Before Genshin Impact I never knew that "gacha" games were a genre unto themselves

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bigsocrates

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Edited By bigsocrates

Genshin Impact is not my first gacha game. Like many people I've tried out previous gacha titles on my smartphone and while none of them sunk their hooks deep into me I enjoyed a couple enough to throw a few bucks at for a coin doubler or battlepass or whatever. Most of those games were pretty similar to one another, and in fact a few of them even used the same assets despite being from purportedly different franchises, but I never thought of "gacha" as its own genre. Instead I thought of the games as light tactical RPGs, or maybe slightly more involved clicker games where gameplay was minimal and the goal was to make the numbers go up. I always thought of gacha as a type of monetization rather than a game genre. Premium games you pay for up front aren't a genre, and neither is "free to play" because while the choice between them may affect elements of the game, it doesn't go to the fundamental design. There are lots of games that have moved from premium to free to play over time, and nobody would say they changed genre. So I thought of "gacha" games as these light tactical games that used a loot-box pay to win monetization structure and had a lot of other similarities.

Genshin Impact is not a light tactical RPG. It's a full on 3D action RPG. There's been a lot of talk about how it draws from Zelda: BOTW for its design and gameplay, and there are certainly elements of that game in it, but I actually think it also pulls a lot from modern Japanese AARPGs, such as the Ys series. I played through Ys VIII earlier this year (absolutely loved it, BTW) and I see a lot of its DNA in Genshin Impact. Unlike Breath of the Wild, Genshin Impact is not a go anywhere do anything game, instead it's divided up into gated segments and you have to complete quests in order to advance the story and unlock more of the world, much like in Ys. Also like in Ys you roam around killing stuff to build up experience and collect materials to upgrade weapons and equipment, and you spend a lot of time in barely animated cut scenes talking to various people. Genshin Impact most reminds me of Ys in its character switching mechanic, where your party is made up of multiple characters with different skills and effective play involves controlling one member of a set 'party' which is a subset of the characters available to you, then switching active characters with the touch of a button to combo your new character's skill off the effects from the previous one's.

Regardless, the fact that Genshin Impact can be compared to full price and well regarded major games like Zelda or Ys shows how involved its gameplay is. It's a somewhat shallow but fully realized PC/console level game that offers lots of content to actively engage with for hours on end, not just thumb around with on your phone while you're on hold waiting for a conference call to start.

But it's also a gacha game. It's a game where you build power not just through things you do and find in the world but through purchasing randomized rolls through a real money loot table that unlocks everything from powerful weapons to new characters to play, as well as giving you currencies that you can use to buy necessary upgrade materials for upgrading your character. And the thing about being a gacha game, unlike being free to play or premium based, is that gacha is its own mechanic. It's gambling. And people enjoy that separate and apart from the action RPG stuff that blends Zelda and Ys.

I didn't really understand this until I dug into some of the discourse around Genshin Impact because I was having trouble understanding why the game was so well regarded when I think it's just kind of so so. What I found were not people extolling its action mechanics, or discussing its generic story or admittedly impressive aesthetics. Instead it was mostly about the gacha mechanics. And it wasn't just people talking about whether it's fair or not. For the record I think it is relatively fair. I have put in no money and I have both Diluc and Venti (two of the top tier 5 star characters) based just on earned and free currency, along with more 4 star characters than I even have time to mess around with. But this was only one element of the gacha discussion. Other people were talking about how they liked some of the required grind elements, or enjoyed the rate that the game gives away currency and rolls, and were comparing the game to others based not on its action or RPG mechanics but based on the gacha stuff.

And that makes total sense. Gacha is gambling, and lots of people like to gamble. People enjoy slot machines, which is pretty close to gacha, it's just not for me. There are also lots of people who enjoy grinding for grinding's sake. Logging in to do your daily quests and whatnot isn't fundamentally different from logging into Animal Crossing every day to do the various chores (which is something I did regularly for several months this summer.) Grinding, under the right circumstances, can be fun, especially if you enjoy the moment to moment gameplay too.

