What is Gacha: the Most Addictive Game Genre

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Gacha Games: the Most Popular Genre You’ve Never Heard Of

In september 2020 a chinese developer miHoYo launched a game Genshin Impact. It looks like a cartoonish Action RPG but in reality it’s a Gacha game. We understand that you’ve may never heard of Gacha games before. The most common reasons for this are that you aren’t an addictive type of person, don’t like anime girls and asian games at all. The Genshin Impact managed to earn $60 millions in the first week — but why? What made it so popular? Gacha mechanics.

gacha game explained

In this article we will tell about Gacha: how it was born, why it’s called Gacha and why you may want to develop such a game.

Why it’s called Gacha

The story of Gacha begins in 1888-s when the US Thomas Adams Gum Company has invented a gumball machine. Back in that time kids loved the chewing gum, but hated to wait in line to buy one. So a gumball machine installed in a store allowed kids to throw a penny and get the gum while those dumb adults stayed in line to buy milk. Gumball machines became very popular and still are in use even today.

In 1950-s americans were investing and building businesses in Japan. Somebody decided to import gumball machines and install them in markets just like in the US. Japanese liked the idea of such machines and improved it: loaded a machine with transparent plastic balls with toys instead of gum. Most toys were cheap, but among them were some good looking toys. Literally, it was a casino for kids: you throw a coin into the machine, turn the cracking hand and then get a ball. If you are lucky, you’ll get a nice toy car, and if you are not… well, enjoy your keychain or leaf-shaped eraser.

gacha balls

Japanese called these toy machines Gachapons or Gashapons — “gacha” for a cracking sound of hand turning and “pon” for a plastic ball. Gachapons became very popular in Japan and in Asia because kids were collecting gacha-toys and selling them. Big toy companies acknowledged this and started making toys exclusively for Gachapons — you couldn’t buy a toy like this in a store, only win it from the Gachapon machine.

And in 2010 Gachapons appeared in a game Dragon Collection. The point of the game was to fight with other players with available characters. Why does it need another genre if it is just a regular turn-based strategy? Because you couldn’t buy or find new characters — only win them in a gachapon-like mini game.

first gacha game

As you can see, there is even a button called “GACHA” for Gacha minigame.

What are the difference between Gacha and loot boxes

Modern Gacha games consist of grinding materials to buy a new gacha-ball and pray to get a character or item you don’t own. But why is it different from common lootboxes? There are two differences:

  • you can’t just buy a character you want, only a gacha-balls or resources for various upgrades;
  • lootboxes often contain cosmetic items which do not affect the gameplay. In Gacha games lootboxes drop characters with unique abilities, attacks and so on. So whatever you’ll get you won’t be disappointed.

Why gamers don’t like lootboxes and love gacha? There’s one reason and you may not understand it: anime girls. Gacha artists know how to draw cute girls and make somehow unique personalities, so the players feel connected to them. Moreover, a mediocre Gacha has more than 50 unique characters — the player can pick up a few that he likes the most.

fate grand order roster

There may be a second reason why gamers like Gacha: people love to collect things. And Gacha games give them hundreds of characters and weapons to collect. And because there are hundreds of “prizes” the player can get something new almost every day instead of spending a week farming for a one cool skin.

What is Gacha game in particular

The main feature is 50-100 unique characters divided in a few tiers. The rarest characters are the best looking and the most powerful ones. Also you can upgrade them to make them even more powerful.

And the second feature is anime style, bright colors and cute characters.

gacha character

That’s all. A Gacha game could be a visual novel, turn-based RPG, third-person slasher or even a card game. The Gacha game even can work without actual gameplay. In Kantai Collection you can only choose battleships (portrayed as anime girls of course), but every battle will be played in auto-mode.

So, RAID Shadow Legends, Hearthstone and League of Legends aren’t considered as Gacha because they have more realistic artstyle. In western games with lootboxes you can buy an item or a character with real money, in Gacha — only with lootboxes.

Why you may want to develop a Gacha game

Gacha isn’t a new trend, but until 2020 it was popular only in Japan and China. For example, the Kantai Collection we talked about isn’t even translated to english and the only way to play it is to change your IP-address to Japanese one.

Then some companies licensed characters from popular animes like Fate and made their games open for the western players. And gamers do like it: free to play Fate/ Grand Order made $3 billions because of Gacha-mechanics.

If you want to make a game like this and earn millions you’ll need a big team of professional artists. Remember: minimum of 50 unique characters. For a comparison, League of Legends has only 151 champions after 10 years of development.

But the good side is that you need almost nothing but character roster: Gacha-players want more champions to collect and not the deep gameplay mechanics to master. Here is Fate/Grand Order gameplay.

So if you have an idea for a game world with hundreds of cute girls doing something, a reason why the player must buy some gacha-balls to collect them and money to hire a dozen artists — you can develop such a game and start earning millions too.

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