Gacha system

Yougal Chettri
9 min readOct 17, 2022

Chance is everything, the probability Theory

The Gacha model began widely in 2010s originally from Japan with Konami introducing it in the mobile game, Dragon Collection. The Gacha mechanic is simple wherein a person spends some fee to receive a random reward. A very simple way to explain a Gacha system would be a Gumball machine where you insert a coin to receive a different coloured gumballs (the term” gacha” comes from the Japanese word “gachapon” meaning toy vending machine). The mechanic is widely used by video game publishers as a means of monetizing their content. As the appeal of premium games which require upfront payment to play a game dwindles for a large mass of Gamers, the publishers must keep reinventing their revenue strategy. Today 66% of top-grossing 100 mobile games have a Gacha mechanic. The Gacha system ensures a non-pay to play approach with only the most engaged players ending up spending. Gacha games induce players to spend in-game currency to receive a random virtual item. Games like PUBG and Genshin Impact have beautifully integrated the Gacha system in their in-game economy making them the highest earning games across platforms.

What makes them popular?

There is a list of reason to highlight that makes Gacha system so popular especially in the orient:

1) The psychology of winning something or getting a present.

2) Add to this, the use of the reward to further your progression in game.

3) Gachas fulfill a deep-rooted human need to collect and complete things

4) It keeps you addicted to the game and appeals towards spending.

Gacha Model

The model of gacha has been compared to collectible trading card games as well as to gambling. Gacha Mechanism can have various avatars, while the principle remains the same. The Model sometimes implements a time frame limited event to get prizes which only increases its allure.

Randomness is an important design tool, making each play unique as it adds strategic depth. However, a Gacha cannot be left completely random as that could destroy the experience for a lot of players. Thus, the concept of illusion of randomness comes in. The idea is to make player feel that the pull he is making is resulting in a random gifting system but an algorithm from the backend is optimizing his experience, based on his data. Pity pulls, in game events and redraw system are just few of the examples.

Pity system:

Chance is everything; we said players receive random reward for spending currencies. Well, this statement is only partially true. Pity system reduces the uncertainty with reward. A player will be guaranteed an item if they continue to spend on that item unsuccessfully as the system increases the probability of receiving the rare item every time. There are basically two types of Pity system.

Soft pity increases the probability slightly of getting a rare item with every pull, counting and recalculating the probability until the rare item is received

Hard pity uses a counter to keep track of the number of pulls and automatically dispense the rare item after reaching a preset number.

The Model however does not work on everyone, in fact only a small fraction of dedicated community of the gamers are likely to convert. A large part of publisher revenue comes from this small proportion of players who spend an unusually large amount on Gacha. These Whales effectively are the reason for success of these games as other players do not add any financial value to the publishers.

Types of Gacha

While there are unlimited types of Gacha models with each one based suiting to game design. We have listed down a few that most popular.

1) Complete Gacha: The kompu gacha was a popular model till 2012. Players needed to roll a to complete a set of items to unlock a rare item. The set of items become harder to collect with increasing levels which would only help the publisher more. This gacha was deemed illegal by Japanese administration.

2) Box gacha: Call of duty: Mobile uses the Box gacha mechanic. These are limited time prizes, with players receiving rewards permanently thereby making sure no one gets the same reward twice. These also brings about transparency with regards to the pity system and hence a lot more trust.

3) Redraw gacha: These allow players to re-roll to potentially get something else. Some even give this feature for free.

4) Consecutive gacha: Bulk pulls by players increase the chance of receiving rare items, while individual pulls would cost higher as well as give more common items as rewards.

5) Step-up gacha: Most common in Japanese games, it provides increasing reward with each new gacha spin. The player also needs to go through various gacha stages to avail this spin. The catch is these gachas also get more and more expensive with each spin. Some games even give a few step ups for free and then start monetizing halfway through the stages. Dragon Ball Legends is a great example of this king of Gacha model.

6) Sugoroku Gacha: It is like a mini board game, where you roll a dice to receive a reward from the gacha.

7) Milestone / Pity gacha: As the name suggests, it ensures guaranteed rewards once player pulled gacha certain number of times.

8) Limited time and timed gacha: A limited time gacha quite literally is an offer a player gets to pull in a certain time frame with the top prize having the lowest probability. While a Timed gacha works differently with player getting to pull a gacha freely releasing a timer to unlock to unveil the reward. They do get an alternate option to pay and reduce the time of unlocking the reward.