Figuring out that gacha was a genre helped me understand why Genshin Impact wasn't clicking for me. It's not just that the climbing isn't as good as Zelda's, or that the combat can be simple and the AI is braindead, or even that the story is rote and average with incredibly bland characters. All that's kind of to be expected in a free to play RPG, and a game doesn't have to be as good as Zelda or Ys VIII to be a really good game. But there was a whole element of the game that just didn't resonate for me. I did my rolls and got my characters, and I was glad to nab Diluc and Venti because they're powerful and fun to play, but my focus was on getting enough stuff to be able to enjoy the action parts of the game, not on the thrill of the rolls themselves. Likewise I find the grindy stuff as a kind of impediment to what I consider fun (character and story advancement and going through new areas as they open up) instead of fun unto themselves. But for Genshin Impact to fully hit you you need to enjoy the gacha elements, because they are deeply integrated into the heart of the game, not just built on top of it to make money off of. Rolling for new characters and collecting massive amounts of rare materials to upgrade stuff are major mechanics meant to be fun in and of themselves independent from the action RPG elements.

Genshin Impact isn't a terrible game. It's not even a bad action RPG, just an average one. But it is, in part, a gambling game, and if you don't enjoy the gambling aspect then you're not engaging with the full game. It's like how Uncharted isn't just a third person shooter, it's also a cinematic story driven experience. If you don't like story and cut scenes you might still think the shooting's okay, but you won't be fully on board with the game. Because of that it doesn't really matter that I've had lucky rolls and gotten good characters who are reasonably fun to play for free. Every game you pay for gives you all the good characters for free anyway. It's not like Ys VIII withheld Ricotta from me. So when competing against the best AARPGs out there that will always give you the best stuff the gacha will always be an impediment if you don't like gacha for gacha's sake.

Gacha is a genre and a mechanic unto itself, not just a way of monetizing other kinds of games.

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Bearhardt

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The thing about Genshin that really stands out to me is the sorta "Trojan Horse" nature of it all. They put together a competent action game with polished art and sound, ensured the gacha element stayed relatively unobtrusive, and cast a wide net by not only targeting mobile but PC and even PlayStation.

They created a compelling product that got "core gamers" talking and playing and investing time into... And then at the very tail end of the game introduced a stamina system that feels straight out of the nascent days of free iPhone games.

Not that all free to play/gacha games aren't specifically designed to encourage spending but Genshin in particular seems like it's designed to lure a cautious demographic previously untapped and then hit them with the paywall when they're already deeply invested in the product. In my experience playing what may be considered the previous generation of gacha games I knew pretty early on what the gameplay loop was going to be and after the first few free pulls generally had an idea of whether or not I wanted to keep investing time and/or money into it.

From where I stand I just don't think they make the gacha part of it very compelling, which as I mentioned is probably part of the strategy. In other gacha games they often make the banner look exciting and present the roll and character reveals in a dramatic and engaging manner (see games like Exos Heroes and Seven Deadly Sins for examples of fairly over the top gacha presentation). Combined with it being an impressive but kinda meh feeling adventure game it's just not something that I'm finding super compelling either way.

Genshin Impact feels like the Pokemon Let's Go of gacha games. It is a gateway game to get the audience of one genre invested in another and it's deviously clever.

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bigsocrates

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@bearhardt: I feel like "Trojan Horse" is perhaps unnecessarily negative. I don't think they're trying to smuggle gacha elements into people's games without them noticing (I'd say that FIFA Ultimate Team would be more of a Trojan Horse in that way) instead I think it's just an attempt to expand their market and branch out. Gacha games are generally derided by core gamers as not requiring skill and being super shallow, so they made a game that has some of the depth and presentation that core gamers want but still has the gacha elements. I don't think it's particularly different from when other hybrids try to open up a genre by hybridizing it with something else, like when fighting games try to pull in fans of other genres with guest characters or whatever. The difference, of course, is that gacha is a scummy monetization scheme so there is an element of luring people in, but as you said the gacha elements are somewhat de-emphasized and the game isn't going all out trying to make the gacha rewards the most exciting part of the game.

I understand the concern that more gacha games are going to target core gamers in the future, and I think that's probably true because Genshin Impact has already made back its money and is set to make a huge amount of money. Any very successful game gets imitations.

But I don't think this was intended as some loss leader that they could use to make the real profits in a couple years when gacha is more acceptable. I think it was meant to make money on its own by being a product attractive to a new market. And it is. It's very popular.

