New Bill in Singapore Could Spell Trouble for F2P Games
A new gambling bill has been introduced to Parliament in Singapore that, according to local law firms, is so broad, that it could affect free-to-play game operators. The "Remote Gambling Bill" is designed to regulate remote gambling in the region, which would include gambling over the Internet, telephone, interactive TV, radio, and any other communication technology that is collectively refered to as "remote communication." The bill is aimed to update current gambling laws that were enacted in the 1960s.
The intent of this bill is to protect Singaporeans, and in particular, younger tech-savvy Singaporeans, from the dangers of gambling, as well as prevent gambling operations as a conduit to fund other illegal activities. Local Singapore law firm, Stamford Law, has warned that the definition of gambling is too broad, in the sense that it defines gambling as "playing a game of chance for money or money's worth." Futhermore, another local law firm, Rajah & Tann, notes that the bill not only affects local Singaporean game developers, but foreign ones as well.
Kompu Gacha aka Gachapon
As reported by Games in Asia, this bill, under its current incarnation, would directly affect games that use the "Kompu Gacha," or "Gashapon" feature that is popular in many Japanese games.
"Gashapon" is Bandai brand trademark that is the onomatopoeia words for "Gacha" (the sound a toy vending machine makes when turning its crank) and "pon" (the sound the toy vending machine makes when the toy is dispensed). Nowadays, games made by DeNA (aka Mobage), GREE, and Mixi, all employ this method of gaming in their games, which is known as "Kompu Gacha." (short for "Computer Gachapon")
These are just a small component of the games, where there is a daily bonus game where users can spend 100 to 300 yen for a chance to obtain a special in-game item. It is certainly a game of chance, as there is no guarantee that the user will obtain such a special item.
"Playing a Game of Chance For Money or Money's Worth"
According to Stamford Law, this statement is where things are a bit too broad. The phrase, "game of chance," is defined as any game that involves both an element of chance and an element of skill. So just about any game with a Gachapon feature falls under this category of a "game of chance." Additionally, the phrase "money's worth," is defined as virtual objects, coins, tokens, credits, and any other similar monetization scheme used to make in-app game purchases, that potentially covers virtually any other type of F2P game.
In essence, if this bill passes, (which is scheduled to have a second reading on 10/7) gaming in Singapore will be taking a giant step backwards, as both game developers and gamers can be persecuted for playing Gachapon and making in-app game purchases.
To add insult to injury, the bill also allows the police and other government officials to storm into the studios and offices of developers that are "reasonably suspected" of violating the law.
Singapore has a long standing tradition of passing absurd laws with outrageous penalties. Just ask Michael Fay! Hopefully this law will not be passed, but if it does, it probably won't be of surprise to too many people.