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    Zenless Zone Zero

    Game » consists of 0 releases. Released Jul 04, 2024

    An Urban Fantasy action-RPG from the makers of Genshin Impact.

    Trying Zenless Zone Zero reminded me that gacha mechanics are only for whales. Promoting these games is sleazy.

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    bigsocrates

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    #1  Edited By bigsocrates

    Zenless Zone Zero got enough buzz that I decided to cave and download it on my PS5. I have some things that I want to say about the game as a whole, which I'll post separately, but while I was playing I decided to check out the gacha mechanics and see if I was tempted to spend anything. I've dropped small amounts of money into free to play games in the past for things like ad removal or permanent reward boosters, or even new player packs, and it can make a game more enjoyable because you have some more fun toys to play with. Going through a gacha game with characters you like is much better than going through with characters you don't.

    Zenless Zone Zero's options all suck. You get a lot of free pulls, especially early, like with all these games, and I managed to pull 4 characters in addition to the three freebies you get (a party is three characters so like most of these games they give you the bare necessities to play with.) The current limited time character is actually a lot of fun to play with (like many of these games you can test drive her in a training session) so I would be maybe tempted to try for her, but the odds are very low and pulls are extremely expensive. Even the "Pay to get a premium currency login bonus for a month" gives you fewer than 20 pulls for $5, and other pull packages can be like 50 cents per. It's just absurd. I spent $40 on Granblue Fantasy: Relink, an entire premium game that has a lot in common with a gacha game (you even earn in game tickets that you use to buy additional party members; unsurprising given that Granblue Fantasy is a gacha franchise) but with way higher production values, better storytelling etc... I'm not looking to spend that amount for a single character (I think you can get her guaranteed after like 70 pulls.)

    Meanwhile as I said I've done a lot of pulls (I think over a hundred) and the vast majority of them are just junk weapons of no interest. For someone like me who does not have the gambling trait it's not addicting, it's tedious and dispiriting. It doesn't make me want to spend money it kind of makes me want to stop playing the game. Or at least ignore the gacha mechanics and focus on the party I have, which is probably more than enough for most of the activities and story missions I'm interested in.

    These games are solely designed for whale hunting. They're not designed to get 30% of players to drop 20-30 bucks into them. They're designed to get 5% of players to drop $500-1000 or more. It's disgusting. I'm going to explain elsewhere why I think this game in particular is overrated, but to have the gaming press hyping up these titles that they know are designed specifically to hook and drain gambling addicts just makes me respect them less. It's not that Zenless Zone Zero isn't fun at all, but it's like running favorable advertorials on casinos. You know you're going to induce people into trying something that will addict them and hurt them.

    It's bad, and I don't like how the West has accepted these mechanics so readily. I think in many ways the Eastern games are worse than Western loot boxes were because loot boxes were often more rewarding for those who put a little bit of money in. There was gambling, sure, but you were often guaranteed at least something of value., Gacha games are just literally virtual slot machines with graphics and mechanics appended.

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    BisonHero

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    The leaning into people with addiction problems sucks. And maybe it’s by virtue of it being a mobile game thing, but I think most gacha games are simply Not Important.

    I mean, maybe there are young little gamers who grew up in Asia and have formative memories of grinding their dailies in Granblue Fantasy or Genshin Inpact or whatever, but I just don’t think these games are making it in the annals of gaming history. I’ve tried a few, and some of the top end ones certainly have slick graphics and UI, but the gameplay and story are always pretty bland from what I’ve seen.

    So even after watching that Zenless Zone Zero stream, I remain firm: gacha is an Unimportant area of gaming that I experience no fomo about skipping. It does seem kind of embarrassing that full time games professionals and full time streamers get involved with gacha, because they should know better. Any genre you attach it to, it just makes it slimy and worse.

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    bigsocrates

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    @bisonhero: I don't know what "important" means here. If you mean do they move the medium forward or represent the peak of it, I tend to agree with you. I played some Genshin Impact when that released and people were saying it was as good as BOTW and I thought that was just the craziest claim. Genshin Impact, at least back then, was pretty mediocre. And I think Zenless Zone Zero is pretty mediocre too, for reasons I want to put into a separate post because I want to focus on exploitation here.

