Gacha: A Commendable Yet Deceptive Business Model

One of our colleagues, Jens, only planned to spend a little money on Genshin Impact. After four weeks, a fiver became 110 euros. This is what he had to say about his experience.

I will always loathe the Gacha system, regardless how ecstatic I am when I catch [AR1] a 5-star hero (which happened today I am pleased to say). Although I’m a willing participant to the Gacha mechanic, especially thanks to that endorphin kick, doesn’t mean I like it either.

And although Genshin Impact is a free open world RPG and you don’t need to spend money to progress in the game, I look at my bank account and realise that I spent 110.46 Euro (Approx. US$132.12) How did that happen?! Especially considering how I condemn the Gacha mechanic.

It started small…

It started with the Blessings of the Welkin Moon which costs 5,46 Euro for which I received 3000 Genesis Crystals, a resource for the Gacha mechanic. In comparison, you can buy 3280 Primogems (Premium Currency) which can be exchanged 1:1 with Genesis Crystals, costs 54,99 Euro. In terms of value, the Moon Blessing bundle is the best that Genshin Impact has to offer in its shop. There is a catch: I get 300 Genesis Crystals at once, and 2700 Primogems across 30 days. I have to login daily and claim the 90 gems. If I miss one day, it also means I get less gems for my money. Since I play my daily quests every day anyway, it’s not a problem for me and the Moon Blessing is an investment that really pays off for me.

Every time I login for the first time on a day, this beautifully drawn lady greets me and gives me 90 Primogems.  Initially I thought I would stick with the Moon Blessing – I would just buy the offer in the months where I actively play Genshin Impact on a regular basis, allowing me to get at least 20 wishes every 30 days. Famous last words. One evening, – after adventuring and questing for about an hour – I decide to get the 54.99 Euro Primogem bundle. The first time you buy a bundle you get double the amount of resources, which meant that I got 40 wishes from the virtual Gacha machine.

Here it comes… Justifying my gems

I thought to myself, “Well, you’ve played over 30 hours of Genshin Impact already, surely it’ll be 40 hours within the first month, so why not reward the developers for it?” Together with the price for Moon Blessing, I was now at about 60 Euros, which is the usual purchase cost for a full-price game. Genshin Impact gave me as much pleasure as a buy-to-play title, so 60 Euros was perfectly reasonable in my eyes – and of course I already wanted one or the other character (I still hope for Diluc today, and in the meantime, I acquired Razor).

“So, 60 euros will have to do,” I said to myself. Ha, you’d think! First, I bought the Genesis Crystal Bundle for 16.99 Euros, because of the first-time double up bonus on resources. With the crystals I bought with a tenner, plus the 360 I already collected meant that I could try my luck 10 times, that didn’t sound too bad to me. Well, recently another 32.99 Euros was added to get 3,960 gems and crystals – simply because I wanted to draw from the Gacha machine several times.

My love-hate relationship to Genshin Impact

This is how quickly it escalates: From “I’m only spending a little over a fiver a month on this free-to-play game” to “Oh, now I’ve spent 110 euros after four weeks.” That’s not a sum I would ever spend on a video game – with the exception of titles that get several quality add-ons over the years (Here’s looking at you WoW). So, does this mean that I approve of Genshin Impact’s gacha system? Or that I regret having invested so much money in the role-playing game? My answer to both questions: no.

I still don’t like the gacha system.  But I really like Genshin Impact itself. Since the release, I’ve been playing it every day, even if it’s only 15 minutes in the morning before work, when I quickly complete my daily missions. But every now and then there are also longer sessions. I’m now adventure rank 32, but I’m still in the first act of chapter 1 (which follows the big prologue, which could have been called chapter 1) of the story, and I still have quite a few world and legend missions ahead of me. Even without further updates, I still have more than enough to explore in Teyvat (the name of the world in Genshin Impact).

The developers know what they’re doing

However, the reason why after four weeks I’ve already invested so much more than I wanted to is not only the game’s fun and my appreciation for what developer miHoYo has created. It’s also the game’s monetization scheme, which is deceptive and fair at the same time.

I can experience everything that Genshin Impact currently offers completely free of charge. At no point did the game ever push me to spend money. The Gacha system and store are explained once during the tutorial phase and that’s it. There are no intrusive advertising banners and icons, or pop-up windows like in other free-to-play games that literally scream in my face to please go to the virtual store.

At the same time, the game keeps telling me how cool some heroes are by showing them in action during story quests in cutscenes or even letting me slip into their skin for a short time and try them out. Of course, this makes me want to try my luck and maybe win a Diluc, a Mona or a Razor. The constant primal gifts that I receive during login bonus campaigns or events also contribute to this. If I’ve already received sum X for free and I’m only missing sum Y to buy ten draws, then I’m more willing to spend the money than if I have to pay 33 Euros directly to be able to afford such a package.

I’ve noticed it in myself: Genshin Impact is a danger to the wallet, because on the one hand it makes me spend money by sneaky means, and on the other hand it’s so good and fun as a game that I don’t have a problem with it, because it only maximizes my gameplay. At least that’s true when I get new heroes or good weapons – or duplicate copies of characters I like to play so I can level up their constellation and get new passive bonuses.

No, I am not addicted! (Just one more hit)

However, you do not have to worry about me: I’m not falling into what resembles a gambling addiction here. However, I will certainly continue to spend money on Genshin Impact. The 5,49 Euro for the Moon Blessing every 30 days is set, as long as I continue to play every day. And in the months when I do more than just my daily tasks, I now set myself a budget of 60 euros (Moon Blessing included). But I know, for example, that I’ll be playing significantly less Genshin Impact in November and December because there are so many new games coming out. So, I might not pay any money at all, but I might invest a bit more in January. By then, a lot of new content will have been released; after all, the game world will continues to be expanded.

So why this column? Well, for one thing, to tell you that you can invest over 100 euros in Genshin Impact really quickly, even if you didn’t want to at first. To warn you that miHoYo, as fairly designed as the title is, will use clever means to lure you out of your pocket. Secondly, that this doesn’t have to be a bad thing as long as you keep yourself in check and only spend as much as your financial circumstances allow. Set yourself monthly limits, and stick to it! And only spend money if you really know you’ll be playing the game for many more hours afterwards! Genshin Impact deserves to be a success because it is a good game with fair monetization. But if you don’t have self-control, you should leave it alone.

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