Gacha Games 101: The Good, The Bad, and The Addictive
Gacha games have exploded in popularity in recent years. In this blog, we will explore the world of gacha games and discuss the appeal and controversies surrounding this genre.
- What is a gacha game?
- Are gacha games considered gambling?
- Gacha “whales”
- Can you play a gacha game without spending money?
- Notable examples
What is a gacha game?
Video games that use the “gacha” mechanism to distribute in-game content are known as gacha games. The word “gacha” was derived from the Japanese name for a coin-operated toy vending machine, “gashapon,” in which people put in money in exchange for a surprise toy. These machines have been a staple in arcades and other public spaces around Japan for decades. In gacha games, players spend either in-game currency or real money to “pull” for the chance to obtain a rare in-game item or character.
Gacha! flickr photo by jpellgen shared under a Creative Commons license
Usually, there is a wide variety of characters or items to collect, and the rarity of each is indicated by a star rating. The greater the rarity and power, the higher the star rating. Then, players can use the characters or items they’ve collected to battle against other players or advance through the game.
Gacha games have exploded in popularity in recent years due to their addictive nature and ability to generate substantial revenue for developers.
©Arifred Yamamoto/COMIC METEOR/RIKEKOI PROJECT2
The thrill that one gets from playing gacha games is comparable to that of playing the lottery or a slot machine, which is perhaps why they are so widely enjoyed. When players “roll” for new characters or items, they receive a random result that can range from a common prize to a rare and valuable one. This randomness keeps players coming back for more, hoping to get lucky and score a rare reward.
The fact that they frequently feature different types of material to keep players interested is also a contributing factor to their addictive nature. Added story modes and a wide range of collectible characters are just two examples. There’s a lot to take in, and it can be hard to stay up with others, which might lead to excessive playing.
Aside from the games themselves, users can also interact with one another in dedicated online communities. This social aspect provides a deeper level of engagement and may make it difficult for players to step away from the game.
Are gacha games considered gambling?
While the popularity of gacha games continues to rise, the question of whether or not they should be considered gambling has caused debate and controversy.
One argument against gacha games being considered gambling is that they do not involve betting or risking money for the chance of financial gain. Instead, players are spending their money on in-game virtual items that have no real-world equivalent. However, others argue that using real money to buy these things is the same as gambling because players have no control over the stuff they receive and anyone can win rare or otherwise desirable items at random.
There have been efforts in some countries to regulate gacha games as a form of gambling. In 2019, the Netherlands Gaming Authority ruled that certain gacha games violated the country’s gambling rules and ordered their removal or alteration to comply with the law. Similarly, in 2021, the Australian government released a review of loot box mechanics in video games, which concluded that they do meet the legal definition of gambling and recommended that they be regulated as such.
With the exception of a few countries, they are not considered gambling and are not regulated in any way. This has led to criticism from some who argue that these games can be particularly predatory towards children and vulnerable individuals, who may be more likely to become addicted to the randomized rewards and spend significant amounts of money on them.
In the context of gacha games, “whales” refers to players who spend a large amount of money on in-game purchases, particularly on randomized virtual items like those found in loot boxes. These players are called “whales” because they are seen as a valuable source of revenue for the game, similar to the high-rolling “whales” in the casino industry.
Gacha games are often designed to be highly addictive with the goal of getting players to keep spending money in order to obtain rare or powerful items. This can lead to some players, particularly those who are more vulnerable to addiction or who have the financial capability, to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on in-game purchases.
While the vast majority of players do not fit into the “whale” category, these players can be a significant source of revenue for the game and may be targeted with special offers or promotions to encourage them to keep spending. Gacha games have also been criticized for exploiting players’ addictions and causing financial troubles for those who can’t control their spending.
Can you play a gacha game without spending money?
Most gacha games are designed to be free-to-play, with the option for players to purchase in-game currency or items using real money. While these purchases can often make the game easier or allow players to progress faster, it is possible to play the game without spending any money and to earn in-game currency or items through regular play.
However, it is important to note that gacha games frequently use a variety of tactics to lure players to spend money, such as limited-time characters or making it simpler for players who pay to receive rare or powerful items. Because of this, it’s easy for players to fall into the trap of overspending when they feel pressured to spend money to keep up with others or get certain characters.
Even if you don’t want to spend any money, you can still have fun with a gacha game, but it may take you longer to unlock specific content and characters. Players should keep track of their money and establish limits to prevent addiction and overspending.
New gacha games are consistently released, demonstrating the genre’s continued success. Characters, plots, and game mechanics in these games span a wide range, making them suitable for players of all interests.
Some popular gacha games include:
Genshin Impact - The game has generated over $1 billion in revenue within just six months of its release, making it one of the most successful games of all time. Additionally, the game has received numerous awards, including the Google Play Award for Best Game of 2020 and the Golden Joystick Award for Best Ongoing Game.
Fate/Grand Order - A mobile RPG game based on the Fate/stay night visual novel. It was developed and published by Aniplex, and was released in Japan in 2015. The game has since gained a large following around the world, with over 50 million downloads worldwide.
Azur Lane - One interesting aspect of Azur Lane is its use of a cast of female characters known as “shipgirls.” Each shipgirl is based on a real World War II warship and has their own skills and abilities. Players can collect and use a wide range of shipgirls to build teams for battles.
Fire Emblem Heroes - It features playable characters from earlier Fire Emblem games, and players can assemble teams of their preferred heroes for tactical fights. It’s been recognized for having hard gameplay and extensive character development.
So, are gacha games worth playing? When it comes to gaming, it all boils down to the preferences of the individual player. If you’re the type that enjoys the thrill out of collecting rare items or characters and are prepared to put in the effort (and potentially cash) to do so, then gacha games might be just up your alley. However, if you’re not interested in investing a significant amount of resources into a mobile game, or if the randomized nature of the gacha system doesn’t appeal to you, then a gacha game might not be the best choice.
Keep in mind that “whale” players are common participants in gacha games, spending large amounts of money to obtain the most desirable characters and items. This can make people who are unable or unwilling to spend as much feel like the “whale” players have an unfair advantage. It’s important to consider whether or not this type of environment is something you’re comfortable with before deciding to play a gacha game.
Gacha Games 101: The Good, The Bad, and The Addictive