Japanese Social Games Risk Seeing Crackdown


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.

Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.