Conference PaperPDF Available

"Lootboxes" in digital games - A gamble with consumers in need of regulation? An evaluation based on learnings from Japan

  • Meiji University / Foundation for Multimedia Communications


This paper looks at the recent discussion on “Lootboxes” by regulators in several countries referring to the case of Japan in the light of business model revolutions. A game-of-chance mechanic which can be found in more and more in digital games to acquire virtual items and to help monetize these games. These Lootboxes have created several negative reactions and calls for regulation because if their gambling like elements. Japan had similar mechanics in games for a long time called “Gacha” and could serve as an interesting insight into its regulation. Firstly as introduction, this paper explains what Lootboxes are in comparison to “Gacha” in Japan and investigates whether they would qualify as gambling using a gambling taxonomy. Lootboxes and Gacha can be seen as very similar and comparable and both would not qualify as gambling in traditional way as long as it could not be converted into real world currency. Secondly, it reviews recent regulatory actions in Western and Asian countries and their reasonings to regulate or not to regulate “Lootbox” mechanism in games. Regulators approaches to “Lootbox” differ from country to country, from very strict to tolerant, often depending on their understanding and perception of Lootbox mechanis. Thirdly, this paper introduces a player’s perception on Lootbox elements and business models. According to a third-party survey, players have a certain preferences and expectation on how to pay for a game or in-game items in accordance with the business model of the game. Several empirical cases showed that an inconsistency or lack of transparency between game players and game companies on how to pay for games could be a trigger for complaints by players, not whether it gambling or not. Finally, this paper summarizes findings from empirical studies and points out the necessity of further studies on “game of chance” elements in games. In the case of so called free-to-play games, the lack of winning probability could be a key issue while for full price games the issue lies more in a lack of transparency of the business model. The former suggests the importance to increase the transparency of “probability” to give players more chances to calculate their chance of winning before they paying for game of chance elements. The latter implies that business models of the game industry have been transforming and games as well as their monetization strategies could be expanded and modified interactively and ceaselessly creating issues on the players side. Both user side and developer side behavior needs to be studies more. But the focus should not only be on gambling and addictive problems -which are important- but also on the issue of business model transformation and the interaction between players and developers in a networked environment.
Make Your Publications Visible.
A Service of
zbw Leibniz-Informationszentrum
Leibniz Information Centre
for Economics
Koeder, Marco Josef; Tanaka, Ema; Mitomo, Hitoshi
Conference Paper
"Lootboxes" in digital games - A gamble with
consumers in need of regulation? An evaluation
based on learnings from Japan
The 22nd Biennial Conference of the International Telecommunications Society: "Beyond
the boundaries: Challenges for business, policy and society", June 24th - 27th, 2018,
Seoul, Korea
Provided in Cooperation with:
International Telecommunications Society (ITS)
Suggested Citation: Koeder, Marco Josef; Tanaka, Ema; Mitomo, Hitoshi (2018) : "Lootboxes"
in digital games - A gamble with consumers in need of regulation? An evaluation based on
learnings from Japan, The 22nd Biennial Conference of the International Telecommunications
Society: "Beyond the boundaries: Challenges for business, policy and society", June 24th -
27th, 2018, Seoul, Korea, International Telecommunications Society (ITS), Seoul
This Version is available at:
Die Dokumente auf EconStor dürfen zu eigenen wissenschaftlichen
Zwecken und zum Privatgebrauch gespeichert und kopiert werden.
Sie dürfen die Dokumente nicht für öffentliche oder kommerzielle
Zwecke vervielfältigen, öffentlich ausstellen, öffentlich zugänglich
machen, vertreiben oder anderweitig nutzen.
Sofern die Verfasser die Dokumente unter Open-Content-Lizenzen
(insbesondere CC-Lizenzen) zur Verfügung gestellt haben sollten,
gelten abweichend von diesen Nutzungsbedingungen die in der dort
genannten Lizenz gewährten Nutzungsrechte.
Terms of use:
Documents in EconStor may be saved and copied for your
personal and scholarly purposes.
You are not to copy documents for public or commercial
purposes, to exhibit the documents publicly, to make them
publicly available on the internet, or to distribute or otherwise
use the documents in public.
If the documents have been made available under an Open
Content Licence (especially Creative Commons Licences), you
may exercise further usage rights as specified in the indicated
ITS Seoul, 2018.
“Lootboxes” in digital games - A gamble with consumers in need
of regulation? An evaluation based on learnings from Japan
Koeder, Marco Josef*1 (
*1Affilliation: Ph.D Candidate, Waseda University Graduate School of Asia Pacific Studies
*1Full Address: Nishi-Waseda Bldg.7F, 1-21-1 Nishi-Waseda, Shinjyuku-ku, TOKYO 169-0051
Ema Tanaka*2 (
*2Affilliation:Visiting Researcher, Institute for Digital Society, Waseda University Comprehensive
Research Organization and Chief Researcher, Foundation for MultiMedia Communications.
*2Full Address: Floor3, Bldg.No.9 Waseda Campus, Waseda University 1-6-1 Nishiwaseda, Shinjuku-ku,
Tokyo, 169-8050 JAPAN
Hitoshi Mitomo*3 (
*3Affilliation: Professor, Waseda University Graduate School of Asia Pacific Studies
*3Full Address: Nishi-Waseda Bldg.7F, 1-21-1 Nishi-Waseda, Shinjyuku-ku, TOKYO 169-0051 JAPAN
This paper looks at the recent discussion on “Lootboxes” by regulators in several countries referring
to the case of Japan in the light of business model revolutions. A game-of-chance mechanic which can
be found in more and more in digital games to acquire virtual items and to help monetize these games.
These Lootboxes have created several negative reactions and calls for regulation because if their
gambling like elements. Japan had similar mechanics in games for a long time called “Gacha” and
could serve as an interesting insight into its regulation.
Firstly as introduction, this paper explains what Lootboxes are in comparison to “Gacha” in Japan
and investigates whether they would qualify as gambling using a gambling taxonomy.
Lootboxes and Gacha can be seen as very similar and comparable and both would not qualify as
gambling in traditional way as long as it could not be converted into real world currency.
Secondly, it reviews recent regulatory actions in Western and Asian countries and their reasonings to
regulate or not to regulate “Lootbox” mechanism in games. Regulators approaches to “Lootbox”
differ from country to country, from very strict to tolerant, often depending on their understanding and
perception of Lootbox mechanis.
Thirdly, this paper introduces a player’s perception on Lootbox elements and business models.
According to a third-party survey, players have a certain preferences and expectation on how to pay
for a game or in-game items in accordance with the business model of the game. Several empirical
cases showed that an inconsistency or lack of transparency between game players and game
companies on how to pay for games could be a trigger for complaints by players, not whether it
gambling or not,
Finally, this paper summarizes findings from empirical studies and points out the necessity of further
studies on “game of chance” elements in games. In the case of so called free-to-play games, the lack of
winning probability could be a key issue while for full price games the issue lies more in a lack of
ITS Seoul, 2018.
transparency of the business model.
The former suggests the importance to increase the transparency of “probability” to give players more
chances to calculate their chance of winning before they paying for game of chance elements. The
latter implies that business models of the game industry have been transforming and games as well as
their monetization strategies could be expanded and modified interactively and ceaselessly creating
issues on the players side. Both user side and developer side behavior needs to be studies more. But the
focus should not only be on gambling and addictive problems -which are important- but also on the
issue of business model transformation and the interaction between players and developers in a
networked environment.
Free-to-play, Lootbox, Gacha, consumer protection, gambling, micro transactions, games, Japan,
Europe, US, regulation, virtual goods
1. Introduction
In 2017 there has been several discussions in Europe as well as the US by the media, users and
regulators on the issue of loot boxes in video games. (Kuchera, 2017; Knaus, 2017; Park, 2017)
In the US, a lawmaker has demanded a ban of loot boxes because of their gambling nature in Nov.
2017. Also politicians in the Bavarian parliament in Germany had asked for an investigation to see if
loot boxes would qualify as gambling and Koen Geens, the Belgian minister of Justice, has called for
actions to be taken against the mixing of videogames and gambling elements that, according to him,
can be found in loot box mechanics. (Morris, 2017, Van Herk, 2017; Freie Waehler, 2017)
Reportedly, around 11% of Western game developers are planning to implement loot box mechanics
into their games in the future. Juniper research is expecting the loot box market and related activities to
reach $50 billion in 2022 globally. (Foye, 2018) But there has been a limited number of academic
analysis on loot box issue mostly because of its novelty and lack of availability of data.
“Loot boxes” (or “loot crates’) are game of chance mechanics for purchasing virtual in-game items in
games. These mechanics are often used by game makers for monetization. The application of game of
chance elements has recently expanded in games developed in the US and Europe. In Japan similar
elements called “Gacha” have existed in mobile games for more than 10 years. (Hamburg
This paper wants to provide an initial outline about possible issues with Lootboxes based on regulator
reactions and self-regulatory actions taken in different countries. Japan should play an exemplary role
here as it has one of the longest histories of paid for game-of-chance elements in games..
On the other hand, the Japanese F2P game market and Gacha has not been analyzed in detail in the
English-language academic literature. (Some papers/thesis covering the topic: Askelöf 2013; Kanerva,
2015; Yamakami, 2012b, 2013a, 2013b, 2014; Shibuya, Teramoto, Shoun, 2015, Woodford, 2013).
2. Background: New Digital Business Models Freemium/Free-to-Play
Several service providers try to create value for customers in online environments. Many of these
businesses are still associated with the “real” economy such as Amazon which connects offline makers
and shops with online platforms. Some services such as Dropbox -a digital file storage and sharing
ITS Seoul, 2018.
place- are digital only services and create virtual value by providing online storage service to their
Some of these online services adopt the “freemium service” model where the service can be used for
free to some extent, but payment is necessary for premium elements, additional services or for
upgrades. These business models are sometimes connected with a subscription service instead of a one-
time payment which allows access to advanced functions for a limited time. (Kumar, 2014).
This freemium business model has gained popularity especially in the software as a service markets in
the recent years. Mobile games have been one of the major applications of freemium business models
and this model is specifically called “Free-to-Play” or “F2P” (Nieborg, 2016). In these F2P games only
about 2% of the players pay for premium services (Swrve, 2016) in the form of micro transactions/in-
app purchases.
Different from typical digital games in the past, these games are not products but more like services as
the game development never stops and new events and content is added constantly to the game to keep
players playing and paying. For players to proceed in these games they often must acquire virtual items
by using the games own virtual currency. Real money can and sometimes must be used to get this
virtual currency. User can purchase things such as virtual items, upgrades, or to speed-up time with this
currency. The F2P business model and its mechanics have been questioned already in academic
literature (Heimo, Harviainen, Tuomas, Kimppa, Mäkilä, 2016; Zagal, Björk, Lewis, 2013;
Paavilainen, Hamari, Stenros, Kinnunen, 2013).
In the previous years these games and their “micro-payments” have also led to regulatory discussions
in academia (Mac Síthigh, 2014; De Kervenoael, Palmer, & Hallsworth, 2013; Feijoo, Gómez-Barroso,
Aguado, Ramos, 2012) and also in government related discussions (Example Australia: Woodford,
2013, Example EU: Stenzel, 2012).
3. Research Question and Methodology
As mentioned in a conference paper at ITS Passau by the authors (Koeder, Tanaka, 2017) ),
governmental regulation and industry organization’s self-regulatory guidelines on Gacha made winning
probability more transparent than before. A recent law suit filed by Gacha players in Jan. 2018 claimed
a game maker’s inaccurate presentation of probability information. Also, Apple recently requested the
disclose of odds of loot boxes in games listed in the AppStore. There have been several recent actions
and statements by regulators in the West about Lootboxes which also feature a game-of-chance
Based on above observations, this paper tries to build a theoretical framework for explaining why a
certain level of transparency is an essential factor to make game of change elements in games more
acceptable to consumers.
