We are on the brink of the arrival of two potentially new massive games from Chinese developers in the wake of the success of Genshin Impact, which has generated billions in revenue since its release.
One is from Genshin developer Hoyoverse, Zenless Zone Zero, and one is from Perfect World, Tower of Fantasy, a new MMORPG.
I’ve played Tower of Fantasy, and sure enough, maybe 15 minutes into the game, you’ll be introduced to the gacha system, a system where you pull for powerful, rare weapons and attached skins to use. Zenless Zone Zero will also have a gacha-based character roster, and of course, gacha is the reason Genshin Impact made so much money in the first place. You don’t just pay for power, you gamble for it.
However, Gacha creates an interesting problem if you like these games, and it’s something I don’t really experience in the same way with other games. With most live service games, the problem is time. As in, I can’t keep up with every new development from Destiny, Outriders, Avengers, Division and Wonderlands at the same time. But if I want to keep up? Paying $10 for a new season or $20-40 for an expansion isn’t the end of the world.
But gacha? That is different. While Genshin Impact does a good job of giving players a ton of freedom to essentially play the entire game without spending any money, they do a for a bit well done creating attractive characters and weapons so that you want spend money. And spend money I have.
This has created a strange situation where I feel like I’m so invested in Genshin Impact, that I’m turned off from these other games in the same genre, because I don’t want/can’t afford to start a gacha “collection” all over again. It’s hard to imagine investing in Tower of Fantasy or Zenless Zone Zero instead of just continuing with Genshin as they continue to add content and new regions.
In the case of Hoyoverse, this becomes downright cannibalism. It’s easy to see how a situation arises where a player has an interest in both ZZZ and Genshin, but not the budget for both. So either they spend less on Genshin or don’t bother with ZZZ at all.
In the case of Perfect World, if you’ve made your entire monetization system to reflect a rival, you’d better deliver a product that is more attractive than that rival. It’s not a traditional game where you just have to convince a player to spend $60 for a box copy, Tower of Fantasy has to deal with trying to win over Genshin players who put tens, hundreds, or even thousands of dollars in that. ecosystem, and tell them to start over, or stick with perma-f2p.
The thing about gacha is… it works. There is so much revenue on the table here with this model that some find predatory, that these sacrifices might be okay. Hoyoverse not concern where you spend as long as you spend somewhere with them. And even if Tower of Fantasy takes 20% of Genshin’s catch, that’s still huge.
Still, I wonder what the long-term durability of gacha is. If this becomes an increasingly common revenue path, I wonder if the genre is eating itself as it just isn’t sustainable for the player. Or it becomes an instant letdown before the game even starts, ie I’m less interesting in Tower of Fantasy because it’s gacha, and Genshin taught me how much of a sink that can be. This also seems like something that’s headed for possible regulation, as “loot boxes” are doomed to fail in many places. It’s the same concept, but honestly, in many ways worse.
There’s definitely some west versus east stuff here, as gacha is much more common and accepted in Asia, and is only just emerging in the west with games like this, but it’s something I definitely want to keep an eye on , and see how durable this is across the great arc of the trend.
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