Gacha: A world of rushes, rewards, and rarities

In this undated photo, gamers queue by gacha machines in Akihabara, Japan. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
AMMAN — Ever been to Vegas? If you have, or at least fantasize about the experience of rolling dice, we have just the game genre for you.

So, what are they?اضافة اعلان

Gacha games are a genre of video games that implement the cut-and-dry casino experience, using a “gacha mechanic”, or a toy vending machine mechanic, that feels like the loot box system in free-to-play games. But unlike loot boxes that usually provide players with cosmetics or weapons for their characters, the gacha mechanic rewards players with in-game content that changes the game’s experience depending on prizes, incentivizing players to spend real-world money to obtain these in-game goodies. 

Now, this isn’t to say that these games cannot be played without spending your hard-earned cash. Gacha games are all technically free-to-play, and it is up to the player whether they’d like to spend money or not, since everything the gacha system offers can, with time, be obtained via in-game currency.  But with limited time events, discounts on in-game currency, and new appealing goodies constantly being released, spending a bit of money becomes tempting.

The gacha Uprising

Oh Japan, how we love everything about you. From anime to Tamagochi, you have continued to amaze the world with your aspirations for the weirdest and coolest products.

Contrary to popular belief, gacha wasn’t always a benevolent type of game, but actually a physical machine into which you would insert coins to receive small plastic balls with hidden toys. The concept was simple — you never knew what was inside, and some toys were rarer than others. 

Then, in 2010, the social platform GREE released Dragon Collection, the first social network gacha game to ever exist. As in the case of physical gacha machines in Japan, it had many characters, each with various items to collect. 

And just like that, GREE became one of the first, if not the first, game to implement the concept that is dread ed by every gamer out there — the loot box. 

Is it gambling?

Many wonder whether obsessive spending in gacha games is considered a gambling disorder. 

However, there is a key difference between traditional gambling and gacha games.

Unlike in traditional gambling, in gacha, there is no monetary gain. Instead, you spend money on gratification. This is also a key difference between gacha mechanics and loot box mechanics, since items from a game with said mechanics, like CS:GO, can be sold for hundreds of dollars, depending on their rarity. This defeats the purpose of traditional gambling since the player is consciously spending money on virtual rewards.  

Does that completely rule out that gacha is a type of gambling? No, it does not. This behavior becomes concerning when it comes to the amount of money people end up spending on these types of games, and all for the rush of receiving something that someone decided should be classified as “rare”.
Now, this isn’t to say you should never use the gacha system. As previously stated, there are ways to use it without spending money, just by playing the game. And, while most gacha games rely on the system, there are also many titles that offer more content that players can enjoy, such as the massively popular Genshin Impact and Fire Emblem Heroes.

The science of spending

So, knowing all of this, why do people end up spending so much money on free-to-play games? In a highly detailed reddit survey consisting of 554 participants, 45.5 percent of players stated that the main reason was to unlock specific characters regardless if it was just because of preference or “meta” (current strategy in the game). And this does shed some light on the thought process of some of these players, “We must unlock this character, whatever the cost may be”. This is when the game steps into what is called the “freemium” style, where sure, you can totally play the game free of charge, but spending money will put you ahead of the competition. But that isn’t the only reason players end up spending more and more, since 51.6 percent also stated that the sense of urgency they felt when seeing limited edition characters or items also pushed them to take out their cash. 

But in the end, it all comes down to one thing — fun. The dopamine rush people feel when they finally get what they want, albeit a virtual thing, is something they enjoy and want to feel repeatedly. And if you’re not spending too much money, why not fund something you enjoy doing? Why is it worrisome when someone spends money on gacha games but not as worrying when people spend relatively the same amount on other genres? There’s even the fact that many people do spend money on their gacha game of choice to support its developers so that they can keep producing new and entertaining content. 

Should they be banned?

There has always been a lot of controversy surrounding games with these types of mechanics. But should a game be banned just because it implemented a system that relies on micro-transactions? It wouldn’t make sense to do so. A lot of these games, as stated, are indeed free to play, and with no way of making revenue, would eventually crash and burn. 

This isn’t to say that these mechanics shouldn’t be better monitored, however, which is what many countries began doing. An example of this is Belgium, which has deemed these types of mechanics illegal, restricting them to anyone under the ages of 18. 

There are thousands of gacha games out there for you to try out. Each with a different number of collectables and level of detail for someone to jump into. So, if you’re interested, take your time, do your research, and play what feels right to you. And remember, these games will never force you to spend your money, but it’s always an option that is available to you.

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