This paper takes a descriptive/observatory approach and comparative analysis looking at (mobile)
games with game of chance elements in Japan and the Western countries and their regulations. Above
findings are based on bibliographic survey, first hand interviews with players and professionals (10
Japanese players, 5 Japanese industry professionals, 6 German players, 2 German game developers, 2
US game developers, 1 Korean Game Industry specialist, 1 US Game Industry Specialist and 2 German
regulation specialists), second hand survey data and market research done by the authors, mobile
gaming reports as well as regulatory and self-regulatory publication.
This paper is not specifically looking at Issue of minors or addicts as these are more general
ITS Seoul, 2018.
psychological and development issues related to the individuals.
4. Hypothesis
Based on the findings in Japan and their previous presented papers on Gacha at the ITS Conference in
Kyoto and Passau as well an initial screening of consumer feedback on online forums such as Reddit
and by exploring several games with these mechanics the authors developed the following hypothesis
1. Gacha and Lootboxes are similar and so regulatory statements and actions can be compared
2. Lootboxes and Gacha in general are not gambling (which seems a key issue now discussed publicly
and by regulators)
3. Lootbox issues that need to be regulated or self-regulated are not mainly related to gambling but to a
lack of transparency for consumers. (Similar to past experiences with Gacha in Japan)
4. The lack of transparency for F2P business models with loot boxes is mainly related to probabilities
while the lack of transparency in full price games with loot boxes is more related to business model
5. Game Business Models
To better understand the discussion in this paper it is helpful to take a look at different business models
which can be found in game.
Here is a simple chart outlining the most common models
Pay Once
Free with
Free to Play
Virtual Item
Free to Play
One time at
One time
full game
With each
item purchase
With each
Luck draw
Game as…
Chart 1: Game Business Model Simple Overview (Feijoo, Gómez-Barroso, Aguado, Ramos, 2012;
Kimppa, Heimo, Harviainen, 2015; Hamari & Lehdonvirta, 2010)
To better understand the discussion in this paper it is helpful to take a look at different business models
which can be found in game.
As briefly mentioned in the introduction part, there is a recent trend in the game industry towards
games as services allowing for one single game to create more ongoing revenue per player over time.
Free-to-Play here has been the most common model on the mobile platform and also has become more
popular on consoles and PC. Most Western F2P games in the past offered direct item purchase and in
the recent years Lootboxes could be found in several F2P games on mobile and in F2P games on the
PC and consoles
ITS Seoul, 2018.
Different business models have also been combined in the past. For example, combining one time
purchased games with content purchases in form of downloadable extra content which gets released
over time. Or one time purchased games in combination with a subscription model for game content
updates and/or online multiplayer access. These could be seen as efforts by game publishers to
increase the overall spending per player over time. (Feijoo, Gómez-Barroso, Aguado, Ramos, 2012;
Kimppa, Heimo, Harviainen, 2015; Hamari & Lehdonvirta, 2010)
A more recent development was the combination of one-time game purchase and virtual item
purchases especially Lootboxes. This could mainly be found on Consoles and PC. Some prominent
examples of these games are Star Wars Battle Front II, FIFA 2018, Overwatch, Counter Strike: Global
The games with these new business model mixes can be seen as one of the key triggers for the debate
on Lootboxes, gambling and regulation for example in countries like the US, Netherlands, Belgium.
(Netherlands Gaming Authority, 2018; Belgian Gaming Commission, 2018; Hawaiian Senate Bill
3024, 2018)
6. What is Gacha
6.1 Introduction to Gacha
In Japan, the mobile free-to-play game industry already started over 10 years ago long as game apps for
featured phones before the introduction of smartphones. Different from their Western counterpart’s
game makers there had introduced a special monetization mechanics in their F2P mobile games called
“Gacha” or “Gachapon”. The name comes from Japanese capsule toy vending machines often for a
range of specific toy characters (for example Hello Kitty) or specific themes (for example Dinosaurs)
that are displayed on the machine. Users insert a coin, then turn a switch and then receive a capsule
with a random toy from this collection. “Gacha-Pon” is the sound the machine makes when turning the
switch and when the capsule falls into the capsule dispenser. Some toys vary in rarity. Japanese
(mobile) game companies have adapted this concept for the games virtual item purchase.
Players cannot directly purchase virtual items through in-app payment but need to participate in a paid
lucky draw to get access to a chance of winning one of them. (Yamakami, 2012a). These Gacha
elements account for a main part of the revenue in free to play mobile games in Japan. (Shibuya,
Teramoto, Shoun, 2015). Japan has been mentioned as the country with the highest revenue per player
globally (SuperDataResearch, 2016). In that sense Gacha seems like a new F2P business model
element opportunity to increase the overall spent of the players.
The significant difference from the typical microtransaction or micro-payment found in Western games
is that Gacha is not a virtual item purchase but the purchase of a “lucky draw” to acquire a virtual item
with different rarities/probabilities. (Which is done through payments in real or virtual currency)
ITS Seoul, 2018.
Chart 2: Difference between Western virtual item purchase model and Japanese F2P monetization
which adds the uncertainty element to virtual item acquisition.
6,2 Definitions Gacha
Based on previous Japanese studies, Gacha in online freemium services is regarded as a mechanism
similar to gambling. Shibuya describes Gacha as “…similar in screen appearance to vending machines
that dispense children’s toys, and lucky players can win valuable gaming items this way…Gacha can
be played for free, however, extremely rare and/or valuable gaming items can also be obtained through
monetary purchases of online gacha products (Shibuya, Teramoto, Shoun, 2015, Page 3). Yamakami
describes it as: “Japanese game vendors have made huge revenues using Gacha. Gacha is a kind of
gambling for special items.” (Yamakami, 2013a, page 268) and as “…a mechanism to provide a
randomly picked item, sometimes free and sometimes as paid items. Gacha is a great framework to
introduce gambling spirits into mobile social games. It also obscures the high price to premium items
because one attempt of Gacha can be cheap.” (Yamakami, 2013b, page 738) or in more detail “…a
capsule container for a toy or a gadget…The price is one or two dollars. Before opening a capsule, its
inner contents are not visible. Some of the contents come in a set, and therefore, users continue buying
Gacha, trying their luck at getting a full set. Virtual Gacha for digital content is a popular revenue-
generator in mobile social games. Sometimes, the content is an avatar, clothes for avatar, weapons, and
so on.” (Yamakami, 2012a, page 1233).
Chart 3: Outline of Gacha elements in Japanese mobile F2P games
6.3 Gacha Types
ITS Seoul, 2018.
Based on actual gameplay, previous literature, developer and player interviews and game analysis
reports (Spicemart, 2016) an initial outline of Gacha can be described through the following elements:
Gacha is a key game element but it is not the game itself (1). It is paid for using an in-game virtual
currency either by soft or hard currency (real money) (2). It is game-of-chance based (including
advanced chance mechanics and probabilities which can also chance during special in-game
campaigns) (3) The lucky draw experience is often separated from the actual gameplay and uses special
animation for visualization (4) and always provides a (virtual) reward (5) in form of virtual items,
characters, etc. which play a role in the game (decorative, functional, social) (5a) which are available in
different levels of rarity/limitedness (5b), are often collectable (5c) and cannot be redeemed for real
money (no real money trading) (5d). Furthermore, Gacha and the virtual item rewards are often
combined with real time in-game events/campaigns (5e). The items acquired through Gacha are only
valuable within the game and often are an essential part of the overall game ecosystem (6). Gacha is
mostly used to increase monetization for the game provider (7).
There are several Gacha mechanics which are being used in Japanese mobile games. Our initial
research in the literature, in reports and games and through interviews have shown over 10 different
Gacha types/mechanics. Here is a small overview of some of them:
Kompu Gacha: Players need to acquire a set of items to unlock a special rare item (Banned
in 2012 because of the issue of unknown probability)
Box Gacha: Virtual box of set items with known probabilities
Sugoroku Gacha: Combining Gacha with a boardgame. A Gacha acts like a dice which then
allowed the player to move on a board to unlock special items
Redraw Gacha: Users can do a redraw of a Gacha (sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee)
Consecutive Gacha: Purchasing Gacha in bulk increases the overall probability of getting rare
Open/Closed Gacha: A Gacha showing the probability of acquiring a specific item
Discounted Gacha: Special campaigns where users pay less for a gacha draw.
(Sources: Yamakami, 2012b; Shibuya, Teramoto, Shoun, 2015; Spicemart Report, 2016; Toto,
2016; Interviews; Gameplay)
7. What are Lootboxes
7. 1 History of Lootboxes in the West
Collectible pictures packed into cigarette boxes or chocolate bars could be seen as early analogue
ancestor of Lootboxes and can be traced back to the beginning of the 20th century. This was later
followed by other sweets products which contained collectable cards and by dedicated collector cards
with varying rarity issued in sealed packs by companies such a Pannini. While these cards did not have
any specific game function this changed in the 90s with the release of collectible card games like
Magic the gathering as well as collectible miniature figures games such as Star Wars or Dungeons &
Dragons from Wizards of the Coast which also feature character cards. (Wright, 2017; Williams, 2017)
Loot boxes in the form of treasure chests/boxes with randomized content could already be found in
early roleplaying games like Telengard by Avalon Hill dating back to 1982 which focused strongly on
randomized events. (Bolingbroke, 2010)
Paid for Loot boxes in Western digital games seemed to have appeared first in 2011 in Team Fortress 2
together with the games new F2P business model. Several other games followed in the coming years
(for example Counter Strike) and then paid-for loot boxes started to become a popular feature from
ITS Seoul, 2018.
2016 on. (Valve, 2010)
On the mobile platform, Western loot boxes could be found in the F2P game Hearthstone by Blizzard
which launched in 2014 in the form of collectible cards as well as in other mobile F2P games such as
Clash Royale by Supercell launched in 2016 or Eelectronic Arts Game “The Simpsons Tapped Out”
which already launched in 2012 and then introduced loot box mechanics in 2013 which became more
and more elaborate over time. (TSTO Addicts, 2015)
7.2 Loot Box Market
The major share of spending coming from the Far East and China including Japan. (Foye, 2018)
According to an unpublished study by the University of Hamburg the game-of-chance element in
video games for monetization has been increasing the past years. So called “Pay to win” business
models are expected to have generated over 10 billion Euro in revenue in 2017 globally. According
to a researcher involved in the study the business models of games and gambling providers have
become closer. (Mediengruppe Deutscher Apotheker, 2018; Epochtimes, 2018)
7.3 Definitions Lootboxes:
“Loot boxes in games create a mixing of games of chance and games of skill. Although the outcome of
games is determined by skill, the outcome of loot boxes is determined by chance. Players usually has to
pay for a loot box. The prize that they can win with loot boxes may also have a monetary value.”
(Netherlands Gaming Authority, 2018, p. 2)
“Found in video games, loot boxes are in-game packs often gifted to players as a result of completing
in-game tasks and achievements. Increasingly, these are made available to purchase with real-world
currency to provide a boost to in-game progression, or to enhance character abilities.”
(Foye, 2018, p.1)
“Bei einer sog. „Loot-Box“ handelt es sich um ein Spielelement. Der Spieler / Die Spielerin kann
über einen kostenpflichtigen Erwerb spielrelevante Inhalte erwerben, welche z.B. den
Spielcharakter aufwerten oder das Spielgeschehen durch andere Items positiv beeinflussen. Dabei
erfolgt die Ausschüttung von nützlichen Items nicht vorhersehbar.
