Genshin Game
The game is having a huge impact on the public's perception of gacha games — and their wallets. (Illustration by Xingzhou Cheng, Fashion Institute of Technology)

The Popularity of Genshin Impact Is Putting Gacha Games in the Spotlight

Gacha games have players trading real money for in-game currency and gambling on randomized items. This new, wildly popular game is bringing more attention to the genre.

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Genshin Game

Gacha games have players trading real money for in-game currency and gambling on randomized items. This new, wildly popular game is bringing more attention to the genre.

Taking the world by storm, Genshin Impact is considered the most popular free-to-play role-playing game to date after racking up $245 million in its first month of release. By coming out on many platforms, such as PS4, iOS, Android and Windows, with cross-play support, the game has captured a wide audience who might normally stick to one platform. The wide variety of playing options opens up a lot of opportunities for players to join in on the worldwide hype, but what is the catch?

What is gacha and what role does it play in Genshin Impact?

Following in the footsteps of popular gacha games like Fate/Grand Order and Fire Emblem Heroes, Genshin Impact offers an alternative to grinding through the story to obtain in-game currency — in this case, Primogems. Gacha games, which derive their name from Japanese toy vending machines, refer to games that involve spending in-game money to acquire items in the game; similar to “loot boxes,” spending real-world money expedites the process of obtaining the in-game currency, and subsequently, desired virtual items.

In Genshin Impact, players are given the option to purchase large quantities of Genesis Crystals, which are only attainable through using real-life money. Purchased Genesis Crystals can be converted into Primogems, which can then be converted into “Intertwined Fate” or “Acquaint Fate”; depending on the Fate, they can be used to “wish” for new characters and/or weapons.

Sounds fairly simple, right? Unfortunately, there is a catch. Although Genshin Impact offers the opportunity to obtain new playable characters and weapons, there is no guarantee that they will get them — or rather, the ones they actually want. This is the true nature of gacha — consuming in-game currency to collect randomized items while hoping to get what you truly wanted.

Like other games that use the gacha system, Genshin Impact baits players into exchanging real-life currency for in-game currency. Of course, that is what makes gacha games frustrating, but at the same time, all-the-more exciting. But similar to entering a lottery or a giveaway, the chances of players getting what they want are very slim.

Genshin Impact, in particular, has strict drop rates for higher-starred characters and weapons. Each character or weapon is ranked as 3-star, 4-star or 5-star — 5-star being the most exclusive. From time to time, there are promotional characters or weapons, where 5-star characters/weapons have a 0.6% chance of dropping, 4-star items have a 5.1% chance of dropping and 3-star items have a 94.3% chance of dropping.

People usually gun for the 5-star items since they are extremely rare and difficult to obtain. Many 5-star items are also considered to have the best stats, abilities and ratings, therefore giving players more of a reason to get them, even if that takes spending real-life money. To provide a little hope, the game also has a “pity” system, where if a player does not receive a 4-star item or higher after nine summon attempts, they will be guaranteed at least one on the 10th attempt. If they do not receive a 5-star item after 89 attempts, they will be given one on the 90th attempt.

Players do have the option to obtain in-game currency by playing the game itself; however, it takes much more time this way. Some characters and weapons are limited for a period of time, so this time pressure, along with attending to real-life duties, sways some people into paying for Genesis Crystals instead. It is an “easy” substitute for spending time online.

What makes gacha addicting and popular?

Gacha has been around since 1965, eventually making its way into video games. However, many people question why it remains popular despite its discouraging features — which is fair, considering how players roll with hopes that they would get the character or characters they want. Since it is not guaranteed, what makes them continue to play?

Like every other game, the storyline and gameplay also matter. Genshin Impact happens to possess beautiful open-world visuals and an intricate plot line to immerse the player into the Genshin universe. Players can easily switch between the four characters on their team, with each character possessing an exclusive pair of skills. This makes the gameplay fairly simple, but at the same time, extremely distinctive.

Another reason as to why some gacha games are popular is due to a pre-existing fanbase. Games like Fate/Grand Order and Fire Emblem Heroes have fans that want to support the release of things related to what they enjoy. Fate/Grand Order is connected to the Fate/Stay Night franchise, which is currently one of the most popular series in Japan. Fire Emblem Heroes is based on the Fire Emblem video game series published by Nintendo. With their pre-existing connections with fans, these series induce fans to support the game, even if the cost-benefit ratio for virtual items are relatively low.

And although the chance to obtain a high-ranking character is slim, when a player does receive one, it only increases their hopes that it will happen again soon. The feeling of euphoria when a desired character pops up in the roster after a lucky summon is what makes gacha addicting in itself. To increase the chances of this happening, players desperately pour real-life money into the game until they are satisfied with the pulls they get.

Connected to this idea, some people play gacha purely for the joy of collecting. Collect all the characters and items, and that feeling of satisfaction would boost. Ultimately, however, the enjoyment comes from what the game itself has to offer. Without a beautifully designed world, or at least the presence of charming characters and rewards, the gacha aspect of many games might not be enough to satiate the needs of players.

Genshin Impact: A New Star Approaches version update and what to look forward to in the future

Related to the gacha aspects of Genshin Impact, a new update dropped recently, featuring new content, including new characters “Childe” Tartaglia and Kätzlein “Cocktail” Diona. Another widely anticipated character, Zhongli, is rumored to make an appearance next month. Hopefully, this new character will be accompanied by more storyline quests, and opportunities to earn more Primogems come into the light.

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