The Impact And Popularization of Gacha Games

by on May 27, 2023

From Genshin Impact to NIKKE and Shadow Legends, “gacha games” have taken over the world. In both Android and iOS, players will find numerous games of this genre from big-name franchises like Marvel, Star Wars, and more. But, what are gacha games exactly? Why are they so popular? And why are they often compared to online gambling? Let’s discuss. 

The origins and rise of gacha games 

Essentially, gacha games are video games where players use real-world money to acquire random, in-game items. The term “gacha” comes from the Japanese word Gachapon — toy capsule vending machines. Gachapon capsules contain random figures, so it’s impossible to predict what you’ll get. The same thing happens in gacha games. Players may land a premium playable character or an item they already had or didn’t want. While most gacha games are free-to-play mobile games, this mechanic incentivizes players to spend money to move forward. 

While gacha may seem like a new phenomenon in the Western world, these games have been around for nearly two decades now. In 2004, South Korean Wizet developed MapleStory. This 2D, multiplayer game allowed players to buy Gachapon tickets for 100 yen per unit. Three years later Zhengtu, a Chinese MMO, gave players the chance of winning extra privileges through Gacha rolls. 

While widely criticized, Zhengtu’s commercial success paved the way for the popularization of Gacha games in Asia, particularly in Japan, in the early 2010s. Nowadays, however, Western companies such as EA, Activision, and Ubisoft, have also embraced the model. 

CD Projekt Red’s F2P Gwent card game (a spin-off of their Witcher series), for example, uses a gacha mechanic to help players build their card decks. FIFA Ultimate Team is yet another example of gacha that enables players to buy packs consisting of a random set of players, power-ups, and collectibles. 

Similar concepts 

Gacha game’s monetization and luck factor has sparked comparisons to other forms of entertainment like NFT play-to-earn games and online gambling. 

Similarly to gacha games, play-to-earn (P2E) games enable players to purchase in-game currency with fiat money, collect premium items, and level up their characters. The key difference is that P2E players can earn NFT rewards in the form of weapons, outfits, and skins that have real-world value. Yet, most P2E games are still in development and lack the quality of gacha games. 

What about online gambling? When you access a mobile browser casino or pokie site, you need to make a deposit in order to play pokies, blackjack, or roulette. Just like in gacha games, you spend money to earn a higher reward from a process where the outcome is always unknown. However, while certain slots have a theme and gamification factor, they lack the colorful characters and complex storylines present in gacha games. And, unlike those games, you aren’t guaranteed a reward. 

Wrapping up

Gacha games are more popular than ever, with EA, Activision, and Ubisoft amassing great success by embracing the genre. While they are usually compared to P2E and casino games, they remain a unique form of entertainment with their own characteristics and distinctive appeal.

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