Translation: “A Lootbox is a game element. The player can receive game relevant content which
can for example enhance the players in-game character or influence the gameplay in a positive
way. It cannot be predicted what useful content will be distributed. “ (BPjM, 2017, p. 1)
8. Lootbox elements & Gacha
8.1 Commonalities and differences
When looking at the previous break down of Gacha elements then Lootboxes behave similar. They are
often a key game element but it is not the game itself. Similar to Gacha Lootboxes are often paid for
using an in-game virtual currency either by soft or hard currency (real money) It is also game-of-
chance based and has probabilities which can also chance during special in-game campaigns. Gacha yet
seems to have a broader variety of mechanics. The lucky draw experience for Lootboxes is also often
separated from the actual gameplay and uses special animation for visualization and as Gacha always
provides a (virtual) reward in form of virtual items, characters, etc. which play a role in the game
ITS Seoul, 2018.
(decorative, functional, social). Different rarity levels are also present as well as collectability and like
Gacha usually items cannot be redeemed for real money (no real money trading) virtual item. Real time
in-game events/campaigns are also frequent for Lootbox purchases. The items acquired through
Lootboxes are only valuable within the game but are not an always an essential part of the overall game
ecosystem. This depends on the games business model. But like Gacha Lootboxes are mostly used to
increase monetization for the game provider.
Another similarity is the reason of consumer complaints. The complains about their opaque mechanism
and hidden probability of winning a virtual item have been similar. Also, both have provoked
discussion in the media and by regulators and have seen a certain kind of regulatory interventions
Further differences can be found in the platforms. Gacha can mostly be found in mobile games while
Lootboxes are also prominent in PC and console games. Also the business models seem to differ.
Gacha is mostly found in F2P games that are built on in-game item purchases and Gacha is the key
monetization mechanic while Lootboxes are also prominent in full price game titles as extra
monetization element. They are both built on metaphors. In the case of Gacha a metaphor of a real life
Gashapon machine and in the case of Lootboxes in form of a locked treasure chest.
8.2 Lootbox & Gachas psychological impact
While this paper does not go into details on this topic, it should be mentioned that Lootboxes seem to
trigger deeper psychological reaction as outlined by Psychologist Jamie Madigan which relate to the
reward element similar to classical conditioning. The randomness of the reward then triggers a stronger
conditioning and also a stronger brain reaction in form of dopamine release which can lead to ongoing
repetition of the behavior. Visual representations of the loot and loot unboxing also reinforce this
behavior. (Madigan, 2015)
Keith Whyte the executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling also stated in an
interview on Lootboxes in games for the NY times that the randomness of rewards as well as the multi
sensual presentation of the opening of loot boxes has a strong effect on players behavior. (Bailey,
A recent survey conducted by Koyama, Hichibe and Tanaka (2017) revealed that a certain rate of
surveyed smartphone players (around 10-25%) reduced their expenditure on Pachinko, a highly
regulated gambling parlor game in Japan. This shows a potential relation between gambling behavior
and Gacha as most of the games in this survey had Gacha elements in them.
Paid for
Min release
Game of
Yes (also
Puzzle &
(J& E)
ITS Seoul, 2018.
Blue Saga
Game of
Yes (also
FIFA 2018
Star Wars
Chart 4: Simple Overview: Difference and Similarity between Gacha and Lootboxes
9. Are Gacha & looboxes gambling? - Taxonomy approach
There has been an ongoing discussion by Japanese researchers if Gacha game of chance elements can
be regarded as gambling and if this could be seen as problematic. (Shibuya, Teramoto, Shoun, 2015;
Yamakami, 2013a, Yamakami, 2013b, Yamakami, 2012b). From the Japan regulatory side the
discussion of Gacha and gambling has not surfaced. It does not seem to be an issue so far. As the
reasons behind this could be related to a specific -more relaxed- Japan or Asian perspective on
gambling it would be interesting to look at Gacha and its relation to gambling from a more western
At the end of 2017 Esports Observer, an online platform for esports business news and insights
conducted a survey on twitter among its readers if loot boxes can be seen as a form of gaming. 58%
responded that they regard them as a kind of gambling. (The Esports Observer, 2017)
Also as mentioned already previously, the recent discussions the US and European have focused
heavily on the gambling aspect of Lootboxes.
Gainsbury, Hing, Delfabbro & King outlined a taxonomy of gambling in their 2014 paper providing a
more general and international perspective on gambling elements in connection with social (media)
games and if these games would qualify as “gambling” and therefore would need closed analysis and
consideration by regulators.
This taxonomy was based on earlier framework from Parke, Wardle, Rigbye, Parke (2012) and was
built on international best practice approaches and previous publications on game and gambling issues
and regulations.
The authors developed a simple to follow flowchart to determine if a service would qualify as
gambling or not even though the service seems to be rather gambling related. The key elements in the
framework are 1. The need to pay using real money 2. The balance between chance based and skill
based elements 3. The platform(s) the games are offered on and 4. How important the gambling theme
is in the game itself.
Looking at this flowchart, the Gacha elements outline provided at the beginning of the paper , previous
studies on Gacha and the definition of Lootboxes, the following logic conclusions can be drawn:
Gacha/Lootboxes can be seen as online games which contain gambling components so it would fall
into a category that needs closer consideration.
Angle 1: In Gacha/Lootbox Games players do not have to pay money to play. Yet they do have to pay
real money to increase their chance to win rare items through Gacha or to have access to win limited
ITS Seoul, 2018.
edition virtual items.
If Gacha/Lootbox are regarded as not requiring payment, then the next question would be if the game is
integrated into a social media platform. In the case of Japanese F2P Gacha games they have
connections to social media but they are not deeply integrated into these platforms. They are also not
offered by gambling operators. For some loot box games such as Overwatch, Dota 2 or League of
Legends they have a focus on online multiplayer gaming but are not deeply connected into specific
social media platforms.
Angle 2: Even if a Gacha/Lootbox game would be integrated deeply into a social media platform it
would not qualify as gambling because its core game is not focused on gambling or casino simulation.
Also, Gacha/Lootbox themselves are not a virtual casino or gambling “simulation”. Instead it is a
“simulating” of a non-gambling related Gashapon Capsule Toy Vending machine in Japan for Gacha or
a treasure chest opening metaphor for Western Lootbox games
If Gacha/Lootbox is seen as requiring real money payment it does not produce a prize of monetary
value outside of the games ecosystem and there is no opportunity to sell it within the ecosystem. This
would not quality as gambling
In summary Gacha/Lootbox (according to this taxonomy) would not qualify as gambling mainly
because of these points:
No real money can be won
It does not “simulate” casino gambling activities
Gambling theme is not central part of the game
Main game outcome determined by skill
Not provided by a gambling provider
ITS Seoul, 2018.
Source: Gainsbury, Hing, Delfabbro & King, 2014, page 4
Based on the above outline Gacha/Lootbox powered games would not need to be regulated according
to gambling regulation. But the authors also touch upon virtual worlds with gambling elements and
virtual currencies but only see it as problematic if virtual money can be exchanged for real money.
Even the games do not allow this function of monetary exchange, if there are third party trading
platforms where players sell items or virtual currency then this can become an issue.
The next section will look at how Gacha/Lootboxes are actually being perceived by different legislators
and self-regulators in different countries. For Japan a more in-depth description will be provided as this
was one of the very early markets to adapt these mechanics, yet little information had been available
about it outside of Japan.
10. Regulatory perceptions and decisions about Gacha and Lootboxes
10.1 APAC region:
10.1.1 Japan
Regulatory Invention: Kompu-Gacha regulation by Law in Japan - as lottery and promotion tool
In 2012 Gacha has already been in the focus of Japanese regulation when the government banned the
ITS Seoul, 2018.
use of “kompu gacha”. (Kennedy, 2012). This was a specific game of chance mechanics that required
players to collect several items by lucky draws to then unlock a very special item without the
knowledge of any probabilities. In this case gambling and the F2P business model collided (Woodford,
2013). Some mobile game titles have started the displaying of probability of Gacha since 2012 after a
new guideline was released by six major mobile game publishers in Japan (DeNA, 2012).
Despite the fact, that Gacha has existed in mobile games in Japan since around 2004 with one of the
first games being Maple Story (4Gamer, 2007), complains to the Consumer Agency in Japan had
increased in 2011 (Machida, 2012). The main issue was the so-called mechanics of “Kompugacha”
which had been previously mentioned in the paper. The name comes from the word KOMPURETO
which means “to complete”. This mechanics require the player to first collect a series of items
(complete set) before being able to unlock a specific rate item. Without any known data on the
probability, rarity or potential costs of acquiring the final item the Consumer The Consumer Affairs
Agency in Japan (CAA) banned the practice of “Kompugacha” in 2012 for the reason that it corrupts
the game experience as the system makes it difficult to understand the probability to win a prize (CAA,
2012). Game companies had to abandon these mechanics and switched to other kind of Gatcha and
invented new ones. Over the course of time game developers introduced several new Gacha mechanics
several of them with hidden probabilities and hidden total costs for acquisition by just hinting how rare
some items are.
CAA banned Kompugacha based on the “Law for Preventing Unjustifiable Extra or Unexpected
Benefit and Misleading Representation” which was a different law from gambling regulation. The law
prohibits unfair promotion to sell certain goods or services. The fourth article regulates “lottery”
mechanism utilization to attract consumers if probability expression is deceptive for consumers.
Self-Regulatory Action: Probability self-regulation through guidelines in Japan for increasing
Again in 2015 Gacha had been mentioned negatively in Japanese media for a specific game title
(Grandblue Fantasy) and its issue of promising a wrong probability to acquire a specific game item
(Nakajima, 2016). In 2016, Computer Entertainment Supplier’s Association (CESA) announced a new
guideline to increase transparency of probability of Gacha item emergence (CESA, 2016). The
guideline calls for displaying the probability of each Gacha items so consumers can understand their
chance of winning better. It requires game makers to implement one of the following 4 standards:
a. The limit on the estimated price (the price calculated as an expected value according to the set
distribution rate) to obtain any rare Gacha item should be within 100 times the price of a single paid
Gacha, and in the case, that this limit is exceeded, that estimated price or its multiplying factor is to be
displayed on the Gacha page.
b. The estimated price limit to obtain any rare Gacha item should be within 50,000 yen, and in the case,
that this limit is exceeded, that estimated price is to be displayed on the Gacha page.
c. The upper limit and lower limit of distribution rates for rare Gacha items are to be displayed.
d. The distribution rates for each type of rare Gacha item are to be displayed.
(Spicemart, 2016, p.6)
By this self-regulation, member game companies only had to fulfill one of above conditions since it did
not require to adhere to of all of them.
10.1.2 China
ITS Seoul, 2018.
The Ministry of Culture in China announced new regulation in December 2016 to force game
publishers to provide more information on their game elements. This specifically applies to Gacha like
game-of-luck elements called “loot box” and their probability but with PC and console games as main
platforms. The regulation of the Chinese government demands publisher to keep a record of the
probability rates for 90 days. (NeoGAF, 2016). Similar to Japan, instead of focusing on the gambling-
like mechanics, regulators looked at the unknown probability side as an issue from a consumer
protection regulations angle.
Reportedly, American game publishers, Blizzard Entertainment, Riot and Perfect world, officially
revealed the probabilities of winning virtual items for their most popular game titles in China from
May 2017 when the regulation became effective (Chalk, 2017).