    But I think they are important from a business perspective and a LOT of people play them. They're huge business with huge audience, they represent a much larger part of the gaming industry than a lot of the core games you or I might think are "important." I mostly try them out (and not all of them) out of curiosity and mostly I've had a similar read as you do, but for millions of people this is one of, if not the only, way(s) they interact with video games.

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    AV_Gamer

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    #4  Edited By AV_Gamer

    I still haven't tried the last game the developer's released, called Honkai Star Rail. I'm still having a lot of fun playing Genshin Impact, which I've yet to spend a penny on. However, the fact they are releasing a lot of these type of games within years apart, clearly shows the gacha mechanics are working, and they are making lots of money. But I don't fault the developer's too much, because everyone is trying to get into the live service arena these days. Because if they hit the jackpot, then they're doing Fortnite type numbers. It's easy to complain about it, but that is not going to stop the hundreds of thousands of players (really millions) from opening their wallets and spending money for that latest skin or fancy weapons pack. Not to mention the gaming influencers who use them games to also promote their streams, showing off all the latest in-game stuff they purchased.

    I have a simple rule for these type of games. I will only play a game like this if I can do so and experience the full game, without spending any money to do so. If the game has a pay wall to advance, I move on. A game that lets you enjoy the full experience, and only have cosmetics to make the character look better or something, isn't a big deal to me. The only exception for me is Destiny, and so far the Final Shape is awesome. And even in Destiny, I focus on the story based content. I don't waste money with any of the cosmetics or other stuff, unless I can buy it with bright dust, which is in game currency you collect while playing.

    I'm also playing The First Descendant and enjoying it, and so far it seems like a game where you can fully experience it without spending any money, with the in game store once again being about costumes and other trinkets you can buy to outfit your chosen character.

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    bigsocrates

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    @av_gamer: I disagree with many elements of your post.

    First of all, nobody denies that these tactics are commercially successful. If they weren't they would solve themselves.

    Secondly, there's a big difference between a gacha game and other live service models. You name Fortnite, but Fortnite's model is built around extracting a small amount of money from a large number of people via battlepasses and the like. Nobody ever gets into serious debt buying battle passes (or to do so you'd need a bunch of accounts and other issues.) I don't personally like battle passes but they aren't designed to exploit gambling addicts.

    I also don't think it matters that you have rules that work for you for playing these games. Many people do. I, personally, have only spent small amounts of money on these kinds of games and have never really felt tempted to spend more.

    But lots of people can also drink responsibly. Some can also smoke a few cigarettes without becoming addicted. That doesn't mean that we want people promoting alcohol, cigarettes, or (as in this case) gambling using whatever means they can. Some people, maybe most, can use some of these things responsibly but for those who can't it can be quite damaging to be getting a bunch of marketing pressure to try something that can turn their lives upside down. And it's even worse when people are saying "you don't have to spend anything, I don't and I love it." That may be true for you, and that's fine you should definitely play whatever you like so long as it isn't hurting you, but it doesn't mean it's possible for everyone.

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    sombre

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    Honestly, what did you expect?

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    AV_Gamer

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    #7  Edited By AV_Gamer

    @bigsocrates: At the end of the day, it's called two things: personal responsibility and making a choice. There will always be alcohol, cigarettes, vapor pens, drugs of all kinds, both legal and illegal, gambling, processed junk food, and yes, live service and gacha games. I don't care what the differences are, at the end of the day, it can cause an addiction for someone who doesn't act responsibly and have some self-control, and that person has no one to blame but themselves. Sure, you can say the companies, corporations, etc. are wrong for marketing and promoting these things, and you'd be preaching to the choir. But unless society as a whole stops buying these things and boycotts all of these businesses, these things are here to stay. The stuff is promoted worldwide and millions of people spend their money on them. It's called supply and demand. There is a reason many gaming developers are trying their best to get into the live service and gacha space and are failing because the market is pretty much filled up.

