Japan regulators probe games sales tactic

Online games on Japanese social sites which encourage users to purchase multiple virtual items for chance to win rare prizes under investigation by country's Consumer Affairs Agency.

A sales gimmick by social games maker in Japan that encourages users to buy multiple virtual items for a chance to win a "rare virtual item" is under investigation by Japanese regulators, according to a local news report.

A Yomiuri report Sunday said the Consumer Affairs Agency had been investigating an online sales tactic known as "kompu gacha", or "complete gacha", after receiving complains about high charges of such games. The report added that the number of complaints of such games rose to 58 in 2011, up from only five complains in 2010.

The Japanese news outlet reported that the system employed by "kompu gacha" was similar to an illegal sales method called "cards combination". The method involves a business selling cards with unknown content at the time of purchase. When customers have collected a combination of cards, they can trade the cards in for a prize.

The "kompu gacha" system was introduced into Japanese social games by social networking site operators last year, it added.

The regulator plans to ask Social Game Platform Renraku Kyogikai, which consists of six social game makers to stop offering "kompu gacha" games, said Yomiuri.

According to the report, the online mobile phone games market in Japan is worth 250 billion yen (US$3.1 billion) and "kompu gacha" games have become a main source of revenue for the social networking site operators.

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