Also Chinese Game maker published their probability rates for their game Crossfire. (Foxall,2017)
10.1.3 Korea
The initial reaction by Minju Party member Wootaek Jeong was to submit a request in 2015 for the
regulation of Lootboxes based on the assumption that some items/elements highly resembles gambling
and that the lack of transparency of the probability to win items violates the interest of consumers.
(Lee, 2016)
But instead Korea took a self-regulatory approach on randomized virtual item purchases in games. This
was led by the Korean Association of the Game Industry. But because of continued player complaints
this approach needed to be revised in 2017 to offer more transparency also on the probabilities of
winning specific items. The government is working together with the Association and will also
establish a joined control institution in October 2018. (Lee, 2018)
The situation is still problematic as could be seen in April 2018 when The Korean Fair Trade
Commission fined and penalized Lootboxes for specific games and mechanics. All penalties were
issues because of a lack of transparency of probabilities in specific game campaigns/promotions, In the
case of one game the issue was similar to Japanese Kompugacha yet limited only to promotion events:
“Sudden Attack” Game Users could get puzzle pieces at random with their purchase of Lootboxes and
when they collect all the 16 puzzle pieces they would receive a special reward. But the game maker did
not provide probabilities. The other games received penalties mainly because of their incorrect
statements of probabilities. (Ji-young, 2018)
10.1.4 New Zealand
According to an official request sent to the Gambling Compliance office of New Zealand by Game
Industry Online Magazine Gamasutra in December 2017 the department does not see Lootboxes as
gambling. The reason for this is that game items cannot be traded for real money and that they are
directly related to the game itself. (Cross, 2017)
10.2 EU and USA
10.2.1 Belgium
The Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC) declared some Lootbox mechanics as gambling in early
The regarded these elements similar to betting which can results in loosing or winning (in that case
ITS Seoul, 2018.
virtual items) and the fact that chance plays a major role in this They required game makers to provide
probabilities of winning, users spending limit or even remove loot boxes from games
The Belgian regulators demanded Electronic Arts, Blizzard and Valve to remove Lootboxes from their
games Fifa 18, Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Otherwise they would face up to five
years in prison and a fine up to 800,000 Euro because of illicit gambling. If these games prove to be
specifically targeted towards minors then the fine would double. (Belgian Gaming Commission , 2018;
NOS, 2018)
Already in 2015 the Belgian Regulators had filed a legal claim against Machine Zone, a F2P mobile
game developer. The reason for the claim was a Mobile Game title named “Game of War: Fire Ages”
which had been ranked as one of the top revenue generating mobile F2P titles in the market. The game
itself is a multiplayer online strategy game but the regulators pointed out that the game features the
virtual replication of a casino and casino games in which players could gamble using virtual money
(money they can acquire in the game or through paying real money). Based on this issue and the
assumption that this mechanic is a key part of the game itself the game provider was accused of illegal
gambling activities by the authorities. Game of chance elements were also seen by the regulatory body
as elements inciting users to spend more money due to their gambling nature. (Barlowe, 2015)
10.2.2 Netherlands
The Netherlands Gaming Authority declared Lootboxes as gambling in 2018 because of the chance
based outcome and the possibility of trading of items for real money which then create a real market
value even these trades happen outside of the games themselves.
In their analysis they looked at 10 game titles and pointed out 4 of them as problematic according to a
newspaper articles those games were: Rocket League, Dota2, Fifa18 and PubG.
They asked for a regulation including the exclusion of problematic players such as minors and people
with addiction issues. (Netherlands Gaming Authority, 2018)
10.2.3 United Kingdom
The Gambling Comission decided that Lootboxes would not qualify as gambling. One main reason
mentioned was that it does not allow direct conversion into real money within the game.
This was mentioned in an interview with Tim Mille, the executive director of the the UK Gambling
Commission in late 2017. He also stated that the commission will keep monitoring future
developments. (Hood, 2017)
In 2015 they had already looked at and analyzed social games and gambling elements from a gambling
regulatory angle (Gambling Comission, 2015) and also put forward a discussion paper on topics such
as virtual currencies in 2016 (Gambling Comission, 2016). Back then the regulatory body concluded
that social games do not qualify as gambling and not need a regulation at this point in time. The key
factor for this conclusion was also that the prizes obtained in these games are non-monetary and do not
represent any direct real money value.
10.2.4 Germany
ITS Seoul, 2018.
A recent study had suggested that Germany seems to have several regulatory gaps in gambling/Game-
of-chance regulation. According to the study gambling activities such as lotteries and sports betting
seem to have a de facto monopoly. Services like online poker or online casinos are deemed illegal
(exception: Schleswig-Holstein) and the market is occupied with several illegal and grey gambling
providers. The study suggested the establishment of a central regulatory office instead of the current
state based offices to unify regulation. (Haucap, Nolte, Stoever, 2017)
Social Gaming and possible gambling elements are not regulated at the moment under this regulatory
State of Bavaria
Due to the negative news about Lootboxes in the media in late 2017, one political party had filed an
urgency request in the Bavarian parliament asking for a change of regulation to only allow the selling
of games with loot boxes to an adult audience. According to their statement they see Lootbox that need
to be paid for with real money and that lead to advantages in the game as a kind of gambling. They
specifically mentioned Star Wars Battlefront II in their plea. The plea was rejected by parliament but at
the same time spurred a plea by Bavarians biggest party the CSU on a closer evaluation of loot boxes
especially for minors. This plea passed the parliament hearing on November 29th, 2017. The plea
demands a closer evaluation by the German Commission for the Protection of Youth in the Media
(KJM)because of the special mechanics of the loot boxes business model as well as more transparency
from the game makers and more media education. (Freie Waehler, 2017: State of Bavaria, 2017)
In 2017 the German Age Rating Board had already released a statement that they do not see loot boxes
as gambling. The reason for this was that the random rewards are only low value prices similar to
physical collectable card games and physical random items which can be found in sweets or lotteries at
county fairs. But they also stated that they could be seen as problematic because of the possibility of
real money trading and the involvement of minors.(USK, 2017)
In early 2018 the German Commission for the Protection of Youth in the Media (KJM) then announced
that they also do not regard loot boxes as gambling. The reasons where that they had not received any
major complaints about this issue from consumers and that it depends very much on specific games and
their mechanics. They also mentioned they have to keep monitoring the development of these
mechanics and how consumers react to it. (KJM, 2018)
ITS Seoul, 2018.
The German Game Industry Organization (Game) does not consider Loot boxes to be gambling. Their
reasoning for this is that players always receive a set number of virtual items and extra content. Only
the exact content is not known. This is similar to physical collector cards series or sweets with surprise
items inside the box and ifferent from real gambling mechanics where the player has a chance of not
winning anything at all and can “lose” his spent money. Lootboxes always provide a return/reward just
in form of virtual content.
They also do not see a strong addiction potential as it is not gambling. Furthermore they see the fact
that the market for in-game item purchases and microtransactions has been growing as an indicator for
players satisfaction and acceptance of the model.
Lootboxes are also not seen as affecting gameplay negatively. The Organization assumes that games
with unfair loot mechanics will naturally start to disappear. They believe in the positive self-regulatory
effect of the market. (Game, 2018)
10.2.5 EU
There is no official regulatory statement on an EU level so far. There has only been a statement from
Pan-European Game Information rating system (PEGI). The response given to the Game Industry
Online Site WCCF Tech states that their stance on loot boxes is similar to other rating organizations
like the ESRB in the US of the USK in Germany. The PEGI does not call out loot boxes as gambling
but at the same time they would request gambling legislators to decide on this in the end. (Palumbo,
10.2.6 United States
So far there has been no official government body statement or regulation on loot boxes in the US.
There have on the other hand been actions brought forward by politicians in several states.
State of Hawaii
In February 2018 bills have been introduced in the state of Hawaii to regulate loot boxes to the house
and senate under the consumer protection umbrella. These bills would only allow the selling of games
with loot crates to adults as well as force the providers to show probability rates in their games and
introduce a special warning label that these games contain the purchase of in-game items and
mechanics similar to gambling that can lead to addiction. The bills specifically mention Star Wars
Battlefront II as an example of the problematic use of loot boxes (Senate of Hawai, 2018a, 2018b)
State of Washington
A bill was introduced in January 2018 to the Washington Senate by State Senator Kevin Ranke to find
out if Lootboxes are gambling and should be regulated.
In specific the bill also wants to determine if these mechanisms should be featured in games at all, if
there should a special control towards minors and to discuss the lack of transparency of winning
probabilities. (Senate of Washington., 2018).
State of Minnesota
Senator Rick Hansen introduced a bill to Minnesota senate in April 2018 for consumer protection
asking for games with loot boxes to not be sold to minors. Also if a game adds Lootbox mechanics then
it should not be made available to minors after that. Games also need to feature a warning that they
ITS Seoul, 2018.
contain mechanics similar to gambling and can lead to addiction. This includes physical games as well
as download games. (House of Representatives Minnesota, 2018).
State of California
In February 2018 Assembly Member Quirk requested an addition to the Californian Business and
Professions Code for video games which would require a label stating that the game includes micro-
transactions. The bill does not specifically address Lootboxes. (California Legislature, 2018).
On the Self-regulatory side The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) took the stance that look
boxes cannot be seen a gambling. The reason for this is that players always have a guarantee to win
something, similar to collectible card games This was mentioned by the ESRB in reply to a request for
statement by American Online Game Magazine Kotaku in October 2017. (Schreier, 2017)
Yet at the end of February the ESRB introduced a new label for physical video games that show that
these games offer in-game purchases. But the label does not require game makers to mention if the
game contains loot crates or game of chance mechanics nor do they need to mention any probability.
(ESRB, 2018)
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) defines loot boxes not as gambling according to a
statement given to Rolling Stone Magazine. The reason for this is that they are optional features and
the player can decide to use them or not. The ESA mentioned that that in some games loot boxes can
also be obtained without real money and in some games their content helps to move forward in the
game while in other games these items are purely cosmetic (Crecente, 2017)
Preemptive actions by US game makers & platform providers
There have also been companies who changed their game mechanics before specific measurements had
been introduced. Full price PC and console game Middle-earth: Shadow of War removed its Lootboxes
because of complaints from users. (Monolith, 2018)
Also the full price game Star Wars Battflefront II removed their Lootboxes because of player
complaints but later re-introduced them with a slight difference than before. The items now did not
affect gameplay and were for cosmetic purposes only. (Electronic Art, 2017, 2018)
Apple announced in December 2017 that it would require all game providers with loot box likes
mechanics to show the probability of acquiring items. Japanese Games like Final Fantasy Brave
Exvius, Fire Emblem as well as Western Games like PUBG were updated to reflect this new policy.
(Apple Inc, 2017; Steinlechner, 2018; Groux, 2018)
Overview of legislators’ /Selft-regulators decisions on loot boxes/Gacha (Mainly related to gambling)
Status May 2018
ITS Seoul, 2018.
Chart 5: Gacha & Lootbox regulation overview of selected countries (Status: May 2018)
Country Gambling Reason Institution Regulation needed Specific Games Evaluated Comments
Belgium Yes
Game element. Like betting.
Results in loosing or
winning (items). Chance
plays a major role
Belgian Gaming Commission
(BGC), 2018
Provide probabilities of winning
User spend ing limit
Remove loot boxes from games
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Star Wars Battlefront II
Star Wars Battle
Front was not
becaus e they
changed the
lootboxes before
Netherlands Yes
Chance base d outcome
Trading of items for real
money (has a real market
Netherlands Gaming Authority,
Exclude problematic players (minors,
10 games (Not mentioned)
Problematic Games:
Rocket League
(But no clear
stamenent give n)
No real case yet
Federal Review Board for
Media Harmful to Minors
(BPjM) 2017
Focus on educating minors.