Depth in Gacha: Case of Clash Royale

A “drop” in a gacha is defined as giving away a single item. For example, in Clash Royale a drop would be synonymous with a single card dropped from a chest. Drops are important because the ultimate goal in free to play games is to maximize long-term retention and maximize the cap of the economy. To drive strong long-term retention, players need to have a long-lasting sustained desire to pull from the Gacha. The more drops this takes, the longer the system will last.

This brings us to the question what is the way to increase the drops in a system which would positively impact the retention:

1) Content is the one reason players will continue to engage with gacha; it affects their retention and spending patterns. Content can come in the form of special abilities, perks, weapons and customisation. A diverse content would deliver a better result for the publishers. So, while the core gameplay remains the same, publisher can continuously add content by adding various loops.

2) While we may have a large volume of content it is important that gachas are availed to players at the right moment. Too much push for gacha in the beginning could show publishers as greedy. A poorly designed gacha system can yield horrible results. Pacing is a key factor to consider in this case. Publisher needs to make sure that when a gacha is thrown in the players screen, he is in need of the items in gacha and would perhaps even go on to spend for the same. Pacing should be done both on how many drops a player gets at a time and how often do they get them.

3) Duplicate mechanism is now a very common mechanism used in games, to make sure they don’t dry out on content specially in casual games. Duplication of content to a certain point will ensure the players are continually engaged and in need of Gacha. However, the industry has also seen “Content treadmill” in several titles which has led these titles to eventually loose its audience. This happens especially in level-based games when the user starts to feel that every level that he beats he is now in the same loop only with a slightly higher difficulty. Let us keep the content treadmill discussion for another time.

Gacha VS Lootboxes

We as we all have played games, its perhaps a hard thing to pull out the difference between the two from a player’s perspective. Both give randomized items of different rarity levels and require in-game currency as fuel. I think the following line perfectly sums up the difference between the two, ”All gachas are loot boxes. However, not all loot boxes are gachas.”
Gacha is a loot box that is the primary source of items a player needs in a game. Games with this mechanic are frequently called a genre of their own — gacha games. Lootboxes are just a complementary monetization feature. The items players can receive from loot boxes can also be obtained in different ways, e.g., making in-app purchases.

Gacha VS Battlepass

Rather than being same, these two are opposite to each other in several ways. The most important difference is the payment system, Gacha requires that a player spend or use in game currency in advance to pull and get rewards, while a battle pass does not require him to do so. In fact, players can continue to play the game and see what are the things he would receive if he bought the Battlepass.

This brings us to the next difference which is randomness. While the Gacha is based on randomness or atleast the illusion of randomness, Battle passes strip away the randomness of receiving any reward from spending. However, it must be noted that it can be a time-consuming affair to receive a reward. We do have some references of games which earn additional income by reducing that time too.

While time limited gacha events would mean a player needs to get a purchase at that point. In a Battlepass, limited premium rewards in a season which would probably go away if the user does not engage in gameplay keeps the player hooked to the core gameplay resulting in higher engagement and retention.

We need to see that in Battlepass there is a hidden cost for the player which is the amount of time he spends in game to gain those rewards. While the publisher maybe happy about it, the user may eventually get tardy from playing the game, unless new content is available at regular intervals.

Controversies

We discussed a whole lot about Gacha system. Perhaps the reason for it is the huge success this model has seen in various mobile games. Banking on the traditional hunter gather instinct of the human being has never been exploited by a system so well. In 2018 a player spent $70,000 playing Fate/Grand order. The mechanism is always under close watch from the administration for its resemblance to gambling. Kompu gacha or the complete gacha that we discussed in the types of gacha is now totally banned by the Japanese administration. Several government authorities have criticized it for exploiting the young children and making money of their innocence. The system is addictive and can hardly be ignored because of the huge repeat consumers seen it the reports.

Gacha no matter its fair share of controversies continues to be a money-making engine for publishers and is here to stay. Publishers are finding newer ways of presenting the Gacha without being on target of the authorities but continually growing their revenues. Various crossover between lootbox and gacha are seen frequently. Preview Gachas seem to be the way forward as they present the gift that could potentially be earned with the roll. Also, the mobile gaming industry continues to grow at a rapid pace, with large mass of players joining the fray. It is only going to be a bigger market and is a long way from being crowded for new publishers to break in.

Arrigato

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Yougal Chettri

#Gamer #frugal #economist #reader #Monetisation #PushNotification #CLM