    And while you don't think my approach to these games matter, maybe someone else who happens to read this thread, whether they're a member of the site or just lurking, might take something out of it. If they themselves have a problem with these type of games and don't know how to stop splurging. A lot of people go in thinking they have to spend a lot of money to get the full experience, for example, when they really don't.

    At the end of the day, life is not fair, and I don't pretend that it is.

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    bigsocrates

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    @sombre: Honestly I don't know. Maybe something designed a little more to get money from a broader base rather than obvious whale hunting? I find the whale hunting stuff so unappealing as a consumer it always catches me off guard what a horrible deal they're offering.

    @av_gamer: Saying this is all about self control shows that you don't understand addiction or how it works. You telling people that you don't feel compelled to spend or have to is irrelevant to people with addictive tendencies. In fact it may be damaging because they might think "well if they can do it, I can too" and they can't. It's about brain chemistry and how the reward system is wired more than conscious choice. Yes a few are able to break addiction through sheer force of will, but it's rare.

    I'm not calling for the banning of gacha games (let alone something like alcohol.) But I do think that promotion should be more regulated. And I certainly think that people who claim to be socially conscious should have a lot more personal reservations about promoting these games that are designed to addict people.

    Life isn't fair but you don't need to participate in pushing the unfair parts that hurt people.

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    sombre

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    @sombre: Honestly I don't know. Maybe something designed a little more to get money from a broader base rather than obvious whale hunting? I find the whale hunting stuff so unappealing as a consumer it always catches me off guard what a horrible deal they're offering.

    @av_gamer: Saying this is all about self control shows that you don't understand addiction or how it works. You telling people that you don't feel compelled to spend or have to is irrelevant to people with addictive tendencies. In fact it may be damaging because they might think "well if they can do it, I can too" and they can't. It's about brain chemistry and how the reward system is wired more than conscious choice. Yes a few are able to break addiction through sheer force of will, but it's rare.

    I'm not calling for the banning of gacha games (let alone something like alcohol.) But I do think that promotion should be more regulated. And I certainly think that people who claim to be socially conscious should have a lot more personal reservations about promoting these games that are designed to addict people.

    Life isn't fair but you don't need to participate in pushing the unfair parts that hurt people.

    It's one of those weird pervy anime F2P games. I'd expect you to know better by now.

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    bigsocrates

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    @sombre: Eh. It's not THAT pervy. Like it's less horny than Voice of Cards and a lot of other games. Otherwise fair.

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    @bigsocrates: Look, the busty muscle mommy of a Voice of Cards or Dragon’s Crown is one type of pervy.

    But if you showed like, a normal person on the streets the cast of a Mihoyo game, where the female cast is (charitably) 12-25 year old girls all wearing miniskirts or booty shorts or crop tops or thigh-high stockings or maid outfits, the normal person might give it a high rating on the pervy scale as well. Even if you take those characters through the entire campaign and there isn’t a single instance of sexual innuendo or suggestive posing (again, charitable), the devs know what they’re doing with those character designs.

    I enjoy an occasional anime or anime-adjacent video game, but it’s crazy how much of a free pass is given because the perviness around teenagers is so commonplace in a certain style of anime game.

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    bigsocrates

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    @bisonhero: First of all, there's a MASSIVE difference between 12 and 25 when it comes to revealing outfits and bodacious tatas. 12 is very very bad and 25 is...normal media. It is not hard to find sexualized 25 year olds in media that most of us don't consider problematic, beyond the general "we live in a misogynistic culture" thing, which is true but not so specific to individual works really.

    I think that Zenless Zone Zero does a better job of not sexualizing the very young girls (though not as good a job as it should) than some of these games, but sure it has some innuendo and some of the twenty something ladies have tig ol bitties, with bounce tech. But I don't find it specifically pervy for an anime game and it doesn't compare to something like Bayonetta on the hornometer.

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    borgmaster

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    @bigsocrates: (I'm adding to the argument not going after you specifically)

    Hoyo knows how to cultivate horndogs with their characters. The base designs are sexualized just enough to hint at titillation while not running afoul of any international censorship laws, because they know the fan community will take those extra steps themselves and thus spread word of mouth among the right crowds. Those base designs really aren't that horny in the scheme of things, just look at Genshin as an earlier example. Everyone in the industry learned from Overwatch, Hoyo better than most.

    ZZZ is a waifu slot machine with some gameplay to keep you busy. You go there either for context on the fan art or to revel in the garish aesthetics. The players who stay do so because they have a problem. This, Honkai Rail, and Genshin are by no means the most abusive or manipulative gachas, just the most successful. Hell, they're the most successful because they resemble real games more than most of their competitors, which might make them the least bad among the genre.

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    AV_Gamer

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    #14  Edited By AV_Gamer

    @bigsocrates: I'm well aware of how addiction works, which is why I'm saying that when it comes down to it, it's about making a choice and being accountable for that choice. And that is what you are told in any addiction rehab program. I'm not heartless or uncaring about people with addictions. In fact, if we're being honest, we all have our vices. But as human beings, we have free will and the ability to make a choice that is either destructive or constructive to our lives.

    One of the first things you have to accept, is that you can't help an addict unless they are willing to help themselves, and most have to hit rock bottom for that to happen. Sure, I can tell someone who I notice is spending way too much money on a gacha or live service game to stop, but until they realize or care enough about how they are blowing their money, my comments will fall on deaf ears. Either way, the gaming companies continue to exist, and the money keeps rolling in. It sucks, but that's reality.

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    bigsocrates

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    @av_gamer:I think we're talking past each other at this point. I'm not arguing that these things don't exist or even should be legally banned. I'm just saying that the pricing structure here is awful, and that games media influencers should not treat these gambling addiction games (since that's the business model here) the same way they treat other, less exploitative games.

    Writing glowing reviews about Zenless Zone Zero (a game that doesn't really deserve glowing reviews for entirely separate reasons) is not the same as doing so about Helldivers II, which has microtransactions but much less exploitative ones that won't trigger addiction.

    All that is independent of what the gambling addict does to manage their own addiction. Most rehabs that also do policy advocacy work do not support loosening the restrictions on alcohol advertising, to draw a line of comparison.

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    theonewhoplays

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    The second anyone (fan or otherwise) start talking about "pulls" I'm out. If every single screenshot in the store are of teenage girls with medium-to-low amounts of clothing, I'm out. That removes most F2P games and I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything worth-while. I did give Genshin a shot since people were raving about it and it's a 6/10 at best even without taking the gacha nonsense into account. Only reason these games are on anyone's radar is that they're F2P and let you collect "cute" boys and girls.

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    apewins

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    I will never understand gacha games. I am already reminded every day about how poor I am financially, the last thing I want to do is to be reminded of that in video games where I go to escape reality. Playing these games is like going to Wall Street and challenging bankers to see who's got more money on their bank account - the chances of me winning that contest are not good.

    I did play a fair amount of Hearthstone when it was new. I made a point of not spending a single dollar on it, not even to buy the starter pack which admittedly would have been good value, because spending a single buck would have invalidated that game and all my achievements in it. But I did have a pretty good time playing it for free, because having a very limited set of cards meant that I actually needed to come up with my own strategies, that sometimes worked very well against expensive decks and I get some amount of pleasure imagining people who spent ridiculous amount of money into the game losing to some basic cards. I eventually stopped playing when I realized that basically every opponent was playing the one deck that happened to be in the meta at any given time. They had dismissed the whole deck-building aspect of the game completely and simply asked the Internet what the best deck was and how much did it cost. There should have theoretically been an infinite amount of possible decks in the game, in reality there were 2 or 3 decks that people played with a few minor variations.

    Having said all that, I don't know what is there to achieve to white-knight on behalf of the whales that spend money on these games. I definitely support tougher regulations on these games (stop targeting kids) but beyond that the old adage is that a fool and his money are easily separated and if they aren't spending their money on gacha games, they'll just spend it on something else equally dumb, if not something even dumber (Twitch donations to millionaires to buy their 4th house for example).

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