Gacha: Types of Japanese monetization mechanic
The name ‘gacha’ must be familiar to you from our recent post, where it was claimed as one of the 2017’ mobile gaming trends. Still little known in rest of the world, ‘gacha’ has been an essential part of f2p mobile games in Japan since 2011, and gained fame of a money-making machine that hunts ‘whale’ players better than anything else.
What is gacha? Originally this was a term to describe capsule toys dispensed by Japanese toy machines. The gacha we presently refer to is a virtual luck-based mechanic that works in a similar way: player pays in-game currency to ‘spin’ or ‘roll’ the gacha and receives a random item (character, card, any collectible -- they vary in rarity; the rarest ones usually require extra gacha spins from players who are after them).
An originally Eastern monetization mechanic eventually reached started to penetrate U.S. and European gaming market. According to studies, 58% of the games in U.S. top 100 grossing iOS games list contain gachas. The popularity can be explained by two basic things about human nature that gacha triggers: love of taking chances and urge for collecting/completing things. Excitement or disappointment that comes after the ‘dice is rolled’ serve as an emotional hook for players, that can be skilfully used by game developers to monetize users.
Game experts account for 10 to 15 gacha varieties, five of which are known as best revenue generators.
1. Kompu gacha
The ‘outlaw’ in the world of Japanese mobile games banned by the government in 2012 after game developers made a lot of money killing with it. Kompu gacha (kompu = ‘complete’) is a type that promises a grand prize to players who complete a set of less valuable items, also through gacha. It was banned due to its close-to-gambling principle.
There are documented cases of single players spending thousands of dollars within one game to win the grand prize.
2. Box/Package gacha
This variety appeared soon after the kompu gacha was recognized as illegal. The box or package gacha had a major difference in it: player was offered a box with a fixed amount of prizes inside, and the box got ‘emptier’ after each gacha draw so player was able to estimate the odds of winning the item he is after. More importantly, knowing the total amount of box items and the cost of each gacha spin he was able to calculate the damage to his pocket.
3. Step-up gacha
Another effective hook for heavy spenders in mobile games, which has a step-by-step structure. Every time player pays for gacha draw, he ‘steps up’ to unlock next gacha with bigger odds of winning a rarer item. The trick is that this type of gacha monetization is time-limited, so your overall spend in the game doesn’t count.
4. Sugoroku gacha
Based on a traditional Japanese board game, this variety of gacha consists in moving a character across a board with squares. There is a prize in each square (the biggest prize is naturally seated in the last one), so player should play gacha to move his character forward and collect prizes. With each gacha draw, player gets a right to spin slot, roll dice or do any other luck-based action that will determine how many steps a character can move from that point on.
5. Scratch gacha and Consecutive gacha
Scratching boxes isn’t exactly a type of gacha mechanic, but it works quite well in pair with what is called ‘consecutive gacha’. The player gets a scratch card with prizes concealed in boxes and can earn ‘scratch points’ for buying gacha roll sets (i.e. not single gachas but 5/10/more consecutive gachas automatically rolled in a row).
However, not all the U.S. highest-grossing titles with gacha monetization leverage the mechanic in full. For example, Hearthstone doesn’t have a trading / gifting option, which is an important aspect of gacha. It increases the value of items won repeatedly, as player can sell or give it to a friend as gift, and the social component the game bears. Clash Royale, on the contrary, benefits from trading option boosting the player interaction and sense of being a single community.
If you want your game to be trendy and grossing, use gacha and then share your success story with us.
Try your luck!