Korean gamers who enjoy training cartoon girls with horse ears and tails hold a horse-and-buggy protest at game company over pay-to-play rules

Umamusume Pretty Derby is a mobile game created by Japanese publisher Cygames in which players raise and train umamusume ("horse daughters" in Japanese), which are young girls with horse ears and tails. Korean players are upset because they say the Korean version requires players to pay for "loot boxes" containing special goodies, while the Japanese version requires only an upfront payment to play the game, with free loot boxes. As a consequence, Korean players shell out a lot more money to play the game. In addition to staging protests by riding a horse-and-buggy around the Seoul offices of Kakao Games (which has the Korean publishing rights to the game), they have filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, demanding $142 per player.

From Korea JoongAng Daily:

Users claim Kakao Games failed to give proper notice about major events in the game and offered fewer benefits to Korean users compared to Japanese, especially regarding loot boxes.

In late August, protests tailored to the game arose: angry players started taking horse-and-buggy rides around the Pangyo neighborhood in Gyeonggi that is home to Kakao Games.

Kakao Games released multiple apologies that were rebuffed for being "half-hearted."

Company managers sat down for a face-to-face talk with representatives of the pissed-off players on Sept. 17, but that ended badly. Kakao Games said it will hold another in-game event from Oct. 11 to 12 in an aim to appease users.

If Kakao loses the lawsuit, the pay-to-win business model that much of the Korean game industry relies on could collapse.

From Korea JoongAng Daily:

Major Korean game companies have focused on creating massively multiplayer online roleplaying games (MMORPG) in which users pay for loot boxes.Players are encouraged to spend millions, even billions, of won on each game. Even casual games or board games rely heavily on loot boxes to open up players' wallets.
"Korean game companies tilted toward the loot-box business model in order to secure a steady source of revenue, which did work in the past but consumers' expectations have changed," said Kim Young-jin, a professor at ChungKang College of Cultural Industries.
"Although it won't be easy for game companies to come up with a new business model in the short term, they have to realize that without doing something, consumers' dissatisfaction will only build up more."