The Impact of the Gacha Game System on Video Game Monetization

by Game Marketing Genie, on 16-Feb-2022 11:27:49

Mobile games that generate revenue from ads struggle to stay profitable. But recently, there's been a shift in this as gaming companies are adopting something different – the gacha system of game monetization. While this system has proven to be quite controversial, it can be a valuable monetization strategy for F2P mobile games looking for creative ways to grow revenue. 

This article takes a detailed look at the gacha system, its pros and cons, and how you can use the system to push your game. 

Let's get started!

What is the gacha system?

The gacha game system refers to a game monetization scheme commonly used in free-to-play games. It was popularized by the hit game Puzzle and Dragons, which is one of the most successful mobile games released in Japan. The system has helped many developers reach their revenue goals, making it one of the effective game monetization strategies you can consider for your game. 

The system gets its name from the snap noise the Japanese gachapon (toy dispenser) makes, whereas the system's mechanics is based on the randomness of the prizes. The gacha system is mainly used in free-to-play games and relies on pulling or rolling for prizes to acquire new items, content upgrades, or new characters. Players get to play for these rewards by spending their in-game currency. In most cases, players can earn the needed amount of currency by simply playing the game. However, players can use real money to circumvent the time needed to obtain enough currency. 

Gacha system mechanics are in contrast to the pay-to-win model that allows players to buy their desired items and upgrades to progress through the game. The system randomizes the rewards to ensure players don't get an unfair advantage in the game. Players can only progress through the game by relying on the in-game currency they acquire from playing the game. However, the time required to earn enough currency often leads gamers to spend real cash if they want to get better prizes quickly. 

The gacha system is often likened to loot boxes that can be redeemed to give players random rewards such as skins, weapons, and loot. Although there are many similarities between these systems, their business models are very different. While gacha is the primary monetization mechanic in F2P games, loot boxes are usually a supplementary monetization option in full-priced console and PC games. 

Check out the best strategies to generate constant revenue for your F2P game on our blog, How To Generate Constant Revenue From Your Free to Play Game. 

How newly launched games are winning fast using the gacha game system

We rarely see developers set aside $100 million to develop and market a game meant for mobile users, but one Chinese company did exactly that with their revolutionary game Genshin Impact. MiHoYo's Genshin Impact was released on several mobile platforms such as Android and iOS on September 28, 2020, and recently added to Nintendo Switch. The game is a single/multiplayer F2P fantasy game set in an open-world environment. 

Figure 1: Genshin Impact. Source - MiHoYo

Being a free-to-play game, Genshin Impact generates revenue from its in-game store when players acquire the in-game premium currency (Genesis Crystals) and use it to purchase items, resources, and tickets for its gacha system. 

Sample pricing for the in-game currency in USD:

  • 60 Genesis Crystals – $0.99
  • 300 Genesis Crystals – $4.99 
  • 980 Genesis Crystals – $14.99
  • 1980 Genesis Crystals – $29.99
  • 3280 Genesis Crystals – $49.99
  • 6480 Genesis Crystals – $99.99

One gacha ticket costs 160 Primogems. 1 Primogems is equal to 1 Genesis Crystal, meaning with 980 Genesis Crystals at $14.99 you get 6 attempts at the gacha system. With the randomness of its rewards, the gacha system does a great job in balancing the game for the spenders and free players. It prevents the rich from spending more money to get what they want in the game. It also brings about the element of chance to the game. You can have a lot of money but without luck, you may not get the character or item you want despite spending more money. 

The gacha system was an instant hit with players, helping the developer recoup its development and marketing costs in less than 2 weeks after launch. PCGamer shows that Genshin Impact made more than $100 million in just 12 days, earning back the funds invested in the game in a record short time. Genshin Impact's success proves that the gacha system is a reliable model for monetizing a free-to-play game. With the right game marketing strategy, you can get players to buy tickets for your gacha system to earn random rewards to progress through the game. 

Using the gacha system to promote and push mobile games

If you are looking to incorporate gacha style mechanics into your game, you need to do it right to ensure players continue paying for your gacha game even when they don’t get their desired items. Here are a few things that will help you create the perfect gacha system. 

Offer diverse content

You gacha should give players more reasons to engage with it. You can achieve this goal by ensuring your gacha has enough depth when it comes to content. There should be more rewards for players to win to help them progress through the game. You should also make your rewards diverse to build up the excitement when players roll a gacha. For example, you can have weapons, abilities, cosmetics, and other perks as the gacha rewards. All these will add depth to your gacha and encourage player spending. 

While most players usually focus on upgrading their favorite character in the game, offering diverse content allows them to engage with more aspects of your game. This will make them spend more time in your game to help you with your mobile game marketing efforts. 

Man playing a mobile video game

Make sure each item is valuable

While gacha game systems create value through rarity, you need to make sure each item in the pack is valuable. Players usually set their eyes on the rare, five-star items when rolling a gacha, but they should still win some valuable items even when they don't find their desired five-star items in the gacha. Bear in mind that players spend money to acquire a gacha ticket and if they don't get any valuable items in their packs, they may not be motivated to roll the gacha again. 

So, sit down with a game marketing agency to design those in-between rewards. Think about the assets that can help players progress through and add them to the gacha packs. You should also think about what happens when a player rolls duplicates in their gacha packs. This can be very disappointing to players and one way to deal with the situation is to turn the duplicates into dust. The other option is to make the duplicate a progress tool that allows players to upgrade the items they already own. 

Pace your gacha (and use FOMO to your advantage)

Watch out for the pacing of your gacha if you want to have control over how long it lasts. Game designers typically use these methods when pacing their gacha systems: 

  • Setting how frequently players can roll the gacha
  • Controlling how many content drops the gacha makes
  • Making exclusive items rarer with a lower drop rate and/or limited time frequency

If your game has lots of content, you can allow players to roll the gacha frequently. You can also provide players with several drops at the same time. The same also applies to games that use content duplicates as a progression tool. 

On the other hand, if your gacha system doesn't have too much content, you need to create limits for your system. For example, you can make it mandatory for players to reach a certain level to roll a gacha. You can also limit the gacha drops to one drop at a time. 

Additionally, don't just give your content away! Keep your players engaged by ensuring that your new items require some amount of rerolling to acquire and are available for a limited time only.

Anime gamer

Get your game earning!

Don't let your game fall down after release - you've come so far. Check out some of our best game marketing methods to get your game the revenue it deserves in The Ultimate Guide to Game Marketing: Everything You Need to Know.

The gacha system provides developers with an effective monetization model for their games. A huge part of the system's appeal is "opening" the box and seeing the amazing rewards inside. Players get to experience a rush of adrenaline as they wait to see if they have acquired the best items to progress through the game. 

But as you can see, creating the perfect gacha game system isn't easy. There's a lot you need to do to create a simple, yet effective system that encourages player spending. Game Marketing Genie is here to help you implement gacha mechanics into your F2P mobile game and market it to the right users. Game Marketing Genie has been recognized globally as a leading marketing agency and can help your game reach the top charts in a short time with the right tactics. 

Get in touch for end-to-end marketing solutions for your game.

Topics:Video Game Marketing StrategyVideo Game MarketingDigital Marketing Strategy

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