September 25, 2023

We’re on the brink of two potentially massive new games from Chinese developers following the success of Genshin Impact, which has generated billions in revenue since its release.

One is from Genshin developer Hoyoverse, Zenless Zone Zero, and one is from Perfect World, Tower of Fantasy, a new MMORPG.

I’ve played Tower of Fantasy and sure enough, maybe 15 minutes into the game, you’ll be introduced to its gacha system, a system that makes you pull powerful rare weapons and linked skins to use. Zenless Zone Zero will also have a gacha-based character roster, and of course, gacha is why Genshin Impact has made so much money in the first place. You’re not just paying for power, you’re betting on it.

Gacha creates an interesting problem, though, if you’re into these games, and it’s something I don’t really experience with other games in the same way. With most live service games, timing is of the essence. As in the past, I can’t keep up with every new development of Destiny, Outriders, Avengers, Division and Wonderlands at the same time. But if I wanted to stay up to date? Spending $10 for a new season or $20-40 for an expansion isn’t the end of the world.

But what? This is different. While Genshin Impact does a good job of giving players a lot of freedom to play essentially the entire game without spending any money, they do a equally good job creating attractive characters and weapons I want to spend money And I spend money I have.

Now, this has created a weird situation where I feel like I’m so invested in Genshin Impact that I’ve been shut out of these other games of the same genre because I don’t want/can’t afford to start a gacha “collection” from scratch . It’s hard to imagine them investing in Tower of Fantasy or Zenless Zone Zero instead of just continuing with Genshin as they keep adding content and new areas.

In the case of the Hoyoverse, this becomes pure cannibalism. It’s easy to see how a situation arises where a player might be interested in both ZZZ and Genshin, but not the budget for both. So either they spend less on Genshin or they don’t bother with ZZZ in the first place.

In Perfect World’s case, if you’ve built your entire monetization system to mirror a competitor, you’d better deliver a product that’s more compelling than that competitor. Not a traditional game where you simply have to convince a player to spend $60 for a boxed copy, Tower of Fantasy has to deal with trying to pull Genshin players who have spent tens, hundreds or even thousands of dollars into this ecosystem. and tell them they’ll need to start over with those, or stick with perma-f2p.

The thing about gacha is… it works. There’s so much revenue on the table here with this model, which some consider predatory, that maybe those sacrifices are okay. Hoyoverse does not Care where you spend, as long as you spend somewhere with them. And even if Tower of Fantasy does 20% of Genshin’s pull, that’s still huge.

However, I do wonder about the long term viability of the gacha. If this becomes an increasingly common revenue stream, I wonder what kind of eats it per se, as it’s just not sustainable for the player. Or there’s a momentary shutdown before the game even starts, aka, I’m less interesting in Tower of Fantasy because it’s gacha, and Genshin has taught me how much of a sink it can be. This also seems like something heading towards a potential fix, now that loot boxes have been banned in many places. It’s the same idea, but honestly, even worse in many ways.

There’s definitely some West vs. East stuff going on here, as gacha is much more common and accepted in Asia, and it’s just starting to turn heads in the west with games like these, but it’s something I definitely want to watch, and see how sustainable it is this beyond the great arc of the trend.

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