Minitor the mechanics
Not mentioned
Very vague
statement given
No (USK)
The random rewards are
only low value prices
similar to collectable card
games, random items in
sweets o r lotteries at
country fairs (USK)
German Age Rating Board
(USK) 2017
No. Not gambling but problematic becaus e
of real money trading and minors (USK)
Not mentioned Self Regulator
No (KJM)
Depends o n specific game
& mechanics (KJM)
No complaints so far abou t
mechanics (KJM)
German Commission for the
Protection of Youth in the
Media. (KJM) 2018
Need to be further monitored es pecially the
game mechanics and watch for con sumer
complaints (KJM)
Not mentioned
Star Wars Balltefron t II was mentioned
in one ba varian parli ament plea by
party FW
After parliament
hearing in Bavaria
from several
political parties
assu mign it wa
sgambling. KJM
was asked for
No (
Lootboxes always prov ide a
return/reward just in form of
virtual content. Similar to
physical collector cards
German Game Industry Organization (, 2018
No. Market will self-regulate itself Not mentioned Self Regulator
Does not allow direct
convers ion into real money
Gambling Comission, 2017 Not at the moment Not mentioned
Already issu ed
statement in 2015
on social
New Zealand No
Not about winning money
or converting items into
money. Purchase for
improved gaming
Gambling Compliance office of
its Department of Internal
Affairs, 2017
Not at the moment Not mentioned
No (ESA)
Optional feature and th e
player can decide to use
them or not.
Often can also be o btained
without real money
Entertainment Software
Asso ciation (ESA), 2017/2018
Not at the moment Not mentioned Self Regulatory
Consumer Protection
Always guaran tee to win
something. Similar to
collectible card games
ESRB Enterainment and
Software Rating Board 2017
No. But need to add special label to video
games that offer in-game purchas es. (But
does no t mention loot crates in sp ecific),
Not mentioned Self Regulatory
No (Apple)
No specific mentioning of
gambling issues.
Apple, 2017
Need to provide pro babilities of aquiring
virtual items
Not mentioned
Affects all games with lootboxc
Self Regulatory
(Gambling like
Not mentioned State o f Hawaii, 2018
Only allow the selling of games to adults
Force the providers to show proba bility
Special warning labe (in-game items and
mechanics similar to gambling that can lead
to addiction. )
Star Wars Battlefront II
Was us ed as an example in the bill
Bill has been
introduced in Feb
(Gambling like
Not mentioned State o f Minnesota, 2018
Only allow the selling of games to adults
If lootboxes get introduc ed in game update
cannot b e sold to minors
Providers need to show probability
Special warning label (in-game items and
mechanics similar to gambling that can lead
to addiction.)
Not mentioned
Bill has been
introduced in
April 2018
(Does not mention
Not mentioned State o f California
Special label that game contains micro-
transact ions
Not mentioned
Has been
requeste d in
Fabruary 2018
Followed argument of
Always guaran tee to win
something. Similar to
collectible card games
PEGI Pan European Game
Information 2017 2017
No. But should be de cided by Gambling
Commissions in the end.
Not mentioned
Semi Self
China No Not mentioned. Ministry of Culture, 2016
Provide probabilities of winning
Also keep track of pas t probabilities (90
Not mentioned
But more focusses on PC & Console
No (CAA)
No real money trading*
(implied in the regula tory
actions to not allow t his
in the future)
Consumer Affairs Agency ,
Banning of Kompugacha for unkno wn
Not mentioned
No (CESA) Not mentioned. CESA 2016
Yes (Self Regulation)
Provide probabilities of winning or cost of
acquisition or se t cost cap
Grand Blue Saga Self Regulatory
No Not mentioned. K-Game 2015 Yes (Self Regulation)
Provide probabilities Not mentioned Self Regulatory
No Not mentioned. Fair Trade Commission, 2018
Provide correct probab ilities espe cially
during event s/promotions
Problematic Games:
Sudden Att ack
Monst er Taming
Counter Strike Online 2.
Everybody’s M arble
Destiny Child
ITS Seoul, 2018.
This initial overview offers several takeaways:
1. Lootboxes/Gacha are mostly not seen as real gambling. (Not being able to sell items for real money
plays a major role in this.)
2. Transparency of probability is one of the frequent regulatory actions
3. The requirement to add labels to games warning about micro-transactions/Lootboxes is mostly for
so called full price games. This could be seen as an issue of a lack of transparency in the business
While it is helpful to look at the regulatory and self-regulatory actions another important insight is how
users perceive Lootboxes. Not much quantitative data is available on this topic. In the following section
the paper looks at some initial data from a third party survey.
11. User Feedback on Lootboxes (Third Party Research)
A recent survey done by German Game Magazine and Online Site GameStar has revealed some
interesting insights into players perception on Lootboxes. The Platform asked users if a games rating
should be affected by the presence of real money in-game item purchase options. These purchase
options included direct purchase as well loot box game-of-chance mechanics. Over 20,000 participated
in the survey according to the Publisher.
The Publisher divided the survey into paid single-player and multi-player games as well as into free-to-
play single-player and multiplayer games.
About 61% of all participants mentioned they had boycotted or not bought a game they initially wanted
to play because it contains micro-transactions.
Around 50% of participants saw loot-boxes or random card packages as extremely worse and 10% saw
them as a bit worse than per-item in-game purchases. 30% mentioned it did not make a difference to
them. When being asked if a games rating should be lowered because of the presence of specific in-
game purchases then the majority mentioned gameplay advantages obtained through Lootboxes
followed by gameplay advantages obtained through direct item purchase as the main points. The
difference between loot-boxes and direct purchase were rather small. Cosmetic only purchases that do
not affect gameplay were not seen as major issues. No matter if they were obtained through direct
purchase or Lootboxes.
Participants seem to evaluate the presence of real money in-game purchases slightly more negative in
multiplayer games than single player games not matter if they are F2P or paid games.
The survey also shows a very interesting and strong difference between the perception of paid games
and free-to-play games. Lootboxes and per-item purchase in general seem to be much more accepted in
F2P games than in paid games. This could be related to the business model as player might not expect
these kinds of mechanics in a game they already paid for.
It needs to be mentioned that the content of the Magazine itself is about PC games so it can be assumed
that the readers of this magazine are mainly PC based game players and the results might not apply to
console or mobile games.
The results can suggest the following implications about real money Lootboxes
ITS Seoul, 2018.
4. Real money in-game Lootboxes with items that directly affect gameplay are seen more negative by
players than cosmetic only in-game purchase items. (Pay to win issue)
5. Lootboxes and virtual item purchases are perceived slightly more negative in multiplayer games
than in single-player games.
6. Lootboxes (and virtual-item purchases) are more accepted in Free-to-play games than in paid
games. (This makes sense as the F2P business model is based mostly on in-item purchases)
(Source of Survey: GameStar, 2018, See Appendix for translated survey)
12. Discussions/Takeaway
12.1 Gacha and Lootboxes are smiliar and would not qualify per-se as gambling
This paper has outlined Gacha and its elements in detail, looked at Lootboxes and made a comparison
between the two, finding that they are similar and then applied a gambling taxonomy to see if they
would qualify as gambling, which they do not.
This is in-line with several recent regulatory decisions that have been taken in other countries.
12.2 An issue of transparency
The key issues do not seem to be gambling but a lack of transparencies.
In the case of F2P games Japan regulated Gacha not trough gambling regulation but through consumer
protection regulation with a focus on the issue of non-transparency of the costs for acquiring virtual
items. The regulation called for showing the probability/costs of acquiring Gacha items so consumers
can understand their chance of winning better. Gacha was not seen by the regulators as gambling but as
an issue of providing transparent information to the consumer.
This is an approach which also had been taken by Chinas Consumer Protection Agency as well as by
global mobile platform provider Apple. Chinese regulators introduced the requirement of stating the
probabilities of random virtual item acquisition in May 2017 and Apple took a similar action at the end
of 2017 for mobile game providers in their App store. This can serve as an inspiration for regulators to
not focus on the gambling aspect but on the transparency aspect of game of chance mechanics in games
and re-evaluate existing consumer protection frameworks and how they can be applied to games with
these mechanics.
In the case of paid games there seems to be a lack of business model transparency. Mixing the full
price game business model with a free-to-play (virtual-item purchase/Lootbox draw) business model
created friction among players. That is also why several regulatory and self-regulatory actions have
called for labels on full price games to warn players if these games also contain pay-for virtual items or
Lootboxes. The survey among gameplayers also showed that players react more negative about
Lootboxes/virtual-items in full price games compared to F2P games.
Based on their research and findings the authors here want to provide several thought-starters for
ITS Seoul, 2018.
12.3 Look beyond gambling regulation
Even if these game elements would not qualify as gambling and no gambling regulatory actions are
necessary this is not enough As the early case of Japan has shown, Gachas main issues seemed to have
been the lack of transparency for consumers. Some Gachas did not provide any probability of
winning/acquiring a specific item. This shows that the concern of regulators is not the game of chance
element of Gacha but its uncertainty element which have led to several incidents and complaints on the
consumer’s side. This is similar to the recent developments in other countries which focus on consumer
protection and call for a transparency of probabilities.
Based on these experiences regulators should look at these games from a consumer protection
regulation point of view with a focus on transparency and see in which way these games would violate
existing frameworks.
12.4 Ongoing monitoring of consumer/player complaints and mobile F2P games
The learnings from Japan were that regulatory actions on Gacha were taken after several complaints
had been filed by consumer. This was the case in the “Kompugacha” government regulation and in the
case of the “Grandblue Fantasy” game complaints which lead to self-regulatory actions. The Star Wars
II Battefront Lootbox controversy only spiked after the complaint from players and negative review on
sites like Amazon. German government bodies (KJM) took a relaxed standpoint on Lootboxes because
they had not received any consumer complaints on the issue.
It seems to be vital to continuously monitor the change/increase of complaints of consumers for
specific mobile game of chance mechanics and for specific mobile game titles.
Games need to be evaluated based on players feedback in online forums, game reviews and social
media in general as possible indicators of problematic issues
One important element of F2P mobile games is the fact that these games cannot be seen as “products”
but as “software as a service”. Development on these games never stops. Content, game mechanics,
designs can change monthly. In the case of Japan new Gacha events and Gacha mechanics are being
introduced to these mobile F2P games continuously.
Furthermore, there is a broad variety of game themes and types. Regulatory evaluation should be done
on an ongoing and individual game basis. Player’s feedback and complaints can serve as good
indicators of possible issues that would need regulatory attention and actions. The fact that the
Minnesota bill proposal specifically mentioned that it would no longer allow minors to play if a game
provider changes its mechanics into Lootboxes shows that game mechanics can change and ongoing
monitoring is needed. The same goes for a game like Star Wars Battlefront II which changed its loot
box mechanics several times and avoided being prosecuted because of this (Belgium). This is all
possible because of the new game as a service model.
12.5 Government regulation versus Self-Regulation
In Japan Gacha was first regulated by the government and then through self-regulatory activities of the
game industry. It needs to be mentioned that these guidelines are far from strict and might serve more
the game developers than the consumers
ITS Seoul, 2018.
In Korea the government had to step in because they did not feel self-regulation was satisfying.
When looking at the self-regulators in the EU and US their approach is more relaxed and laissez-faire
compared to the government bodies. Some believe in a market which will regulate itself (in the case of This is in contrast to actions taken by regulators in the Netherland and Belgium as well as
some recent US bills who demand a stronger regulation and see loot boxes as potential harmful.
Regulators should be careful about self-regulation in this field because there seems to be a conflict
between the self-regulators interests and consumer’s interests.
