six social game publishers, including GREE and DeNA Co., to stop offering compu gacha games.


Both GREE and DeNA saw their stocks drop by 20% following the Daily Yomiuri’s report.

Update: Slight tweaks to wording, in order to make it clear that compu gacha model, specifically, is being targeted.

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  • Hmm. Interesting. It’s certainly is a very good way to drive sales on the mobile phone…that’s business wise. But still…. yeah, you might say it’s gambling, or unethical practice. . A 20% stock drop might be something to worry about though..


    Well, they’re getting out of dodge real quick on that announcement.  I’m not surprised either.  Have you SEEN the amount of money that goes into Pangya gacha on a weekly basis?  I mean it’s even a contest on their forums about how much money they get ripped off of to get some decent items!

    i.e. I put $100 down this month and I got x rare items out of x tries and they compare each other’s findings to see how much more luck someone else had in terms of being ripped off.  This is an actual thing! I’m sure people lose hundreds or thousands of dollars off of non-existent stuff yearly.

    But hey, in the long run, it is people’s money. They should be responsible enough to know what to do with it.

    • Guest

      The people who waste all that money should know better, but so should the people who exploit them.  Both parties to the transaction are doing something they shouldn’t, which is why Japan is trying to regulate.  It makes perfect sense.

      •  Oh the people exploiting them definitely know better.  Those games are fixed in the company’s favor just like any other gambling place.  There are a few rare exceptions to this rule and that is what keeps people coming back to be like them.  Much like lottery.  Much like everything gambling.

        • Guest

          No, I mean they should know better than to exploit people.  Just because they CAN take advantage of other human beings, that doesn’t mean they should.  Even if it’s not illegal, it’s unprincipled.

          • malek86

            I don’t think companies care much about principles. Laws on the other hand, that’s a different matter. Which is why this stuff is better off regulated, instead of simply left by itself.

          • Fire.fire.kun

             Just what we need; the moral authority to step in to stop people from spending their hard earned money for things they choose. -__-

    • Problem with Pangya is that the Global version is not developed by a
      group of English devs who understand the culture or the going-ons
      stateside or in Europe- or Brazil for that matter. The devs for Pangya global are the same devs for Pangya Korea and Thai.

      They make all their decisions based off of data they collect from the
      server as a whole. So despite people complaining about Gacha and a ‘lack
      of content’ global gets stuck with their poor decisions, based on the
      choices of less vocal players, who are more than willing to spend a
      couple hundred every few weeks.

      I like how you said it’s “Almost a contest” since really all those “results threads” are just a testament of how much people are being ripped off.

      I’d love for someone to go through a thread and just calculate how much 3 or 4 of the more active posters spent on the latest Gacha or Monogatari Box, then post it up, and watch them be shell shocked when they realize they are throwing THOUSANDS at Ngreed(Ntreev) on a weekly basis.

      Personally, I hate all forms of gacha– whether it be a luck box, an actual lotery system, or Pangya’s pathetic excuse for Gacha.

      I see it as a thinly veiled– yet sickeningly successful attempt, at ripping people off for a virtual item that doesn’t actually exist or hold any real value.

    • Ah yes, we do this in S4 League, as well… 

  • aoihana

    I think the compu gacha is an interesting, fun, feature. It’s like the capsule toys, where you don’t know what you’re going to get, but hope for something awesome.

    I understand the concern, and how it could be exploiting people with a gambling addiction. 

    That said, I think that it’s a bit unfair how they’re trying to crackdown on the practice, because I think a lot of people enjoy it and use it responsibly. 

    Also, I’m not sure I understand the complaints. People are complaining because they are getting high unexplained charges, or because they are getting high charges period?

    I can’t imagine the latter, because I don’t see how you could complain about high charges when you’re the one doing the spending. 

    I could see the complaint coming from a concerned 3rd party, like the Japanese Consumer Affairs Agency, for example, but I don’t see how a customer could complain about their own spending.

    Like I said, I understand how compu gacha could be exploiting gamblers, intentional or otherwise, but like I said, I think it’s a bit unfair to penalize those that use it responsibly.

    • KuroiKen

      I kinda agree. Besides, what’s the point if you KNOW what you get? It’d kill about 80% of the interest in playing such a social game.
      Like imagine you knew which collectable was in a product with which it comes. Would anyone ever buy something with no rare/interesting collectible inside? I seriously doubt it.
      Simpletons, they don’t get anything about such things. Bet they’ve never collected anything.
      I don’t get what’s so bad about gambling that it has such big problems in the world. Well, Japan still has areas with authorized gambling, but my country already has none or they’re pretty far, not that I care. Simpletons, what to say, if you lost, or didn’t get what you want – ain’t that your fault? Unless you were tricked, of course. If there’s a shade of trickery, then it’s another talk. If not – you got what the fate had for you.

  • Me an’ Da Boyz………..don’t know wotz goin’ on ‘ere.

    • Luna Kazemaru

      Some on in the Agency much have gotten so butthurt because they didn’t get what they want.

