This month's "They spent how much on a free-to-play game?" story comes from Japan, which has a yen (heh) for creating "gacha" games that put rare goodies into randomized boxes that players have to pay for, akin to western MMOs' loot boxes.
Near the end of last year, a game called Granblue Fantasy had a limited-time offer where it would double the chance of receiving rare characters from a gacha box, from 3% to 6%. In doing so, it set off a feeding frenzy for players seeking a character called Anchira, described as "blonde, scantily-clad, big-eyed" with "special healing powers." One chance to get her costs 300 yen, or about $2.67, and she's just one of several rare characters you might have acquired with your 6% odds.
As described at Bloomberg.com, one excitable player streamed his efforts to get Anchira on New Year's Eve, opening box after box and being denied over 2,000 times. It wasn't until his 2,276th attempt that he finally unlocked Anchira. The price of his endeavor? $6,065. You can see a video of his entire stream here.
Other players voiced similar frustrations, including one unnamed player who spent over $7,000 in pursuit of Anchira, prompting another player to circulate a petition calling for regulation regarding this kind of quasi-predatory business practices in F2P games. It collected 2,000 signatures.
Cygames, the maker of Granblue Fantasy, eventually issued an apology for the incident and refunded the currency -- but not the cash -- of some players. It also instituted a policy capping sales at 300 of an item, or around $800, granting the desired rare drop after the 300th try. Of course, what's good for the public is bad for the shareholders:
Shares of the nation’s mobile gamemakers tumbled by a total value of more than $1 billion the day Cygames began issuing refunds.
Japanese game makers went through a similar situation in 2012, which prompted some legislation, though it appears Cygames found a way to circumvent those restrictions. And, as the person circulating the petition notes, it probably won't change unless children are targeted, which in itself prompts other issues, which we've covered before.
What are your thoughts on these kind of matters? Should there be laws against this sort of thing? Should companies put in their own restrictions, as Cygames eventually did, to prevent overspending by consumers? Or is it wholly the fault of the players for blowing their cash on low-percentage pursuits?
About the Author
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.
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