The Genshin Condition
A brief commentary on gacha and loot boxes in games
I believe it can be safely said that 2020 has been rough, while there have been some upsides to this train wreck of a year a few really jump out at me and "Genshin Impact" is one of them. Featuring detailed character models, spectacular splash art, beautiful environments, and engaging combat I knew this game would be a hit. "Genshin" brought along all the hallmarks of an enjoyable game as well as some other neat features that made it a fast favorite as it gained a dedicated following.
However, while "Genshin" had some impeccable creativity poured into it, the game also brought one of the most dreaded systems in all of gaming: micro transactions.
"Genshin Impact" is free to play, meaning you can download the game and start playing without investing any money to get you that far. Although it is free the game does offer optional in-game purchases for players to spend their hard earned cash on, often times leaving the fate of those purchases in the hands of pure RNG. Only a handful of the game's characters are available for the player to unlock and play for free so far, all others need to be unlocked through the purchase of the game's equivalent of loot boxes. A lot of players refer to this as a "roll" or a "pull" and is essentially, completely, random, there's no guarantee that the resulting items are what they want or spent their money on in the first place. (A full definition of the term "gacha" can be found at the end of this article)
Now, I'm on board with a LOT that "Genshin" offers, cute girls and beautiful women for the win! What I'm not on board with, though, is the system in which I have to acquire them. As I stated before, this in-game purchase, a roll, is completely random and does not guarantee anything. While a player can buy one or multiple rolls they have no guarantee that they'll get anything worthwhile. This is, in my eyes and by base definition, gambling, an addictive activity that has a minimum age requirement to engage in across the globe and can be incredibly destructive.
"Genshin" is by no means the first game to implement this system, as countless mobile apps have similar set ups as well as a great many AAA titles that a player has to buy to even play.
Above I had said that these purchases were optional, and they are in most cases. Very few companies place game-altering items into these purchases, which would essentially make the game a pay-to-win game that drives off scores of players. After EA themselves ran afoul of their player base by locking certain weapons and gadgets in loot boxes, all during their latest "Star Wars: Battlefront", the company tweaked this system to incorporate mostly cosmetic items after some serious backlash.
Loot boxes have come under heavy scrutiny in the passed few years, and rightly so in many cases. Players sink hundreds if not thousands of dollars into this system in hopes of getting a virtual item that has no value outside of its platform, much like gambling, I argue. There's a whole legal section to this entailing taxes and so on, way more than what I would like to get into with this article.
While "Genshin Impact" is not the first to implement the loot boxes symbolic of the gacha genre the game is definitely the new hotness with roughly 20 million registered players. Players who may want the rarest rare or their chosen waifu/husbando and have no other choice but to make a roll for them. In order to obtain said characters and items of various rarities and values the player must gamble away their money and hope that RNG is in their favor, if not they receive items of lesser value or duplicate items that can only be exchanged for a small allotment of crafting material or currency (but not the same currency used to buy rolls).
My fear is that just as battle royale games surged into popularity and production thanks to "PUBG" so too shall we see an influx of games that are centered around this gambling system. As stated above, this system is not wholly without victims as it creates addictions that can be financially damaging and have real world consequences.
I hope no one takes this as an attack on "Genshin Impact" or games like it but instead receive it as a cautionary tale of what our actions as consumers may beget. Personally I'm tired of seeing in-game purchases being a thing, especially in games we have to buy in order to play but I can understand the appeal of the gacha franchises. After all, if there's one thing my gay ass likes it's cute girls!
Now, as promised:
GACHA is a term based off of the capsule toy vending machines of Japan, of which there a many to this day. The 'gacha' model began appearing in games around the year of 2010 and were only really popular in Japan, China, and Korea until it made its exodus west some time later. One can speculate that the term 'gacha' is derived from the English word "got'cha", as it's likely something a person would exclaim when they got the item they really wanted. Then again this speculation could be completely off the mark but it is kind of funny to think of it that way, right?