Social games that mimic traditional casino pastimes like poker or slot machines have so far followed one broad guideline to avoid drifting into trouble with gambling regulators: let players put money in, but never get it out. Vulnerable people can be enticed to spend beyond their means in ways that for-cash online gambling companies either would not be allowed to, or could not afford to.
Most social games operate on a “freemium” model, meaning initial play is free, but players can choose to purchase extra weapons or game premiums and chips to advance faster or beat opponents. The gaming companies make most of their profit from the paying players rather than through advertising.
In April and May, Japanese social gaming companies came under fire over so-called complete gacha games, which offer players the chance to buy randomly generated tokens which can be swapped for game prizes. Gree has agreed to limit players aged 16 to 19 to 10,000 yen (£80) in spending per month, and under 16s to 5,000 yen.