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The Rapid Spread of Gacha Games

Collage of Hatsune Miku, Nico Yazawa, Goku, CHU², Saber, An Shiraishi, Affogato Cookie, Zhongli, and Riamu Yumemi by Melanie Villatoro

     The word gacha comes from the Japanese term “gachapon” which are essentially the toy or candy vending machines you put coins into to get a random item from. Gacha games are games that have a gacha mechanic, where instead of coins, you use in-game currency to “roll” for in-game items of varying worth. Aside from sharing the same basic mechanic, gacha games can vary greatly, from open-world RPGs (role-playing games) to skill-based rhythm games to simple puzzle mechanics.  

     In Japan, they have been popular since the early 2010s, and slowly but surely, this  became the norm for Japanese mobile games, and as they became more and more common, they spread. The mechanic also started to become popular in most other East Asian countries like China and South Korea, and by the time the pandemic hit, games like Genshin Impact became popular among younger English-speaking audiences as they looked for things to do inside. All of the people I interviewed started playing 2-4 years ago, right in the middle of the pandemic 

     To give a more detailed explanation of how exactly the gacha system works, I’ll use Genshin Impact, a popular and easy to understand game, as an example. In Genshin, the main items everyone wants are the characters and the weapons they wield, which all have set rarities. You can “roll” for these things on banners, and there are permanent banners with mostly characters and weapons of low/mediocre rarity and a select few characters and weapons of high rarity. Then there are limited banners, which are mostly the same, with the addition of special limited characters or weapons which are more difficult to attain than items on the permanent banners because they are only present for a limited amount of time, and they don’t return until around a year later (sometimes less or more, depending on the game.) 


How much money do people really spend on them? 

     Out of the seven people I interviewed, only two didn’t spend money on them, and out of the five who did, three of them spent over 20 dollars. Even then, the two who avoided spending money would have, given the chance. Jose (no last name given), a freshman from Coral Gables, said he almost stole 400 dollars from his parents to roll on IdentityV (IDV), and almost spent 40 dollars on Genshin Impact that was meant to buy supplies for school but was stopped by his brother.  

     Marissa Reyes, a sophomore at Miami High, said she has felt desperate enough to spend money on multiple occasions but could not go through with the transaction in the end.  

     Those who DID spend money range from spending 2 dollars to 350. The one who spent 350 dollars on gacha games is none other than 10th grader Sayid Gonzalez, who spent 200 dollars on Dragon Ball Legends, 50 dollars on Genshin Impact, and 20 dollars on Seven Deadly Sins: Grand Cross. When asked if he liked gacha games, he said, “Absolutely not” and told me he had retired after two years of playing them. He added that he didn’t spend that amount in one go, but over time.  

     When I asked Carlos (no last name given), a senior at Miami High, how much he spent, he said, “At least 15 dollars on Genshin and an embarrassing amount on Honkai Impact 3rd“. I later found out he spent around 50-60 dollars on Honkai.  

     Maylei Zuniga, a sophomore at Mater Brickell Academy, spent 15 dollars on Genshin Impact in an act of desperation, saying that it was her birthday and she had failed to get the character Albedo.   


What is the appeal? 

     If all these people have such difficult relationships with gacha games, why do some continue to play them? A senior from Coral Gables who would like to remain anonymous said, “At first, it’s really fun, getting rewards every day and being able to get a character you really love, but for most long-time players, it’s super exhausting logging in everyday and grinding for money and failing to get them.”  

     Maylei says she likes playing Cookie Run: Kingdom (CRK) and Project Sekai: Colorful Stage (PRSK), but has a particular disdain towards Genshin Impact due to how difficult it is to save up for characters when you’re a high level, whereas CRK and PRSK have (in her opinion) better gacha rates than Genshin, mostly due to the fact that she’s been lucky with them.  

     Carlos said he enjoys playing them for the characters’ designs and story writing, and Marissa said she enjoyed the thrill of rolling, but all of them started playing because friends did, and stayed because they fell in love with the characters.  


Do they really enjoy playing them? 

     Almost all of the people I interviewed shared the sentiment that playing gacha games can be an absolute drag, Jose saying that he used to be completely engrossed with the game Identity V (IDV), to the point where his mom banned him from playing forever. He said, “When I was playing IDV I wouldn’t socialize, eat, get out of my room […] like it was BAD.”  

    Jasmin Carvajal, a Miami High sophomore, said she doesn’t enjoy the gacha mechanic, saying she hated rolling expecting to get one character, only to get a different, unwanted character.  

     Carlos, who has been playing gacha games for two years, said he “sort of” enjoyed the gacha mechanic, explaining, “It’s fun to roll for new characters but it can feel really unfair sometimes.”  

     Marissa Reyes, a sophomore at Miami High, said she “unfortunately” enjoys this mechanic because she finds pulling for the characters thrilling, but that she doesn’t like the limited banners when characters aren’t guaranteed, and that “losing does not feel good.” 


My personal Feelings 

     I’ve been playing gacha games around the same time as everyone else around me, although I’ve gotten much more familiar with the community surrounding it. Within the games I’ve played, I’ve had extremely poor luck, and even spent money on one. The first and last time I spent money on a gacha game, I was extremely desperate for a Genshin Impact character, and ever since then, I vowed to never spend money on them again, because I know how much of a slippery slope it can be. I feel that the system is extremely unfair and banks on people’s care for the characters they’ve been presented with. Ultimately though, I continue to play them, even when I get burnt out and don’t play for months at a time, I don’t have the heart to delete any of the games.  

Read on to learn more about gacha games




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    Vanessa S.May 1, 2024 at 5:19 pm

    Loved it! Amazing article.