12.6 Gacha and Lootbox - Psychological effect
Another angle to look at would be to analyze in more detail about the specific effects of
Gacha/Lootboxes on players. Some initial statements have already been made by researchers. How
Gacha/Lootboxes enabled games are perceived differently on a psychological level can be revealing. In
the future, these findings could help to understand if and how Gacha/Lootboxes can directly affect
problematic behavior such as overspending or game addiction. Furthermore the effects of these
elements could be decoupled from monetization and applied to other fields to influence positive
behavior, for example eLearning.
13. Future Research
As of the writing of this paper very little academic research is available on game-of-chance mechanics
such as Gacha or Lootboxes in games. Some wok has been done in Japan but this only focusses on the
Japanese market and is mostly available in Japanese. A more international analysis would be of
Research should also focus on the mechanism and effects of Lootboxes on consumers more deeply and
to see if there are differences in perception between countries or regions.
This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or
not-for-profit sectors.
ITS Seoul, 2018.
4Gamer. (2007). Interview with Maple Story CEO Lee Seung-chan (in JP). Retrieved
September 29, 2017, from
Askelöf, P. (2013). Monetization of Social Network Games in Japan and the West. Lund
University, Faculty of Engineering, LTH. Retrieved from
Apple Inc. (2017, December). App Store Review Guidelines. Retrieved May 8, 2018, from
Bailey, J. M. (2018, April 24). A Video Game 'Loot Box' Offers Coveted Rewards, but Is It
Gambling? Retrieved May 8, 2018, from
Barlowe, K. (2015, February 14). Belgian Regulator Denounces Game of War: Fire Age as
“Illegal Gambling.” Retrieved from
Belgian Gaming Commission. (2018, April). Research Report on Loot Boxes. Retrieved May
12, 2018, from
17) Retrieved March 12, 2018, from,did=229290.html
Bolingbroke, C. (2010, March 6). Telengard: Pointless Fun. Retrieved March 6, 2018, from
CAA. (2012). Onrain ge-mu no kompu gacha to keihin hyoji hou no keihin kisei ni tuite (On
prize regulation at prize promotion and Kompu Gacha in online games). Retrieved from
California Legislature (2018). An act to add Chapter 6.8 (commencing with Section 20660) to
Division 8 of the Business and Professions Code, relating to video games.AB-2194. .
Retrieved from
Chalk, A. (2017, May 5). Blizzard reveals Overwatch loot box drop rates in China | PC Gamer.
PC GAMER. Retrieved from
Cross, K. (2017, December 11). New Zealand says lootboxes 'do not meet the legal definition
for gambling'. Retrieved May 5, 2018, from
Crecente, B. (2017, November 25). State Legislators Weigh Law to Block Sale of 'Battlefront II'
to Children. Retrieved May 10, 2018, from
ITS Seoul, 2018.
De Kervenoael, R., Palmer, M., & Hallsworth, A. (2013). From the outside in: Consumer anti-
choice and policy implications in the mobile gaming market. Telecommunications Policy,
37(67), 439449.
DeNA. (2012). Ge-mu nai hyouji tou ni kansuru gaido rain (Guideline for in-game expression
etc.). Retrieved from
Electronic Arts. (2017, November 17). An Update on Star Wars Battlefront II. Retrieved May 8,
2018, from
Electronic Arts. (2018, April 26). Revamped Progression is Coming Soon. Retrieved May 8,
2018, from
Epochtimes. (2018, February 04). Studie: Videospiele ähneln zunehmend Glücksspielen - hohes
Suchtpotenzial. Retrieved March 7, 2018, from
ESRB Entertainment Software Rating Board. (2018, February 27). ESRB TO BEGIN
Retrieved from
Feijoo, C., Gómez-Barroso, J.-L., Aguado, J.-M., & Ramos, S. (2012). Mobile gaming: Industry
challenges and policy implications. Telecommunications Policy, 36(3), 212221.
Foye, L. (2018, April 17). In-Game Gambling The Next Cash Cow for Publishers. Juniper
Foxall, S. (2017, April 27). Crossfire releases loot box odds, first game to obey new Chinese
online gaming laws. Retrieved April 11, 2018, from
Freie Waehler. (2017, November 28). Morgen im Plenum: FREIE WÄHLER wollen
Jugendschutz bei Computerspielen ausweiten [Press release]. Retrieved from https://fw-
Gambling Commission (GC), (2015), Social Gaming, January 2015, Retrieved June 25, 2017,
Gambling Commission (GC), (2016). Virtual currencies , eSports and social gaming
discussion paper. Retrieved June 26, 2017, from
Game Verband der Deutschen Games-Branche (2018, January 30 Positionspapier
ITS Seoul, 2018.
„Lootboxen“ in Games. Retrieved May 10, 2018, from
GameStar. (2018, March 16). Abwertung für Pay2Win & Mikrotransaktionen - Wir ändern
unser Wertungssystem. Retrieved May 10, 2018, from
Gainsbury, S., Hing, N., Delfabbro, P. H., & King, D. L. (2014). A taxonomy of gambling and
casino games via social media and online technologies. International Gambling Studies,
14(2), 196213.
Groux, C. (2018, April 22). 'PUBG Mobile's iOS update still isn't out yet because of loot boxes.
Retrieved May 8, 2018, from
Hamari, J., & Lehdonvirta, V. (2010). Game design as marketing: How game mechanics create
demand for virtual goods. International Journal of Business Science and Applied
Management, 5(1), 1429.
Haucap, J., Nolte, M., Stoever, H., (2017). Faktenbasierte Evaluierung des
Glücksspielstaatsvertrags, Kölner Studien zum Sportrecht Band 8
Heimo, O. I., Harviainen, J. T., Kimppa, K. K., & Mäkilä, T. (2016). Virtual to Virtuous
Money: A Virtue Ethics Perspective on Video Game Business Logic. Journal of Business
Ethics, 19.
Hood, V. (2017, December 14). The big interview: The Gambling Commission on loot boxes.
Retrieved May 5, 2018, from
House of Representatives Minnesota (2018). A bill for an act relating to consumer protection;
video games; prohibiting certain sales; proposing coding for new law in Minnesota
Statutes, chapter 325I. HF 4460. Retrieved from
Ji-young, S. (2018, April 02). Nexon Korea to challenge FTC's hefty penalty. Retrieved May 3,
2018, from
Kanerva, T. (2015). Virtual Worlds Apart A Comparative Study on Digital Games in Japan and
the West. University of Helsinki. Retrieved from
Kimppa, K. K., Heimo, O. I., & Harviainen, J. T. (2015). First Dose is Always
Freemium. ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society, 45(3), 132137.
KJM (2018, March 23). Jugendschutz bei Online-Spielen. Retrieved May 6, 2018, from
Kennedy, G. (2012). Asia-Pacific news. Computer Law & Security Review, 28(6), 714726.
Knaus, C. (2017, November 24). Guardian's US edition | The Guardian. Gambling regulators to
investigate 'loot boxes' in video games | Games | The Guardian. Retrieved February 25,
ITS Seoul, 2018.
2018, from
Koeder, Marco Josef; Tanaka, Ema (2017) : Game of chance elements in free-to-play mobile
games. A freemium business model monetization tool in need of selfregulation?, 28th
European Regional Conference of the International Telecommunications Society (ITS):
"Competition and Regulation in the Information Age", Passau, Germany, July 30 - August
2, 2017, International Telecommunications Society (ITS), Passau
Koyama, Y., Hichibe, N. , Tanaka, E.(2017). Survey on billing behaviors of smartphone game
users, Digital Proceeding of 8th Conference. Game Research Association JAPAN, 67-75
Kuchera , B. (2017, December 14). Polygon. Loot boxes are the video game issue of the year -
Polygon. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from
Lee, K. (2018, March 28). More Self-Regulating of Controversial Randomized Virtual Items
Required of Gaming Industry. Retrieved May 9, 2018, from
Lee, S. H. (2016, November 16). I do not think so - I can not believe the game. Retrieved May
10, 2018, from
Machida, Toru (2012, June 5) “Konmei suru Kompu Gacha no sinsou”, Gendai Business web
article (In Japanese). Retrieved May 5, 2017, from
Madigan, J. (2015). Getting Gamers: the psychology of video games and their impact on the
people who play them. Rowman & Littlefield.
Mediengruppe Deutscher Apotheker. (2018, March 5). Mediensucht: Immer mehr Videospiele
mit Glückspielelementen. Retrieved April 8, 2018, from https://www.pharmazeutische-
Monolith. (2018, April 02). Important Free Updates Coming to Shadow of War. Retrieved May
8, 2018, from
Morris, D.Z. (2017, December 9). Fortune . Lawmaker Working to Ban Sale of Games With
Lootboxes to Minors | Fortune. Retrieved March 15, 2018, from
Nakajima, Y. (2016, March 10th) $6,065 Spent in One Night Shows Dark Side of Japan's
Mobile Games, Retrieved May 4, 2016, from
NeoGAF (2016 December 7) China to force online games with loot boxes publicly announce
item probabilities, Retrieved June 19, 2017, from
Netherlands Gaming Authority. (2018, April 10). Study into loot boxes A treasure or a burden?
Retrieved May 12, 2018, from
ITS Seoul, 2018.
Nieborg, D. (2016). From Premium to Freemium: The Political Economy of the App. In T.
Willston, Michelle; Leaver (Ed.), Social, Casual and Mobile Games: The Changing
Gaming Landscape (pp. 225240). Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved from
NOS. (2018, April 19). Populaire games overtreden gokregels. Retrieved May 5, 2018, from
Paavilainen, J., Hamari, J., Stenros, J., & Kinnunen, J. (2013). Social Network Games.
Simulation & Gaming, 44(6), 794820.
Palumbo, A. (2017, October 12). PEGI on Loot Boxes: We Can't Define What's Gambling,
Only A Gambling Commission Can. Retrieved April 3, 2018, from
Parke, J., Wardle, H., Rigbye, J., & Parke, A. (2012). Exploring Social Gambling : Scoping ,
Classification and Edivence Review. Retrieved from Gambling.pdf
Park, G. (2017, November 18). Washington Post. EA's 'Star Wars Battlefront 2' loot box
controversy grips the gaming industry as Disney responds . Retrieved February 27, 2018,
Schreier, J. (2017, October 11). ESRB Says It Doesn't See 'Loot Boxes' As Gambling. Retrieved
December 13, from
Senate of Hawaii. (2018a). A bill for an act Relating to Consumer Protection. Senate Bill
3024. Retrieved from
Senate of Hawaii. (2018b). A bill for an act Relating to Consumer Protection. Senate Bill
3025. Retrieved from
Senate of Washington. (2018). An act relating to loot boxes and similar types of mechanisms in
online games and apps.. Senate Bill 6266. Retrieved from
Shibuya, A., Teramoto, M., Shoun, A., S. (2015). Systematic Analysis of In-game Purchases
and Social Features of Mobile Social Games in Japan 1. In DiGRA 2015: Diversity of Play
(pp. 116).
Síthigh, Mac D. (2013). App law within: rights and regulation in the smartphone age.
International Journal of Law and Information Technology, 21(2), 154186.
Spicemart (2016), Japan Market Trend Report March 2016 - English Version
State of Bavaria. (2017). Dringlichkeitsantrag. Drucksache 17/19256. Retrieved from
Steinlechner, P. (2018, March 09). Mobile Games: Apple setzt Gewinnwahrscheinlichkeit bei
ITS Seoul, 2018.
