Gacha games are terrible, and terribly addicting. I know this from first-hand experience, having been a former addict.
I’m probably the least weebtastic member of the Niche Gamer team; but I’ve written quite a bit about the idea of gacha over the years. My first experience with gacha as a genre was playing Final Fantasy: Record Keeper.
Perhaps it was lack of familiarity with the genre or basic understanding of the game mechanics, but it never really clicked with me. I couldn’t understand why getting a high rarity character or item needed duplicates of itself in order to unlock its full potential or piece of gear. It frustrated me, and I uninstalled. It’s a shame, I really wanted to like this game and kick Gaius’ ass in two worlds.
It wasn’t until the release of Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius that I finally found a game with a familiar element that resonated with me. FFBE didn’t feel nearly as complicated to jump in and start playing.
On the surface it was just simple turn-based classic Final Fantasy gameplay with a Pokémon collection approach. A no-brainer. Once you got into it, you learned about chaining families and certain tactics required to beat advanced trials. I found myself quickly addicted.
For about two years I played FFBE daily, and whaled hard on banners for characters I wanted. Part of it was desire to have every unit, but that quickly became an obsession with competition. I had to have the best units, and wanted my teams to reflect my passion for the game. This was a very costly mistake.
I spent too much money trying to keep up and be competitive. I watched streamers pull endlessly to get whatever they wanted, as if they had an endless supply of in-game currency. After realizing I’d maxed out a credit card (spending well over a few thousand dollars), I realized that this had become more of a dopamine drip than it was a game I was playing for fun.
What originally was a fun game with a captivating story, turned into a tedious grind. Leaving an emulator running almost 24/7 to play the game enough to max out trust values, in order to obtain the best pieces of gear that the game offered for my character, shared to my friends list for assistance.
Reflecting back on it, what did I like about it? As I mentioned before, the mechanics were straight-forward, and the story was enthralling. I loved collecting my favorite Final Fantasy characters, even if statistically they sucked.
Once characters started getting new variants instead of cosmetic skins, I knew it was time to get out. I gave up, uninstalled the game, and swore off the gacha genre for good; feeling nothing in the end but foolish for letting my competitive nature get the best of me, and drain my wallet.
This is exactly the mindset that companies like Gumi and A-Lim want. Addictive personalities spending money for virtual status that ultimately doesn’t mean a fucking thing. All that money I spent never added up to anything. Sure I was doing pretty well in the monthly raids, but spending 80 hours a week on a game and several hundred dollars every two weeks didn’t get me anything to show for it.
I could’ve possibly sold my account, but what’s the point? I doubt I’d even get a fraction of what I paid into it. In hindsight, I should have probably started streaming, since it was a fairly niche game that not many people were focusing on. But my day job and family life didn’t allow me to stick to a schedule, which makes that a little bit tricky to say the least.
I share my personal experience with this because it’s important for context. I see writers constantly whining about predatory practices in games, but until you’ve experienced it yourself, you’ll never understand how much damage this can cause.
Perhaps we should praise games like Fortnite, League of Legends, or Counter Strike: Global Offensive; where purchases made simply go to supporting development of the free-to-play game model, while also offering no competitive advantage. Though it’s no secret that skins secretly did offer an advantage.
Path of Exile appears to be the closest to an honest business model – offering supporter packs that directly support development of the game, and offer no sort of competitive advantage. They just allow you to flex online by showing that you helped support the game, and that’s quite alright with me.
In dealing with my personal demons, I agreed to start dabbling back into gachas with a strict rule that I would stay free-to-play. I dabbled with Bandai Namco’s The Seven Deadly Sins: Grand Cross, and Nintendo’s Dragalia Lost. Neither of them kept me hooked for more than a month or two; since I refused to spend money. Almost.
I failed, as I spent about $50 USD at the height of my enjoyment of Dragalia Lost – justifying it as supporting the developers. I left soon after, realizing how necessary real money purchases would be once you’d cleared a majority of the content.
Recently, I’ve been missing the toil of logging in and farting around in something, so I’ve been playing Epic Seven. So far, I’ve played through all of episode one. While it’s been pretty fun thus far, it shamelessly begs you for money every single time you make an advancement, and of course, requires multiple copies of every unit to unlock their full potential.
This is a fairly predatory practice, and constantly being asked to spend money is already getting old. I’m only going to continue playing it until I hit a point where it’s impossible to advance without spending money.
I’ve purposely avoided mentioning Genshin Impact, because I don’t feel like it’s purely a gacha. Even though the wish system is the same predatory nonsense as every other gacha I’ve mentioned above, and is a slightly different monster.
Genshin Impact is a fully playable world, that is manageable by all of the units naturally acquired by spending the in-game awarded currency. I will admit you can’t just play for ten minutes and accomplish much until you’ve put one hundred hours or better in. Instead of logging in and farting around, I’m playing a proper video game.
Most importantly, while others have happily contributed to its mountainous success for their husbandos and waifus, I don’t feel compelled to spend money on it. At least in my experience. Maybe I’m missing a world of over-powered characters, but why would I want to pay for a “you win!” screen?
What do you think? Are there any gachas out there that feel ethical? Valid as stand-alone games? Shitty casinos that deserve death because they only exist to milk poor schlubs of their hard earned cash? Sound off in the comments below!
This is an editorial piece. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of, and should not be attributed to, Niche Gamer as an organization.