I will say that it's pretty shitty that they're targeting gacha games at kids, though. This game looks like a bright cartoony anime world and Paimon is a cute cartoon sidekick. This is a very kid-friendly game and it's also a gambling simulator and that's...really bad. Parents who don't game won't know how to protect their kids from these things like they can from hyperviolent games, and the ESRB should be much more active and put controls on these things.

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Bearhardt

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@bearhardt: I feel like "Trojan Horse" is perhaps unnecessarily negative. I don't think they're trying to smuggle gacha elements into people's games without them noticing (I'd say that FIFA Ultimate Team would be more of a Trojan Horse in that way) instead I think it's just an attempt to expand their market and branch out.

Yeah. I think I meant it more specifically in how the monetization doesn't really become super apparent until you're all the way at the endgame loop and it becomes a "You have to pay money if you want to spend all night running endgame dungeons". For me it was certainly a surprise as I jumped in at launch and said to myself "This seems too light on the monetization. Where's the catch?" and the catch is all the way at the end after a player has invested a large chunk of time in.

That was more my thinking in the way this is designed to target a new audience. They hid the pill inside the meatball despite most familiar with gacha immediately recognizing that it's a pill, since there's an entire audience of gamers who have been told pills are gross and bad.

By the time you've finished the meatball it's already too late... *sinister music*

...Now I really want spaghetti. Damn my delicious metaphors.

Also in regards to the child-friendly thing I'll admit my kneejerk reaction to that was "I disagree because this is clearly bog-standard anime waifu gacha material" but I'm also a 35 year old man who grew up watching anime in high school when that art style was most certainly associated with adult viewers. I honestly have no idea what the generation a third of my age thinks when they see Genshin. I suppose it is fairly tame compared to some gacha games I've seen. So far that mage lady from the main story is the most stereotypically lewd waifu type I've seen in the game, though I've yet to find a complete roster from the current pool of characters.

At least purchases on the PS4 version go through the PSN store so parental controls should be able to lock that sort of stuff out. Not sure how the PC client works though.

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Reminds me of the time I got into Granblue Fantasy, a game that I believe has generally well-regarded gacha mechanics. Most people would just spend the crazy number of free pulls as you got them.

However, people who knew what they were doing would save 300 pulls and wait till a particulat event (there were two, one every 2 weels roughly) and spend them all. In addition to what you got from the 300 pulls, you got to choose whichever of the most powerful characters you wanted, for free. If they were new you'd get an increased pull chance for that character. So many endgame competitive players played totally free. Not sure if Genshin has a system like that but I consider that the gold standard of gacha mechanics

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bigsocrates

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@bearhardt: I mean yes you're right that the game takes a while to unfurl its energy system, which are its true free to play mobile roots (though not necessarily restricted to gacha mechanics.) On the other hand...people can easily walk away, especially if they haven't spent any money. And the late game for this game isn't well designed for the action adventure crowd (it's kind of grindy in a gacha or MMO way instead of full of story and new content) so I don't know how many flies will fall into this particular web. You kind of already have to be a person who likes grinding a lot to see it as appealing, in which case you're probably already into gacha.

Anime has always appealed to both kids and adults, but I don't think this art style is particularly adult oriented except that it is somewhat sexualized (not that kids entertainment isn't.) And there is Lisa the thirsty librarian, though it's worth noting that she treats you like you're a kid, which is kind of disturbing.

But I was talking more about the game overall. It's a big fantasy adventure with a cute cartoon character guide and pretty dragons and the like. It's definitely going to draw in kids who like Zelda and similar games (it will attract adults too, of course.) It's rated teen for alcohol reference and fantasy violence, though the rating does note "in-game purchases" (games that don't have those are the exception these days.) The rating doesn't really get into gambling.

Even if the parents control the credit card and limit expenses it's bad for kids to get used to gambling and if kids get an allowance that they buy PSN cards with, or even just teens who make their own money (less likely during the pandemic) people could develop gambling issues. I just think it should be much more clearly marked as a game that contains significant gambling elements.

@belegorm: Genshin doesn't seem that generous yet, but it hasn't been out long so who knows. They have given out a lot of currency, but that's frequent with gacha games at the beginning to draw people in and get them used to making purchases. Like casinos that give away free chips.

However outside the gacha mechanics there's an energy system that locks off the late game grind, so unless that changes nobody is going to be playing this at an endgame competitive level for free.

