Article on pay to win games in Japan

I never knew about the scale of the Japanese mobile game market until I read this article.

Gung ho’s puzzles and dragons grossed 1.3b$ last year.
DeNA has 50 data analysts.
Half of the top 10 mobile game publishers worldwide ranked by revenue in 2014 were Japanese, even though only one made the list ordered by number of downloads, according to App Annie.

What are your thoughts about pay to win? I would never play them

Puzzle & Dragons is a game blocked in several countries and still can make 1.3b$/year. Good job.

If you are a fan of Southpark (I’m such a huge fan of it), there is S18E06 “Freemium Isn’t Free.” This episode is hilarious. (if on your country it’s free to watch, you can watch it on or
But in the end, those games exploit/abuse the stupidity of people that would play those games and spend more money just to get the feeling of success. It’s almost like gambling.

It’s really epic,
And story about dopamine.
(same have dopamine problems :frowning: but some another way,
lose pleasure from many things like playing games all week long or watch all seasons some fun TV show:
like it was before - when I was teenager, but maybe its natural… in any case its not fun =)
hm… maybe problems because it’s less self rewarding than before)

Thanks for the link! I’ll watch that episode this weekend.
Yes I agree that this is like gambling and would give an empty feeling to players after they realise their error. In fact Yu-kai Chou who made the Octalysis framework calls these techniques ‘black hat’.
To the Japanese firm’s credit, the article does say that they limit the amount they charge each gamer per day.
I actually heard that in ‘Game Of War’, an American pay-to-play game, some child in Belgium spent 37,000 euros on their parents’ credit card in that game. How absurd!

Choosing stupid* people as your target demographic is never a bad business decision. As true in mobile games as in door to door sales.

*I suppose the politically correct term would be ‘vulnerable’.

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I played some free games myself and in one specific game (crossfire europe) i noticed one thing:
I used to spent small amounts, when ever a special weapon i liked was available. Therefore i always though, well it’s just 5 or 10€, but if i summ it up, i spent about 100€, which is more then you pay for a usual AAA-Game.
They are also using another trick: You can’t buy the weapons directly, but you buy capsules, containing random items. The weapon is just the jackpot, and the chance to get it is pretty small. So it’s a combination of premium and gambling… I know about people who spent more then 1000€ on that game…

That’s interesting @Springrbua, I can see how that would be fun.
It’s like buying a surprise lolly bag at a fair, or a pack of random collectable cards that might have a super valuable one inside, but probably doesn’t. I believe that ‘Magic the Gathering’ uses this technique too.
Do you think the micro-transactions are a good element? I suppose that they would make the game better-funded and therefore better developed, balanced, content-filled, interesting and evolving?
I also wonder if it was possible to enjoy the game without the good weapons that can only be bought.

It reminds me of when I played paintball with some friends. We all agreed to get the stock standard entry level pump-action gun to avoid being up-sold by the paintball salespeople. For most of us, it’s all we could afford. But some people splashed out on automatic paintball guns. They annihilated us! They were 5 times more effective and inflicted much more pain, lol. We still had fun, but there was definitely resentment against their superior fire-power. Like pay-to-win games, the paintball sales people created an arms race where the wealthiest, most determined or least rational player will win the game, but lose their cash.

Well the micro-transactions themselfe are not a good component (from player sight), but the company has to earn some money for the game.
The so called Capsule-Shop, imho, is a good component. There are also capsules you can buy with in-game-money, so also non-premium-players can try their luck (just with different weapons).
The game was pretty balanced, the weapons you can get with premium-capsules are usualy just modified versions of normal weapons. They use to have a special skin (for example X-Mas Skin) and sligthly better stats (recoil, firing speed…) then thir normal counterparts. Also, some of them have an additional feature like a silencer, but they are not to overpowered.
But there are some exceptions:

  • The mele-weapons: The only way to get permanent melee weapons are premium capsules. There are a few you can “rent” with in-game-money, but they are pretty expensive
  • The VIP-Weapons: Some time ago they started adding VIP-Weapons. You can buy them directly, without having luck. They cost about 70€ and are a bit overpowered.

I am sure, that the micro-transactions/the capsule shop makes the game better-funded, but it does not seem to make the game better developed and balanced. It seems, that new updates contain only new VIP/Premium-Capsule weapons and a few maps…

But the biggest problem are stil the hackers. A free-game attracts hackers, as they don’t lose anything, when they are detected.
So i guess they should work on anti-hack-tools instead of adding premium-content, but they don’t seem to do that :smiley: