A gacha game (Japanese: ガチャ ゲーム, Hepburn: gacha gēmu) is a video game that implements the gacha (toy vending machine) mechanic. Similar to loot boxes, gacha games entice players to spend in-game currency to receive a random in-game item. Some in-game currency generally can be gained through game play, and some by purchasing it from the game publisher using real-world funds.
The gacha game model began to be widely used in the early 2010s, particularly in Japan. Gacha mechanics have become an integral part of Japanese mobile game culture. The game mechanism is also increasingly used in Chinese and Korean games, as well as Western games.
A gacha game will have collectable characters, cards, or other items. Many of them are obtainable only through a "gacha" mechanic, wherein the player exchanges in-game currency for "pulls" or "spins", each pull yielding a random collectable "drop". The "pulls" are analogous to spins on a slot machine or roulette wheel.
Some of the "drops" drop less frequently than others. As such, drops can often be categorized into rarity "tiers". Historically, gacha games did not always share their droprates. Those that did so were called "open gacha" and those that didn't were "closed gacha". In many jurisdictions it is now legally required for the item rarities to be public information. As such, virtually all contemporary gacha games share this information.
Some gacha models use an "eventually guaranteed drop" mechanic called "pity": the player will be guaranteed a given drop after pulling for it a large number of times without success. Pity mechanics can be "soft" or "hard". "Soft" pity increases the probability slightly of getting a rare item with every pull, counting up and recalculating the probability until the rare item is received, while "hard" pity uses a counter to keep track of the number of pulls and automatically dispense the rare item after reaching a preset number of rolls.
Gacha games often feature several in-game currencies with intricate conversion methods, obscuring the actual value of non-premium currencies. While players can earn the "premium" currency during gameplay, it's available in strictly limited amounts.
Many kinds of virtual items can be in the loot table for a banner. Gameplay units such as cards, characters, equippable gear, or more abstract loot such as "experience" are all possible.
Login and task rewards
In many games, gacha rewards are essential for players to make progress in the game. Players are generally given free or discounted gachas in low amounts on a regular schedule, in exchange for logging in or doing in-game tasks.
Banners are "pools" of available items (characters, loot, cards, etc) that players can "roll" on. Offered banners can be perpetually available or can have a limited duration. Games generally have some of both, with player retention efforts and in-game advertising emphasizing the limited availability of some or all of the items in the latter.
Sometimes, these banners are limited, such that specific prizes can only be obtained within a specific event time-frame.
Stamina is a resource that is required for, and consumed by, core in-game actions such as (in a fighting-oriented game) beginning combat encounters. It regenerates over time, often only up to a cap. It can typically be regenerated or gained instantly through some form of microtransaction or premium currency spending. The name for this resource is usually different on a per-game basis, but stamina is typically the general term used for this type of currency in general across games.
This is a list of game mechanics that may be used in a game's implementation of gacha mechanics. Some mechanics are nearly or entirely obsolete due to regulatory requirements.
|Complete gacha||"Complete gacha" (コンプリートガチャ), also shortened as "kompu gacha" or "compu gacha" (コンプガチャ), is a monetization model popular in Japanese mobile video games until 2012, when it was made illegal by Japan's Consumer Affairs Agency.
In this scheme, there are desirable items. The desirable item cannot be rolled for directly. The player must collect (that is, pull) a specific set of other items, and upon completion they unlock the desirable item.
The first few items in a set can be rapidly acquired but as the number of missing items decreases it becomes increasingly unlikely that redeeming a loot box will complete the set (see coupon collector's problem) since eventually one single, specific item is required.
|Box gacha||Box gacha is "pulling, without replacement". There is a slate of items in the box or banner, in specific quantities rather than via "with replacement", each-roll-is-independent probability. Over successive rolls, the set of possible "draws" shrinks until the player has all of the items.|
|Redraw gacha||Redraw gacha allows the player to "re-roll": to give up the rolled item in exchange for another roll and so a chance at a different result. the gacha, returning their drawn item in exchange for another opportunity to draw, so as to potentially get something else. Some games offer this feature for free.
Games commonly offer some free rolls at the start, e.g. during a tutorial. Players might "re-roll" by creating new accounts and doing the starter rolls on each until they get the draws they want.
|Consecutive gacha||Consecutive gacha improves the chances of receiving rare rewards when the player spends in bulk. As opposed to spending a set amount for individual rolls, a player can spend a larger amount in order to roll several times in a row for a slightly discounted price.|
|Step-up gacha||The player's rates are improved for each consecutive roll or instance of spending within a single session or a limited time period (e.g. five checkpoints; must roll five times or spend five times within half an hour to get the rewards for step one, two, three, four, and five in succession.)|
|Open versus closed gacha||Gacha that show (open) versus hide (closed) the exact probabilities of pulling rare items.|
Game developers have praised gacha as a free-to-play monetization strategy. Most developers that work primarily with free-to-play games recommend it be incorporated into the game starting with the concept for maximum monetization potential.
It has been debated what makes gacha so addictive to so many players. Proposed mechanisms include playing on the hunter-gatherer instinct to collect items, as well as the desire to complete a set, effective use of the "fear of missing out", or, simply the same mechanisms that drive gambling.
An aspect of monetization commonly found in the financing of gacha games involves a model where a large part of the game's revenue comes from a very small proportion of players who spend an unusually large amount of money on gacha rolls, essentially subsidising the game for other players who may spend smaller amounts of money, or even free-to-play players that spend no money at all. The high-spending players are often colloquially referred to as "whales".
Criticism and controversy
Resemblance to gambling
In May 2012, an article was published in the Yomiuri Shimbun, that criticized social networking games and specifically gacha for exploiting the naivety of children to make a profit. The main complaint of the article was that the gacha model too closely resembled gambling. The paper called for an investigation by Japan's Consumer Affairs Agency to prevent abuse of the system.[full citation needed]
Several cases of teenagers and even younger kids spending equivalents of over US$1000 have been reported in the media. Shortly after, the suggested investigation was performed and the model of complete gacha was declared illegal by the Consumer Affairs Agency. The Consumer Affairs Agency stated that virtual items could be considered "prizes" under existing legislation written in 1977 to prevent the complete gacha practice in the context of baseball trading cards. Within a month of the statement being issued, all major Japanese game publishers had removed complete gacha rules from their games, though many developers found ways around this.
Several lawsuits have been filed in Japan against companies publishing gacha games, sometimes resulting in decreases in stock prices. Japanese mobile game developers, including GREE and DeNA, worked to establish a self-regulating industry group, the Japan Social Game Association, which was an attempt to push developers from these models, but it did not prove successful, and the Association was disbanded by 2015.
The mechanism has come under scrutiny for its similarity to gambling. Some countries require drop rates to be made public, or have banned certain practices (e.g., complete gacha). Many players also feel regret after making purchases in these games according to a survey. Gacha games have also been criticized for exposing children to gambling-like mechanics where they will also potentially have the ability to make in-game payments.
A 2019 research paper has noted that "the gacha system has proven to be addictive and problematic" and speculated that the loopholes in the gacha system could be exploited for international money laundering.
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