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Nodima

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It's been an interesting generation for me. I've been reflecting back on how I played a lot of games as a kid and realizing it's actually not that different from how I play them now, it's just different genres and podcasts in place of music. I used to be wholly satisfied grinding out NCAA Dynasty and Madden Franchise modes season after season back when the saves crossed over, tracking my Huskers' careers in the NFL and trying to set crazy records with my Titans old and new. I'd leave the game on silent, or very very quiet, while listening to the full discographies of The Dismemberment Plan, Fugazi, Wu-Tang Clan, MF DOOM and so on. These days, I'm still doing that with MLB The Show, Destiny or apparently Genshin Impact, it's just full seasons of Way Down in the Hole, Dissect, catching up on The Daily, random episodes of How Did This Get Made or The Rewatchables, basketball/baseball pods, etc.

Sometimes, the moment I relish most in a game is the back half of the second act of Ghost of Tsushima or the final two chapters of Red Dead Redemption II where I lose interest in the verisimilitude of the experience and start listening to podcasts during play sessions I don't intend to advance the story.

But The Show and Destiny were the games that introduced me to grinding for loot, not just reverence in my own accomplishments. I had friends that would talk about World of Warcraft or Diablo II but I was a Macintosh kid, and while I enjoyed my experience with the Final Fantasy XI Beta as I explained in ZombiePie's first post about the game it felt like a novelty to me, probably because I just didn't want to start from scratch knowing what I knew about how dull the early game was.

What I'm really enjoying about Genshin is that it actually does have that moment where it says it is what it is, but it doesn't ask you to keep playing. MLB The Show is a fairly endless grind with something always on the horizon to unlock or unlock the ability to unlock, but none of it is gated and all of it can be earned through gameplay. That makes it something I can mindlessly play all day long on my days off, and I generally do, but now Genshin occupies this other space where I get to spend a couple hours flailing away at some things, perfecting some combos, rolling a dice or two at the end and then realizing I can either wander the map beating up on bosses mindlessly or jump back to The Show and let my currencies and dailies replenish. @bearhardt seems to think this is some kind of hidden poison pill, but I think it's actually an olive branch - just when the game starts running out of new things, it lets you know it's okay to walk away.

To me, the game says our gambling rates are abysmal, we've not got a lot more for you to do that isn't extremely repetitive, and this map is too large with its resources too limited for spending time mining it to be truly engaging. You should feel totally free to just poke your head in for an hour or so every day, spend and earn your currencies and then go about the rest of your day. Like Destiny before it, this is my Service game I can reliably feel like I've squeezed all of it that I can as a solo player each day and then feel completely guiltless walking away from and going back to my truly repetitive, truly endless grind and gamble game.

All the while wondering why I can't just convince myself to turn these podcasts off and give Ghost of Tsushima: Legends a real effort, or keep plugging away at the Last of Us Part 2 Survivor Plus run I'm incredibly enjoying in spurts once a month or so.

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bigsocrates

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@nodima: I can definitely relate to the old days of playing sports games or other stuff with the sound down and listening to music or, in my case, watching TV. I used to have a small TV set up next to my main TV and play DVDs or even over the air broadcasts on that while I went through seasons in NCAA or did some grinding in an RPG. Good times. Those NCAA games were so much fun. I can still remember individual seasons, games, and players from the early 2000s. I loved Madden too, but NCAA had so much more variety in how you could structure your playbook.

I did get into MMORPGs for a time but actually it was often harder to do other stuff while you played those because I was often in parties and having to communicate. I guess you could while soloing, and I sometimes did. Mostly Soundgarden.

Anyway, I can totally understand where you're coming from regarding Genshin, and I think it's great that for you the energy system is designed as a soft "you've played enough today" signal. That's great. But it's clearly not how it was intended.

My understanding is that the Battlepass is such that in order to get the full benefit of it you are required to spend premium currency on energy because you just don't get enough to finish the pass in the time they give you.

These games are also all designed to be the only game you play, and Genshin is no different. There just isn't a ton to do in end game at launch, but I'm sure it's coming. A year from now or two years if it's still popular the end grind will be very refined and tempting.

One of the ways these games get you that's so insidious is the sunk cost fallacy. I have a set of weights I bought last year for probably too much money. Any day that I don't lift (other than a scheduled rest day) those weights stare back at me accusingly, reminding me that I spent a bunch of money on them and I'm not even using them! Now this is a good thing for me because lifting weights is good for me and I want to do it regularly. Also once I bought the weights it doesn't cost anything to use them.

For gacha games, however, people spend a bunch to get the characters they want, and then they reach the end game and find they can barely use them. They spent $100 or $200 or more to get the party of their dreams and now they are restricted by the resin system. If they want to use that awesome Jean with 4 constellations unlocked they have to wait until tomorrow or...or...spend just a little bit more to refill tonight and keep playing. That's how they keep pumping oil out of the same whale.

For someone like you who isn't that into the game and isn't financially invested those road blocks may be a sign to walk away. For one of the whales it's..."I already put $300 into this game. What's $5 more?" And that's how the resin system is actually supposed to work.

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Zeik

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#8  Edited By Zeik

So I've played a lot of gacha games over the last several years. They scratch a particular RPG itch for me that is kind of few and far between with more traditional games. But I don't really play them for the gacha mechanics. They're just a means to an end and I almost never put money into them. I've learned how to find fun as F2P and making due with whatever I happen to get.

Genshin Impact is an odd duck though, as it doesn't scratch quite that same itch for the most part, but I have enjoyed just exploring the world, and the combat mechanics are fun enough. You don't really see RPGs like this even in the full priced game space. While it shares some notable similarities to Breath of the Wild, they are still quite different games, even disregarding the gacha. But I still don't really know about the game's longevity. A good gacha game in my book has a strong F2P friendly gameplay loop. Some people may choose to spend money to speed things up, or just chase some unit or goal, but there should always be a decent amount of stuff to do to make steady progress without spending a penny. But a large appeal of the game is the finite exploration that's eventually going to run out, and what I've seen of the actual loot grinding loop isn't anything special. In fact if the resin issues aren't addressed it's kinda bad. So I feel like a lot of people will drop it once they reach the end game and go find a gacha game with a more satisfying gameplay loop. Depending on how they decide to expand the world it might be a game worth checking back in on every few months though. We'll see.

That being said, I don't think anything about this game stands out as targeting kids directly. No more than literally every other gacha game out there. Bright colors and cartoony anime graphics is the standard for mobile gacha RPGs. I think it's unfair to try to call them out simply for their choice in artstyle. If you want an example of a gacha game clearly targeting a younger audience look at something like Pokemon Masters. Given the source material that's far more iffy.

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Nodima

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#9  Edited By Nodima

@bigsocrates: It's why I keep referring back to MLB The Show. There are certain things gated by skill checks and certain things gated by dedication of time, but the game is constantly gifting you items and money. Because stubs roughly have a 1,000:1 conversion rate, I can safely estimate I've earned and churned over $1,100 in virtual goods without spending a single extra dime (aside from the extra $40 ponied up for the deluxe edition at launch) and I have had exactly the experience I've wanted to have with this game.

So other games that make it clear that won't be the case just don't have that stickiness that this game has, even if I really enjoy them. Destiny 2 still feels great to play whenever I play it, but it always has this spectre of Crucible, Raids and even Gambit to an extent I'm just not interested in, eventually pushing me away because I'm scraping the bare minimum of my possible gear rolls in a play session.

Similarly (and somewhat alternatively) Apex Legends was the first competitive FPS I've enjoyed and really had sunk its hooks into me since the original Modern Warfare on PS3; back before The Show dropped this year, I gladly hit 100 on the Battle Pass in Season 2. But now the game is changing more frequently with a meta that becomes increasingly important to be aware of, meanwhile I have this more laid back commitment game I can play with zero competitive pressure...and Season 6 will be the last Battle Pass I'm able to buy without putting money into the game, as well as Rampart the last character I can redeem. Recognizing that, and how much I fell off from Season 3 to Season 5, I've just uninstalled the game rather than hope to get back into and get something out of the current Pass I cashed in on.

I did put in for the Battle Pass here, for similar reasons as the early months of Apex - it was a free game in a genre I'd never played before, and I appreciated all the evident polish and care that went into the thing. But I guess I'm just not worried if I don't extract all the benefits from it, because it has this albatross hanging over it of my desire to play (and replay) single player story driven experiences alongside a service game that already takes up a disproportionate amount of my days/available playtime and has given back 10 times the value I put into it by the valuations of its own in-game marketplace. Knowing that's a successful model (and I guess more importantly a game I hugely enjoy playing) I just can't let myself get hooked on anything else that asks for a similar investment of time without a similar commitment to me and my time.