  • bVork

    Sounds a lot like Team Fortress 2’s crate system. Pay real money for items without knowing what you’re going to get? Check. Items can range from incredibly rare to utterly worthless? Check. Completing certain sets unlocks a better item? Not exactly, but certain sets do offer in-game bonuses when they are all equipped.

    Of course, what Team Fortress 2 does right is ensure that there is a way to get any item with in-game effects without paying any money. Is the same true for these games?

  • Luna Kazemaru

    They do this in most Free to play MMO’s so what is the issue here, Cosmic break and elsword for one say hi

  • 肉@バカ夜空

    I guess we should question the trading card games business model. People pay money for a booster pack which the only contents they know is a slew of commons, a few commons and the very occasional rare, and they don’t even know what specific cards are those.

    I’ve never heard of somebody buying a pack of trading cards and whining to BBB because he didn’t get a Black Lotus.

    • Morricane

       That’s exactly what this concept reminded me of…:)

    •  I think the difference is that you might only get half a card or even a third of a card and you tape them together to get a CARD!! AHHH!!

  • mFrog

    Most discussion seems to be around the regular gatcha business model, but they are not trying to crack down on regular gatchas where you get random items by paying real money.

    Rather, they define “comp gatcha” as a product that not only gets you random items, but these random items are required in order to get another item.  For example, you may need to “complete” the set of item A, B, and C in order to get item D.

    This violates one of the anti-bundling (“daki-awase”) policies that prohibit a purchase of a merchandise from being a prerequisite to purchasing or obtaining another product.  Otakus may remember that the AKB48 franchise violated these rules a few years ago by bundling sales of goods to collecting tickets to obtain signatures or attend events. 

    The consumer agency explicitly said they’re not after regular gatchas.  What’s defined as a comp-gatcha may be gray, though.  If a special item is only obtainable by combining two paid items, it may violate the anti-bundling law.  But then, what if that special item is also available as a regular drop but is extremely rare?  They will be exploring the topic further but for now they want the big social game providers to cut back on the practice themselves.

    • aoihana

      Thank you for explaining it, because I thought they were cracking down on the business model as a whole, which I thought was ridiculous.

      The whole anti-bundling makes sense, but honestly, I think that’s also makes it worth while. I think it’s awesome when you collect item A B C and then you have a chance at D. 

      Personally, I wouldn’t want that to go away, but as you said, it’s the law, so it’s understandable at that point. 

      Thanks.  (◕‿◕✿)

    • Thanks for bringing this up. I see how our original wording could have been misconstrued, and I’ve made a slight edit so that things are clearer.

    • Mmm, good point. You made me realise something I hadn’t before. They are pretty intelligent in handling the daki-awase aspect as you mentioned.

      To those who were wondering:

      Idolmaster Cinderella Girls are played with cards, and the chances of getting them are random. However, that is not the problem since gashapon will be illegal if we go by that definition. The area that is being targeted here is by how you get your super rare idols. 

      In Cinderella Girls, you have several ranks for idols, starting from Normal to S-Rare. In addition, there is another rarity which are called +, such as Normal+, Rare+ and S-Rare+.  How do you get these + idols? By fusing them with your acquired idols. 

      For example, in order to acquire this heavenly S-Rare+ Chihaya, http://sharefog.project-imas.com/cgdex/cg_view.php?id=2500911
      You’ll need to collect 2 Rare Chihaya first, 
      which can be obtained by the Gacha. This is where the compu gacha comes in play. If you’re addicted to the game and need to collect all idols, you need to play the gacha many, many times in order to acquire the 2 idols that you need with the same rarity. Since the gacha is random and there are 162 rare and S-rare cards to collect with no indicator whatsoever in who you want to get, the  quest to obtain that S-rare+ is very tedious (and consumes a lot of money).

      Still, I have to give them some respect for being able to disguise it as a gameplay mechanic.

  • riceisnice

    This needs to be enforced in Korea. The Korean MMO to be specific.

    • Luna Kazemaru

      no seeing as how its the choice of the person.

    • They tried to enforce a law on chance based cash items already in Korea since it’s been getting out of hand.

      I don’t know what the result of it was though.

  • LynxAmali

    Being an [email protected] fan is suffering.
    And expensive.  

  • Of course, you can used Friendship Points to get those Gacha for free. The worst part about Mobage, however, is that foreign users cannot play the full version, meaning I cannot receive the 800 prizes I have won, and it’s much harder to win against people who have confirmed their registration as your levels get higher.

  • dahuuuundge

    Reminds me of little kids paying real money for smurf berry in the states.

  • I wouldn’t really call this gambling… You get an item and that’s what counts, right? Even if it’s useless or not, you get something for your money. And it’s digital, I thought Japan only worried about people betting real MONEY.

    • According to the article, the money IS real.  It’s just the items that aren’t.

  • Inez Kestens

    It sounds like Gaia online’s monthly chance games.
    I don’t really have a problem with it but the chance you get what you want is pretty slim so I never buy them.

    • Doctor Nebula

      Chance items, my enemies T_T

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