What Exactly Is a “Gacha” Video Game?

The hands of a child holding a credit card and a smartphone, and a game of gacha on the table.mapo_japan / Shutterstock.com

Gacha games are popular with mobile players around the world. The term comes from Japan, but the games have spread internationally. Here’s how they work and what makes them so addictive!

What is a Gacha game?

As more people start play on their phones, the number of games looking to occupy real estate on your phone’s home screen is increasing every year. One of the fastest growing genres is “gacha” games. Most of them are from Japan and they all have similar monetization patterns.

Gachapon machines in an electronics store in Japan.Rittis / Shutterstock.com

These games are based onGashaponWhich are vending machines that produce small capsules with a toy inside, similar to Kinder Surprise Toys. When you put a token in the machine, you have no way of knowing which item you will get. Much of the call opens the package and sees what’s inside.

Gacha games work the same way. You spend money opening boxes or packs, or collecting items, cards and characters. These are often popular manga or anime franchises. You then use them to take on other players and take on challenges. These cards and characters also usually have variations, such as rating or star level.

The most powerful and efficient collectibles are very rare and difficult to obtain. Getting them can involve opening thousands of boxes and many microtransactions.

Gacha mechanics

10 characters in a Gacha role-playing game.Square Enix games

Gacha games have a lot in common with collectible card games (GCC). Like CCGs, the items you can get while spinning have a direct effect on the way you play. Many collectible card players spend large sums of money perfecting their decks and getting the best types of cards.

However, unlike CCGs, where you can buy unique rare cards from other collectors, there is usually no way to buy individual items in a gacha game.

The “spin” process is similar to opening a loot box in Western titles. However, unlike gacha games, loot boxes are often not a primary game mechanism; sometimes they don’t affect the gameplay at all. For example, in the first-person shooter, Overwatch, the loot boxes contain only cosmetic items, such as costumes and animations.

Since this monetization system can be applied to any type of game, the basic game mechanics of these titles can vary greatly. For example, Puzzles and Dragons is a matching puzzle game, while Final Fantasy Brave Exvius is a turn-based role-playing game. However, both implement gacha-based mechanisms when it comes to recovering powers and characters.

Gacha’s problem

A Pachinko facility in Kyoto, Japan.Michael Gordon / Shutterstock

Gacha games, by their very nature, are very random and often entice players to spend money. This makes it one of the most addictive types microtransactions. Some in the industry have called them a form of gambling without monetary payment. The most dedicated gacha players can spend huge sums in a short time trying to get the best collectibles.

Another source of concern is the lack of barriers to entry. Since most of these mobile games, children can easily play and buy rolls without their parents noticing. Some developers have even been accused of deliberately misrepresenting the likelihood that players will get what they want. They have also been criticized for having designed their user interfaces (UI) to encourage players to open many consecutive capsules.

In 2012, Japan banned the “complete gacha»System following several viral cases of minors spending thousands of dollars. The complete gacha is a monetization system in which a player can obtain rare objects if he completes a large number of other more common objects. This encouraged a lot of raises, as players often ended up rolling the same items over and over.

Besides Japan, other countries have laws that protect players from these deceptive practices. In some European countries, games with random items that cost money must now disclose the drop rates of all collectibles.

RELATED: What are microtransactions and why do people hate them?

The future of Gacha


In recent years, many large media companies in Japan, such as Nintendo, Square Enix, and Aniplex, have turned their franchises into gacha games in order to take advantage of the growing mobile game market. In addition to making a profit in its own right, it is a way to keep fans of their games engaged with the brand.

Gacha games remain very popular, in Japan and abroad. Many players have noted, however, that since the implementation of the complete ban on gacha in Japan, monetization of free games has become less blatant.

RELATED: 10 premium fun Android games without microtransactions

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