But then I suppose I just wrote 600 words about how I find the gambling and energy-gate elements of this anime game completely out of sight and out of mind so I could end with a brief acknowledgement I once spent over $300 on card packs in NBA 2K's MyTeam mode one fall after my first brief dalliance with The Show went so well so I'm well aware that if I hadn't had that experience, I might've convinced myself to buy at least the $5 primogem booster as well as the BP. And then spent a whole night drinking and rolling crystals into gems into fates into wishes into stardust into resin until half my paycheck was gone.

Luckily, I also find the animé junk pretty boilerplate and unappealing, so yeah, cheer's to this Playstation owner's Payless experience with "Breath of the Wild" and a pretty cool elemental combat system!

Edit: The weird thing is that I really enjoy thinking about talking about this game, aside from Last of Us Part II (and MLB The Show) it's easily the game that's grabbed me most this year from a conversational perspective, and I guess I lay that at the feet of how novel an experience it's been for me despite also being an amalgam of so many different aspects of this generation I've experienced elsewhere, it just feels fresh even as this little demon potentially rests in its heart+soul.

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bigsocrates

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@zeik: I haven't played that many gacha games, but they don't scratch an RPG itch for me. The ones I've played don't really tend to have much story or even very much gameplay other than developing your characters and maybe timing screen presses or swipes to activate supers.

I think Genshin Impact plans to expand over time, both adding more content and presumably refining the end game grind to make it more enticing. It's the first game of its kind (gatcha high budget 3D action RPG) so presumably the main focus was just making it work and then they'll try to tune it as they go.

This game definitely targets kids. It also targets adults, of course, but it has a lot of kid-targeting elements. So do the other gachas, of course, and I think that's equally bullshit. But with the other gachas at least people are more aware of scammy phone games and also the gameplay itself is not that kid friendly. It's not "run around with a sword and whack slimes and goblins like you're playing Zelda, whee!" It's very menu based and adult oriented and unlikely to pull in young children. I think that the fact that this is not just on mobile and looks like a normal console game and the fact that its gameplay is so kid friendly means that it's even worse that it's all just window dressing on gambling. I think it should be rated M instead of T (for alcohol and violence) and gambling should be in the ESRB's description of it.

@nodima: I also find the game kind of fascinating. It's just such a big move into the AAA space and they kind of sort of pulled it off. But the fact that it does have so many rough edges also makes it even more interesting.

I think the fact that MLB: The Show started as a non micro transaction franchise and makes some of its money up front means it can afford to be a little more generous than a free to play game. It doesn't always work that way, of course, but sometimes it does and that builds loyalty. They're looking to sell you the next product on the PS5.

Genshin Impact is whale hunting, but if you can tune that out you can still have a pretty decent time. I know I won't be putting money into it (maybe $5 as a thank you tip or something) because I'd rather just buy Ys: Memory of Celcetta on PS4 and play through that. It's insane that they have gem bundles that won't even get you a full party that cost more than a whole, more polished, action RPG in a famous series.

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Zeik

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#11  Edited By Zeik

@bigsocrates: Building a lot of varied units is definitely a large part of the appeal for me. While I don't chase the gacha, just naturally playing them will amass a sizable roster of units, and the game's tend to incentivize building a lot of different units to tackle a variety of content, and I enjoy that. Most RPGs tend to limit you to a small selection of units that are often pretty interchangeable. The gacha games I have stuck with for an extended period of time have also had a decent amount of depth to their mechanics and a satisfying challenge to overcome. That's usually what keeps me playing, the gradual progress toward overcoming a challenge, and what usually causes me to quit them is running out of those challenges and the games turning into a treadmill with no goals beyond the gacha.

But I still have to disagree with what you're saying about the game targeting kids. The idea that just because it has an anime aesthetic and more active combat it is intentionally aimed at children and inherently scummier and warrants harsher treatment is a very misguided mindset. It reminds me of too many of other misguided arguments about other media that people mistakenly believe is intended for children specifically (anime, video games, comics, etc) and any content deemed unsuitable for children is unacceptable. While I definitely think parents need to be more aware and more cautious about young children playing these kinds of games, and the ESRB should probably start factoring in the gambling element of gacha's, that should apply to all gacha games. Nothing about this game warrants it to be singled out and treated harsher, beyond perhaps a greater awareness that it is in fact a gacha game and parents should be aware if their child starts playing it.

