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What is a gacha game?

Gacha games are extremely popular, but what does ‘gacha’ actually mean?
gacha game character with gashapon machines in the background
Credit: MobileBytesGG

Gacha gaming is an extremely popular form of mobile game. But what does it mean?

In this article, we’ll break down the term ‘gacha,’ and explain how video games (especially mobile games) use these systems to earn money.

Where does the word gacha come from?

While some players might joke that the term ‘gacha’ is just another way to say “gotcha,” as in “got your money,” that’s actually not the case.

The word gacha comes from toy vending machines in Japan called Gashapon.

In these vending machines, you get a random capsule. The capsules include various toys, stickers, and snacks. You never know exactly what you will get, but you have a general idea of the prize.

A similar concept is applied in gacha mobile games where you see the drop pool and the odds, but every pull is randomized. These mobile games encourage users to spend in-game currency for different virtual items in the gacha game.

These virtual items can be characters, skins, equipment, mounts, and more. 

Why did the gacha game name stick?

azur lane royal navy 5th anniversary shipgirl
Credit: Manjuu | Yongshi

Game publishers introduced the Gashapon mechanic in Japan in games around 2010.

As the phenomenon of pulling the lever and colorful animations with enticing sounds grew in the gaming world, Gashapon and later Gachapon became popular.

Further on, the name was shortened to a gacha mechanic, and the games using it became gacha games.

In simple words, the excitement you feel when opening a present or scratching a lottery is the same feeling you get when playing a gacha game.

The games hide these mechanics behind colorful animations to increase dopamine levels, which, mixed with gameplay elements, expand it further.

In the end, if you pull once the desired item, the dopamine level hits the roof and makes you feel rewarded.

genshin impact characters showing yelan and kuki shinobu
Credit: HoYoverse

Free-to-Play games in the gacha genre have become so popular that most games include the mechanic in their gameplay in one way or another.

The loot box concept in MMORPGs and shooter games came from Free to Play games that use the gacha mechanic.

Call of Duty, Neverwinter, and other similar games use loot boxes to entice their players.

In mobile gaming, Genshin Impact is one of the most recent games to really push gacha mechanics. The game is so popular that it has grossed over $3 billion.

Other all-time great gacha games are Fate/Grand Order, Epic Seven, and many other character collector games.

What are the problems with gacha games?

artery gear: fusion mech characters
Credit: Access!

By their very nature, gacha games promote gambling of the virtual sort. While you can use in-game currency to pull gacha, it is usually not enough and encourages players to spend real money.

The worst part about this is that this doesn’t have a “real” payout like gambling. You get virtual items that are unusable in real life while spending thousands of dollars.

Another alarming aspect is children’s access to these games, who are easily pulled into this wormhole as they don’t know any better. Many children’s gacha games have been accused of promoting gambling practices in kids with their enticement to pull more times and encouraged by reducing the total cost.

In recent years, the EU has also come close to banning these practices and made real money spending more difficult.

The future of gacha gaming

In recent years, almost every online game included gacha mechanics and loot boxes. Some studios even got major backlash for it, including EA.

That said, gacha gaming is here to stay, though it might continue to evolve over the years.

Things like pity rates and transparent odds will help gacha games maintain their legality while drawing in millions of players and separating them from their hard-earned money.

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