Lootboxen durch. Retrieved May 9, 2018, from
Stenzel, U. (2012). Study on Digital Content Products in the EU Retrieved from
SuperData Research (2016) Asia Mobile Games Report 2016. Retrieved August 10,2016 from
Swrve. (2018). Monetization Report 2016. Retrieved March 12, 2017, from
The Esports Observer. (2017, December 14). TEO Poll Results: Do you Consider Loot Boxes to
Be Gambling? Retrieved April 20, 2018, from
Toto, S. (2016, March 30th) How Japanese Mobile Game Makers Go After Whales,, Retrieved February 10, 2017 from
USK. (2017, October 20). Lootboxen und Jugendschutz. Retrieved May 4, 2018, from
Valve. (2010, September 30). News - Team Fortress 2 Update Released. Retrieved February 16,
2018, from
Van Herk, R. (2017, November 21). VTM Nieuws. GEENS WIL GOKKEN IN GAMES
VERBIEDEN. Retrieved January 15, 2018, from
Williams, M. (2017, October 11). The Harsh History Of Gaming Microtransactions: From
Horse Armor to Loot Boxes. Retrieved January 5, 2018, from
Woodford, D. (2013). Governance Challenges in the Global Games Industry. New Directions in
the Development of Creative and Media Industries, (June), 78. Retrieved from
Wright, S. T. (2017, December 08). The evolution of loot boxes. Retrieved January 12, 2018,
TSTO Addicts. (2015, May 11). What's in the Mystery Box?The Simpsons Tapped Out
AddictsAll Things The Simpsons Tapped Out for the Tapped Out Addict in All of Us.
Retrieved March 8, 2018, from
Yamakami, T. (2012a). Revenue-Generation Pattern Analysis of Mobile Social Games in Japan.
In Advanced Communication Technology (ICACT), 2012 14th International Conference
(pp. 12321236).
Yamakami, T. (2012b). Anomaly of Mobile Social Games: Lessons Learned in the Hype of
Japanese Mobile Social Games. In Computing and Convergence Technology (ICCCT),
2012 7th International Conference on (pp. 198202). Seoul: IEEE. Retrieved from
ITS Seoul, 2018.
Yamakami, T. (2013a). Cross-Culture Analysis of Mobile Social Games: Toward Design
Guidelines of Lessons Learned from Globalized Mobile Social Games. In 2013
International Conference on Cloud and Green Computing (pp. 266270). IEEE.
Yamakami, T. (2013b). Historical view of mobile social game evolution in Japan: Retrospective
analysis of success factors. Advanced Communication Technology (ICACT), 2013 15th
International Conference, 735739. Retrieved from
Yamakami, T. (2014). Dilemma of Service Engineering in the Era of Social Services:
Understanding the Ongoing Challenges of Service Engineering. In 2014 17th International
Conference on Network-Based Information Systems (pp. 633637). IEEE.
Zagal, J. P., Björk, S., & Lewis, C. (2013). Dark Patterns in the Design of Games. FDG 2013 -
8th International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games, 1(312), 3946.
ITS Seoul, 2018.
Appendix: GameStar Survey (March, 2018)
Q2: Have you ever boycotted or not bought a game you wanted to play because it had
Yes / No
Q5: How would you evaluate micro-transactions with random content (lootboxes, card packages)
compared to direct purchases?
Much worse/ Bit worse/No difference/Bit better/Much better
Q6: For what should we lower the rating of full price single-player games that use real money
in-game purchases? (multiple answers possible)
Content (Map-packs, Heroes, etc) / Cosmetic only content direct purchase / Cosmetic only content
from paid loot boxes / Gameplay enhancing content direct purchase / Gameplay enhancing
content from paid loot boxes / Not at All
ITS Seoul, 2018.
Q7: For what should we lower the rating of full price multi-player games that use real money in-
game purchases? (multiple answers possible)
Content (Map-packs, Heroes, etc) / Cosmetic only content direct purchase / Cosmetic only content
from paid loot boxes / Gameplay enhancing content direct purchase / Gameplay enhancing
content from paid loot boxes / Not at All
Q6: For what should we lower the rating of Free-To-Play single-player games that use real
money in-game purchases? (multiple answers possible)
Content (Map-packs, Heroes, etc) / Cosmetic only content direct purchase / Cosmetic only content
from paid loot boxes / Gameplay enhancing content direct purchase / Gameplay enhancing
content from paid loot boxes / Not at All
ITS Seoul, 2018.
Q9: For what should we lower the rating of Free-To-Play multi-player games that use real money
in-game purchases? (multiple answers possible)
Content (Map-packs, Heroes, etc) / Cosmetic only content direct purchase / Cosmetic only content
from paid loot boxes / Gameplay enhancing content direct purchase / Gameplay enhancing
content from paid loot boxes / Not at All
... Gacha is often associated with loot boxes because both transactions and objectives are the same if Gacha comes from the Gashapon machine game while loot boxes come from treasure chest boxes (Koeder et al., 2018). The mechanics of loot boxes are the same as for Gacha in that they are virtual boxes that are earned with real money and contain virtual items to gain in-game benefits. ...
... g. Discounted Gacha is a special campaign where users pay less for gacha sweepstakes (Koeder et al., 2018). ...
... Gacha is one of the variations in monetization that game developers use to get players to get features in the game. Transaction contracts to buy features in the game use a purely probability-based gacha system, and there is no clear price listed to get these items, as illustrated in the grand scheme of gacha in numbers 3 and 4 (Koeder et al., 2018). If this is seen in fiqh, transactions through the gacha system contain elements of maysir, taghrir and tadlis. ...
Full-text available
Gacha system is a game from Japan. The popularity of mobile games with a freemium (F2P) business model that uses the gacha system as a game monetization tool has become a problem when viewed from the legality of transactions according to Islamic law. Purchases of virtual items in the game are referred to as microtransactions, where players use real money that is spent into virtual items or game currency as a medium of exchange for these items. The freemium strategy has an attraction for players to spend money to explore a game. Gacha is a method to get virtual items in the game, the concept of gacha is very dependent on the probability and rarity of the item. The rarer the item, the player is required to spend more money. In Japan, in 2012, gacha was banned for carrying out a misleading campaign. This study aims to analyze the validity of the microtransaction contract system for purchasing virtual items using the gacha system according to Islam. This research uses the library research method. In collecting research data, the researchers analyzed sources from previous studies related to freemium business strategies, microtransactions and the use of the gacha system, as well as the rules of Islamic law from these various transactions. The results show that transactions using the gacha system contain elements of maysir, taghrir and tadlis. Using the gacha system without doing microtransactions with real money does not fulfil the elements of maysir, taghrir and tadlis. Meanwhile, players who perform microtransactions to buy in-game items directly or without going through gacha are included in the ijarah agreement. Players can also get rewards (sell) in the form of certain items if they grind as a gift from the game developer.
... Gacha and loot box are the two common forms of video game microtransaction dominant in Asian and Western regions, respectively. Both share a similarity that game players have to pay for the chance of obtaining virtual items that could advance the game progress or enhance character abilities (4). In Asian region, gacha is currently predominant in the mobile game market especially in Freemium (i.e., free-to-play) games. ...
... It replicates the feature of capsule toy vending machines popularized in Japan where gacha gamers pay to obtain in-game randomized virtual items such as weapons and costumes that can enhance the power and appearance of their game avatar. The virtual items' degree of rarity is determined and controlled by gaming companies (4,5). The popularity of gacha can be glimpsed from the market share and rapidly growing revenue of mobile game market. ...
... The inherent differences between gacha and loot box may further limit the generalizability of the findings in previous studies. For example, gacha is mostly found in Freemium mobile games that are built on in-game item purchases and is the primary monetization strategy while loot box is often found in PC and console and is an additional monetization element besides selling the games themselves (4). In comparison to loot box, gacha has more varieties to attract gamers to pay for the games such as Box Gacha (virtual box of set items with known probabilities), Sugoroku Gacha (A gacha acts like a dice which then allowed the player to move on a board to unlock special items). ...
Full-text available
Objective The objective of this study is to explore the association of problem gambling with demographics, psychological distress, and gaming behavior in young adult gacha gamers in Hong Kong. Materials and methods Cross-sectional data was collected in the first and fifth waves of COVID-19 pandemic in Hong Kong online. Participants who aged 18–25 years and had been playing gacha games over the past 12 months were recruited. Stepwise multiple regression was used to explore the association among risk of problem gambling, gaming behavior, participation in gaming activities and psychological distress. A two-sided p-value <0.05 was considered as statistical significance. Results Three hundred and thirty-seven completed questionnaires were received with no missing data. 34.7% ( n = 117) of the participants had non/low-risk of problem gambling. About 40% ( n = 136) of them had moderate-risk and the remaining 25% ( n = 84) were at high risk of problem gambling. A higher proportion of female participants (78.6%) were found in high-risk group as compared to 39.7% and 55.6% only in the non/low-risk and moderate-risk groups, respectively. The regression model ( R ² = 0.513, F = 71.895, p < 0.001) showed that 51.3% of the variance of the total problem gambling score could be explained by stress, anxiety, monthly expenses on gacha purchases, number of motives for gacha purchase and number of gambling activities engaged. Conclusion The present study provides empirical evidence to support the association between problem gambling and microtransaction especially for gacha which is the most popular type of video game microtransaction in Asia. The established regression model suggests that gacha gamers with higher risk of problem gambling tend to have greater stress, higher anxiety level, spend more on gacha purchase, have more motives for gacha purchases and engage in more gambling activities. In contrast to the extant literature, higher proportion of female participants in high-risk group indicates that female gacha gamers are also at very high risk of becoming problem gamblers.
... A far-reaching development in computer games was the introduction of so-called "lootboxes," which have developed into a quasi-standard for online gaming (Koeder et al. 2018;Wagenaar 2016). Lootboxes can be described as digital single-use containers, containing random rewards. ...
... In computer games, a lootbox is a digital single-use container that contains random rewards within a system (e.g., gamessee Figure 1 for an example) (Lawrence 2017). Lootboxes are awarded for specific achievements or behavior (overcoming a challenge, play a certain number of hours, etc.), inclining players to play many hours and take on increasingly difficult quests (i.e., tasks) (Koeder et al. 2018). The rewards from the lootboxes are random, meaning that the player does not know the content. ...
... The rewards from the lootboxes are random, meaning that the player does not know the content. However, in many cases, the player is aware of the pool of contents (Koeder et al. 2018;Lawrence 2017). The content of a lootbox can have various functions and forms. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
So-called “lootboxes,” have recently developed into a quasi-standard for online gaming. Lootboxes are digital single-use containers, containing random items, which can be used to change the appearance of a player’s online persona or to progress faster through the game. Lootboxes are awarded for specific achievements (e.g., playing a certain number of hours) inclining players to play many hours and take on increasingly difficult tasks. Through the lens of gamification, lootboxes offer a new approach to shape user motivation and behavior. In this study, an online experiment with 414 participants was conducted to investigate the potential of lootboxes as a gamification element. Two lootbox designs were tested against awarding badges and a control treatment (no gamification) in a non-game context. Our results indicate that lootboxes, containing changes to the nature of a task (e.g., making it easier), show great potential to motivate users and increase performance.
... In this experimental study, we address this research gap regarding the relation of persuasive, anthropomorphic CAs, and actual behavior in the form of performance. The performance of an individual can be measured by the number of completed tasks (e.g., in the context of gamification, by completed rounds (Koeder et al., 2018), or the number of steps per day (Toscos et al., 2006)). We conducted an experiment with three different treatment groups (no CA, anthropomorphic CA and anthropomorphic CA extended with persuasive features) in a task completion setting. ...
