Sky Bet, the most popular one in Britain, compiled extensive records about a user, tracking him in ways he never imagined.
The New York Times has a good story about What Sky Bet, The Gambling App, Knows About You. It talks about the profile that Sky Bet in the UK built on a customer who had an addiction problem with gambling.
The company, or one of the data providers it had hired to collect information about users, had access to banking records, mortgage details, location coordinates, and an intimate portrait of his habits wagering on slots and soccer matches.
We tend to focus on what the big guys have and forget all the lesser known information aggregators and middlemen who buy and sell data. This story also provides an example of how valuable data can be to a business like online gambling that wants to attract the clients who are likely to get addicted to gambling.
The Replaying Japan Journal has issued a call for papers for Issue 3 with a deadline of September 30th, 2020. See the Current Call for Papers – Replaying Japan. The RJJ publishes original research papers on Japanese videogames, game culture and related media. We also publish translations, research notes, and reviews.
The RJJ is available online and in print, published by the Ritsumeikan (University) Center for Game Studies (See the RCGS English Pamphlet too). Inaba, Mitsuyuki is the Editor in Chief and Fukuda, Kazafumi is the Associate Editor. I and Jérémie Pelletier-Gagnon are the English Editors.
Articles in either Japanese or English are accepted. The Japanese Call for Papers is here.
I’ve been meaning to write for while about Kompu Gacha (or Complete Gacha), a game mechanic that was popular in Japanese mobile games until it was banned in 2012 (see this story too). Kompu gacha is an extreme (or complete) form of the gacha game mechanic which was in turn inspired by the ubiquitous gachapon vending machines you find in Japan where for a couple of coins you get a small loot box (sphere) with a random gift in some theme or series. Children collect items by buying the loot boxes with the hopes of getting new trinkets in series that they collect and trade. Mobile games in Japan borrowed this well known play mode and began to include virtual loot boxes that you could buy in-game. Developers fine tuned the system to the point where millions of yen were being spent on vanishingly rare items. This led to a public controversy after there were cases of youth spending thousands of dollars that then led to banning the loot boxes.
There are a number of reasons why this mechanic and its banning are interesting:
- It is an example of the grey area between gaming and gambling. In fact, Belgium has also outlawed video game loot boxes as gambling.
- Gacha mechanics in general are economically important to Japanese mobile/social game design.
- They are an interesting mechanic in and of themselves and show how an element of randomness that has consequences can be fun. Philosophers and historians of gambling have noted the importance of the element of real risk to the intesity of gambling. It gives everyone a chance to be heroic.
I should mention that it was Mark Johnson and Tom Brock who drew my attention to loot boxes. They have been doing important research on loot boxes and giving papers on the subject.