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bigsocrates

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@zeik: You keep saying "anime aesthetic" as if I'm some kind of anti-anime fanatic, but I'm not talking about anime at all. There are lots of anime games that are clearly not targeted towards children. Not even getting into something like Snatcher or 999, I can bring up a game that I mentioned in my initial blog...Ys VIII. Ys VIII has very explicitly anime character designs, but its script is much more adult oriented, with plenty of adult characters and themes (I'm not talking sexuality, I'm talking things like life and death and adult relationships) scattered throughout. It has an anime aesthetic but is not targeted towards kids. I can think of lots of other anime aesthetic games that are similarly not kiddie (Jet Set Radio, Danganronpa etc...etc...)

By contrast Genshin Impact's breakout character is Paimon. She's a super cutesy baby talking floating fairy, and her face is the icon for the game on PS4. Genshin Impact's story is also very kid friendly. There is definitely some sexual innuendo, and one character owns a winery, but it's written at a very kid friendly level and it's mostly about the sorts of things you'd find in a children's cartoon. It's incredibly kid friendly, and it's a vector for gambling that gives no warnings that that's what it is.

This has nothing to do with anime or not anime. It's about a game that's very kiddie and is based around a real money slot machine.

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Quantris

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I think most gacha games I've seen have a kid-friendly aesthetic. Doesn't the term "gacha" itself refer to machines that are definitely targetted at kids?

That may be worthy of the label "scummy" but I'm not really seeing how Genshin is doing something worse than anything that came before in this regard.

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@quantris: Lots of gacha games are kid-oriented and they all deserve condemnation insofar as they don't make it clear that they're gambling and should be only for adults.

Genshin Impact is worse because it has a massive marketing blitz, high production values, and is available on every system (soon coming to Switch.) It's just a much bigger property that more kids are likely to hear about and have access to.

Is it the absolute worst gacha game in terms of kid appeal? Probably not if you don't count the high production value and how fun it is to actually play (most gacha games are mostly about fiddling in menus instead of exploring massive fantasy worlds) but that's not the bar here. The bar here is "is what it's doing in this regard okay?" and I think the answer is clearly "no it's not okay."

Most of my blame is for the ESRB and platform holders, but the game makers really need to do a better job of making it clear that this is about gambling up front.

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I mean maybe I'm off base but I really feel like the audience this and others like it are targeting kinda...know the score at this point?

And maybe its just me looking at menus too much but I don't feel like the gambling aspect is particularly hidden.

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timeoflifehaver

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Did something happen when I wasn't looking and now loot boxes are okay again?

I thought we were all on the same page that gambling mechanics are inherently deceptive and abusive and have no place in video games. Wasn't there even a law about it?

And now even on the podcast I think Jeff said something to the effect of, gacha games are what big companies are doing now, and consumers are wrong to criticize it.

You have to know that EA, Ubisoft, ActivisionBlizzard, etc. are looking at this game and drooling over the gacha mechanics they're going to pack into the next Star Wars game, the next Far Cry game, the next Diablo.

Did I get teleported into an alternate universe or something?

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bigsocrates

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@efesell: Adults who are super into video games know the score. People who are more casual (but might be drawn to Genshin Impact because it's free and has lots of casual appeal) may not, and of course children don't know and might not even understand.

In terms of the gambling mechanics being obvious, I definitely don't think they are at the outset. When you start the game it just kind of gives you characters and then introduces you to the idea of "wishing" for stuff, but it's spitting currency at you pretty regularly at that point.

More importantly...a parent watching a child play is not going to be able to tell unless they really dig into the game's menus. If they're just looking out of the corner of their eye or from time to time it's going to look like an age appropriate action adventure game. If they go on the ESRB website to read the rating there is no warning about gambling.

@timeoflifehaver: I don't think that anyone is saying that loot boxes are okay. Jeff is covering the game and being honest about it but he's said it's kind of fucked and he has mixed feelings about it. Personally I'm just talking about gacha as a mechanic in my post, not getting into the morality of it, though as you can see from my later comments I think it's pretty scummy. I haven't spent a penny on the game so I don't think I'm promoting it by downloading it, but I don't like gacha in general.

