Yomiuri Newspaper reports on May 5 that Japan's Consumer Affairs Agency is ready to request game providers to stop the so-called "comp-gacha" type mobile social games.
"Comp-gacha" is made of two parts. One is "card game of completing a set". You will get a rare card as a reward by completing a card set. Another is "gacha", which literally means a capsule toy dispenser in Japan - you insert a coin and turn a handle, then a cheap capsule toy is dispensed randomly. You don't know what you will get, so it is a sort of game of chance. In "comp-gacha" mobile game, the goal is to complete a set of cards, and you pay to buy each card but you don't know which card you get till you actually do. It is a kind of a poker game, where you have to pay for each card.
One problem is that often people keep paying till they get a good card, and get over-charged. It is so easy to keep buying the new cards through "carrier billing" - you pay for the in-game purchases through telephone bills. It is also said that the game providers are arbitrarily controlling the issuance of cards to each user, so they make players feel "almost there" early on, but make it extremely difficult to get the last few, thus making the players continue to pay for a long time.
Another is that the reward cards are sold for a surprisingly large amount of real money at online auctions (such as Yahoo! Auction), making the whole scheme a "gamble" with real money.
These problems have been discussed on media for some time by now, and the mobile game industry has formed an industry association to self-regulate the matter recently, but my impression is that the industry effort has been too little, too late, unfortunately.
Japanese mobile game companies are so profitable because of this scheme, but I feel that the general consumer sentiment is not supporting it. I am hoping that the industry will take a swift action - it is always BETTER LATE THAN NEVER.