In the human interaction with CAs, research has shown that elements of persuasive system design, such as praise, are perceived differently when compared to traditional graphical interfaces. In this experimental study, we will extend our knowledge regarding the relation of persuasiveness (namely dialog support), anthropomorphically designed CAs, and task performance. Within a three-conditions-between-subjects design, two instances of the CA are applied within an online experiment with 120 participants. Our results show that anthropomorphically designed CAs increase perceived dialog support and performance but adding persuasive design elements can be counterproductive. Thus, the results are embedded in the discourse of CA design for task support.
... This can potentially lead to high spending for loot boxes. Koeder et al. [35] suggest giving players more transparency in terms of probability in order to calculate their chances of winning before paying for game of chance elements. It is an open question whether randomly selected items in loot boxes are comparable to monetary prizes in gambling and loot boxes would thus fulfill the criteria of gambling and be regulated as such. ...
Loot boxes are a growing feature in the business models of video game production. They can be obtained through in-game purchases ranging from $0.5 to over $100 and contain chance-based virtual items that may offer an advantage in a video game making them gambling-like products. This study seeks to fill the current research gap with the analysis of a representative survey among 46,136 Internet users. Within this sample 1508 are Pay2Win users and more specifically, 586 of those Pay2Win users (38.9%) purchase loot boxes. Loot box users are an average age of 36.7 years and are predominantly male (55.3%). A high number (45.9%) meet the criteria for problem gambling measured by the PGSI. A significant negative age-effect exists, and a lower level of education has strong positive impacts on loot box participation. Loot box participation and purchasing frequency are positively associated with gambling problems and we argue that loot box purchasers are at risk of experiencing gambling problems.
... More recently, in response to public debates, an increasing number of scholars have started to focus directly on RRMs, specifically on whether and how they are related to gambling. Currently, there are three main directions of inquiry: 1) Research into how RRMs are logically linked to gambling (Drummond and Sauer 2018, Nielsen and Grabarczyk 2018, Zendle et al. 2020, 2) research on how gambling behavior and RRMs interlink, focusing on behavioral psychological questions (Brooks and Clark 2019, Macey and Hamari 2019, Zendle and Cairns 2018, and 3) research examining RRMs from a legal viewpoint (Griffiths 2018, Koeder, Tanaka, and Mitomo 2018, Moshirnia 2018). ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
In this paper, we propose a comprehensive and empirically grounded taxonomy of monetized random reward mechanisms (RRMs), which we created through an examination of over one hundred free-to-play and paid-to-play games released in the US, Germany, and Japan. RRMs have recently gained increased attention within game studies. However, few attempts have been made to clarify the structure and implementation of RRMs and their cultural and societal influence. We offer an evidence-based classification of RRMs, aiming to contribute to a wide range of related academic research activities and social debates and to facilitate cross-disciplinary discussion. Borrowing from recent literature, we deconstructed the way RRMs are implemented in 108 games. We identified three major strategies and 40 types of implementation. In particular, this taxonomy covers the majority of RRMs implemented in publicly available mobile games worldwide and will play an essential role in facilitating constructive discussions about RRMs.
Full-text available
GACHA micro-transaction by taking into account forbidden transactional elements like gambling (maisir) and uncertainty (gharar). GACHA, also known as a game-of-chance, is one of the newer monetization mechanics adopted by video games developer and its implementation can be witnessed in various digital games. Through this, players may acquire virtual items, albeit ambiguously, and this uncertain nature will profit the developers massively. Thus, this research aims to provide clarity on the definition of GACHA, by studying its attributes and features through past studies and theses. Additionally, this research will examine the characteristics of gambling (maisir) and uncertainty (gharar), which is extremely important when it comes to the comprehension of the ruling deduction provided by Islamic scholars and contemporary Fatwa. Additionally, the researchers will also attempt to study the reality of GACHA in today's world, such as the shapes and forms of GACHA, and its significant impact on society backed by pieces of evidence from recent years. Thus, the research method that has been used for this research is the qualitative method which is a library method, and an analytical review of the gathered data. It was established that the Islamic rulings on GACHA are that it is impermissible to be practised as it involves forbidden transactional elements.
This chapter provides an overview of changes in the digital game market and then analyzes users' payment preferences for digital gaming in the cross-platform era based on the results of a survey of smartphone users in Japan, the UK, and China. Since the 2010s, with the spread of smartphones and the expansion of subscription services, the gaming market has witnessed a diversification of platforms. In addition to multi-platform compatible games that can be played on multiple platforms (playable at any of Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo devices but not playable across different platforms), cross-platform compatible games (players using different platforms can participate in the same game play) that can be played across multiple platforms exist. The results of our online survey conducted in March 2020 among smartphone users in Japan, the UK, and China presented the characteristics of each country in terms of the devices on which games are played and the reasons for paying for their game play. The results of the survey showed that the differences between countries regarding the preference for payment methods were small. For Japan, further extensive cross-tabulation results showed that there were some differences in game players’ preferences by age, gender, amount of money charged, and game players/non-game players. As the background of the results, it could be assumed that increase in the types of payment methods for games under the diversification of platforms and the segmentation of players by game genre occurs with the co-evolution process of the gaming industry.
Loot boxes (LBs) are video game-related purchases with a chance-based outcome. Due to similarities with gambling, they have come under increasing scrutiny from media, academics and policymakers alike. Initial evidence suggested that LB engagement might be associated with both problem gambling (PG) and problem video gaming (PVG). We therefore conducted a systematic review of the evidence for associations between LB purchasing, PG and PVG. For LB/PG, 12 of 13 publications reported a positive relationship, with a moderately sized mean effect of r = .27. For LB/PVG, the mean effect was r = .40, although this finding was drawn from only six surveys in total. For PG/PVG, the mean effect was r = .21, with only 11 of 20 studies reporting significant effects. While further evidence is required to determine the direction of causality, the strength of relationships suggests that policy action on LBs may have benefits for harm minimisation.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This paper conceptualizes “Gacha”, a lottery mechanism to win virtual items, which was developed in Japan, as game of chance elements in mobile games which is used for monetization in freemium business models. Based on the concept of Gacha, referring to previous studies, this paper also analyzes the difference of mobile game regulation between the West and Japan. Japan has a longer history and more experience in both monetization of mobile games with gambling like elements (Gacha) and its regulation including self-regulation. Specific kinds of Gacha are regulated in Japan, not because of its quasi-gamble mechanism, which is in contrast to previous study perception, but because of its misleading marketing promotion method. The Japanese regulatory approach to handle the game of chance issues is to increase the transparency of probability of winning which gives consumer better chances to consider their total amount of spending on Gacha.
Full-text available
In this article, we expand on the models available for defining various different business logics relevant to video game development, especially those concerning free-to-play games. We use the models to analyse those business logics from an Aristotelian virtue ethics perspective. We argue that if an individual wishes to follow the Aristotelian virtue ethics code in order to develop the virtues inherent in his or her own character (as in the personal character of the developer, not a character in the game), how he or she chooses to try and generate revenue from the fruits of his or her labour is not irrelevant. Moreover, we argue that some of these methods are in fact vices, which are damaging to the character of the developer, and should therefore be avoided.
Full-text available
Social, casual and mobile games, played on devices such as smartphones, tablets, or PCs and accessed through online social networks, have become extremely popular, and are changing the ways in which games are designed, understood, and played. These games have sparked a revolution as more people from a broader demographic than ever play games, shifting the stereotype of gaming away from that of hardcore, dedicated play to that of activities that fit into everyday life. Social, Casual and Mobile Games explores the rapidly changing gaming landscape and discusses the ludic, methodological, theoretical, economic, social and cultural challenges that these changes invoke. With chapters discussing locative games, the new freemium economic model, and gamer demographics, as well as close studies of specific games (including Candy Crush Saga, Angry Birds, and Ingress), this collection offers an insight into the changing nature of games and the impact that mobile media is having upon individuals and societies around the world.
The mobile social game market is expanding rapidly, and this study analyzed in-game purchases and limited-time event features of 31 popular mobile social games selected by young people (N = 2660) in Japan during November 2013. The results showed that in-game purchases were provided in 97% (30 games) of 31 games, and at least one of event features was found in 90% (28 games) of the games. Among the in-game purchases, gacha, roulette or lottery was one of the most frequent categories, and the payments for restoring stamina or health or for proceeding with the story was the other most frequent category. Both categories were found in 87% (27 games) of the games. Among the limited-time only event features, the limited-time only gacha was the most common and found in 84% (26 games), and the most expensive limited-time only gacha was more likely to be more expensive than the most expensive normal gacha.
This article assesses the regulation of smartphone 'app stores'. At the outset, the significance of smartphones and apps to the debate on Internet regulation is considered, and places in the context of the adoption of smartphones and apps. The importance (commercially and as a study in governance and control) of the iOS App Store (Apple) is highlighted, as is the need to explore forms of regulation that are not linked with a violation of competition law. Section 'Developer-focused issues' deals with the relationship between Apple and app developers; three themes of Apple's Guidelines are identified (content, development and payments), and the ways in which control can be challenged (through jailbreaking, 'web apps' and regulatory intervention) are scrutinized. Section 'Citizen- and consumer-focused issues' considers three ways in which apps are already regulated by law. The focus is on the protection of consumers (particularly through the UK system for 'premium rate services'), but a discussion of user privacy and the regulation of video games and video-on-demand services in Europe is also included. Finally, in the section 'Conclusion', the tension between comparatively 'open' and 'closed' app stores is highlighted; the problems of applying general provisions to emerging formats are emphasized. It is concluded that the emerging status of non-carrier app stores as neither retailer nor platform means that it is not yet possible to identify the form of regulation that is in operation, but that some steps are available to legislators that could shift the balance between closed and open models. © The Author (2013). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.
In this paper we look at three different groups of games. The traditional payment methods for games, although they do have their problems, are typically less problematic from ethical perspective than their more modern counterparts. Payment methods such as lure-to-pay use psychological tricks to lock the player to the game. Whereas pay to pass boring parts or pay to win just use game-external mechanics to make the play easier, and thus intent to, and have consequences other than at least many of the players would want to. This paper is a first stab at the topic from a Moorean just-consequentialist perspective, and in future papers we intend to compare a wider range of philosophical methods, payment methods as well as look into empirical data on players views on the topic.
Selling virtual goods for real money is an increasingly popular revenue model for massively-multiplayer online games (MMOs), social networking sites (SNSs) and other online hangouts. In this paper, we argue that the marketing of virtual goods currently falls short of what it could be. Game developers have long created compelling game designs, but having to market virtual goods to players is a relatively new situation to them. Professional marketers, on the other hand, tend to overlook the internal design of games and hangouts and focus on marketing the services as a whole. To begin bridging the gap, we propose that the design patterns and game mechanics commonly used in games and online hangouts should be viewed as a set of marketing techniques designed to sell virtual goods. Based on a review of a number of MMOs, we describe some of the most common patterns and game mechanics and show how their effects can be explained in terms of analogous techniques from marketing science. The results provide a new perspective to game design with interesting implications to developers. Moreover, they also suggest a radically new perspective to marketers of ordinary goods and services: viewing marketing as a form of game design.
Conference Paper
The Internet is famous for its fast-incubating capability. Mobile social service engineering is one of the fastest examples of that capability. The dynamism of mobile social service engineering has discouraged any reasonable systematic analysis. The author attempts to parse the dynamism using an historical approach. Mobile social service engineering in Japan has only 4 years of evolutionary history. However, retrospective analysis is one of the only feasible research approaches to analyze the massive repercussions of this evolution. The author gives a descriptive analysis of changes of industrial landscape over the last 4 years. Then, the author discusses six different view models to parse the three landmark mobile social games in Japan.