On the other hand EA doesn't need to learn anything about gacha from this. They already did gacha with Battlefront II. All the big companies are well aware of these tactics and how profitable they are. EA makes a ton of money from sports game gacha.

These tactics are bad and harmful but they are also part of the industry right now and other than not giving money to games that have them there's not much that can be done.

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#18  Edited By Nodima

I think the way Jeff has been approaching this game is fairly pragmatic. He's not saying it's OK or wrong to criticize, but that this game not getting the same heat some other games like Battlefront or NBA 2K get is due in no small part to the normalizing of gacha in the Eastern nerd culture, and thus it being somewhat normalized by the otaku or waifu or whatever we're calling the Western interpretation of Eastern nerd culture these days. People can contain multitudes, and I think a lot of people will look at random animé stuff, particularly original properties like Genshin, as just another one of those things they do over there while also looking at Star Wars and saying "but I want Vader nooooooow!"

I think in some ways people have always found it easy to look at sports gamers and, increasingly, animé gamers and joke "well they get what they pay for I guess," and consider that somewhat outside of "gaming" even if those are generally the games that grease the wheels for everything else in this industry.

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#19  Edited By Zeik

@bigsocrates: My issue is that you're conflating "not explicitly targeting adults with explicitly adult themes and graphics" with "targeting children". A lot about the game has a potentially broad appeal, yes, and there are going to be children who will play it, but that's not the same as actively targeting a child audience. For better or worse, characters like Paimon are often not designed to appeal to children, they're designed to appeal to otakus who like cute moe characters. Paimon isn't the "breakout character" because kids are talking about her. It's adults.

I don't intend to sit here and argue in circles with you, but I flat out disagree with the assertion that this game is inherently scummier purely for its choice in artstyle and its broad anime themes. There's plenty of valid criticisms you can have about this game and the gacha game model in general, but I strongly disagree with that one.

The game is already rated T, so if you're following the ESRB's guidlines then that already cuts out young children. And when it comes to teens there's really nothing about this game that has an inherent "teen" appeal, more than any other age. In fact, for most teens something with more mature graphics or themes is a far easier sell. Games like CoD are incredibly successful at appealing to teens. Personally speaking, if a game came out with graphics like this but Ys level or greater themes I would have been 100% my jam as a teenager. Being more broadly "kid friendly" has no inherent appeal for the average teenager.

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butterstick1

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Some dude I worked with just sat there and played gacha shit all day. He tried to get me into a couple, and I quickly realized the game part of it is even more bland the the gambling aspect. Work itself was more fun and interesting than playing Fate: Grand Order or that Dan Machi thing. Why would people even pay to play that stuff, it's like those fake mobile games that you see in ads. I can understand Genshin because it at least has a playable game surrounding the gacha BS.

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Onemanarmyy

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#21  Edited By Onemanarmyy

NBA and Fifa also target children (& adults) eventhough it looks realistic and features a bunch of dudes. Parents might also not know that when they buy the latest football game for their kid that has a Messi poster above their bed, that it also features a whole gambling aspect that they might get sucked into.

F2P games like LOL, Warframe and Dota also have a bunch of kids playing it, given that it's a free way for kids to play a game together. If you have a problem with kids getting in touch with gambling mechanics through games, there's a whole plethora of games that are facilitating that.

Genshin's power upgrades might be generally harder to resist than say Overwatch's cosmetic upgrades in terms of microtransactions. That said, given that cosmetics already extract obscene amount of revenue from players and that children are quite vulnerable and inexperienced when it comes to making financial decisions, i'd argue that a never-ending stream of cosmetic microtransactions is already quite devious. Especially when it's a multiplayer game where kids could pressure eachother into looking good and having the sickest dances. They might be equals in power, but that doesn't mean that there's no pressure to spend.

Hell, i even played with an adult a few times that made multiple mentions of 'welfare-tier' skins. As a kid it's hard to shrug that off when your friends roll around with confetti and rainbows firing off their butts.

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depecheload

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Gacha "games" aren't games. They're programs designed to encourage users to spend money via a gambling system that is rigged against them in an exploitative way.

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