Growing up in an Asian household and surrounded by Asian friends, I naturally became a big fan of anime. I was captivated by the “realistic” art style (compared to western cartoons) as well as the storytelling. One of my friends, then, introduced me to a game called “Epic Seven,” whose entire slogan was to “Play the anime.”
As I began playing, I found myself drawn to the character designs and artstyle, and I loved the excitement of gambling for characters. Gacha games get players hooked on spending money through receiving a random in-game item. I was exactly part of this game’s intended audience, and since then, I have dived deep into the world of gacha games.
An overview of gacha games
In addition to the plethora of anime-styled gachas, there have also been a few successful ones based off of popular franchises to draw in fans. A gacha game based off of the Disney and Pixar characters (Disney Mirrorverse) has just released this June, and has accumulated an estimate of 100,000 downloads in just that month alone. However, there are a select few that end up becoming an anime or show instead because the story is just that good, like Arknights (although those are quite rare to find in my experience).
In terms of gameplay in mobile gachas, they are often generalized as “lacking” and reduced to a simple “auto-battler.” While it is true to some degree and there is a lot of “farming” (repeating a stage multiple times to gain materials) involved, a lot of the stages are quite challenging and require tactical planning of the units I bring into the stage and the skills I use. Quite surprising for a genre of games where an “auto-battle” option is present in virtually all stages.
One of the most popular gacha games to ever be released in the U.S. is Genshin Impact, with an additional feature of open world mechanics that is rarely seen. By the end of the first month since its release, it already gained a revenue of $245 million dollars, becoming one of the most grossing games in the app and play stores.
More recently, the game has amassed an active player base of 59 million players and earns about $5 million a day. The success of Genshin shows how engrossing gacha games can be even with the stigma attached to it.
Controversy with new and upcoming gachas
Before the official release of a game, developers will typically reveal the storyline, art, gameplay, and other core elements of the game to pique potential customers’ attention.
Grimlight sells itself with chibi characters taken directly from the stories of Grimm, while Memento Mori sells itself with its beautiful watercolor art and enchanting music. However, these two games have both defied the expectations of their potential player base in an unexpected way.
With the reveal of the art, gameplay, and characters, many people were initially put off by Grimlight. Chibi sprites in gacha games have a negative stigma around them, and people tend to call it “lazy.”
Within a few minutes of the game’s official launch, a critical error was discovered by the devs and the game underwent a 24 hour maintenance. Even after the maintenance, another unexpected error occurred and people were not even able to get into the game.
According to the developer’s words, “everything is on fire,” and players were outraged. What had saved this game, however, was the developers’ clear and consistent communication with the players. Their Discord admin kept the players updated with each hour of the game being down and was extremely transparent about what was happening in their team.
The terrible launch has gained media attention and spread to Reddit’s r/gachagaming community. Instead of trashing and burning the game’s reputation down even further, however, people have confessed that they wanted to try this game out and were even more intrigued because of how transparent and open the developers were. After listening to the community’s suggestions, Grimlight was pushed back into an open beta stage and started working on bugs and addressing user feedback.
Memento Mori has always struck the internet as a “mysterious” game. The teasers shown are heavily story and art based, and the character trailers are visually and musically impressive. With each character released to the public, there is a beautiful splash art with their own individual song. Such a visually and musically enchanting game is a rare find, and it has drawn the attention of many potential players over the past year.
The gameplay, however, was the one element kept hidden until earlier this year in April 2022, where it was revealed in a Reddit post to be an AFK RPG. The comments under this post were filled with disappointment, saying it was a “waste of incredible art” and how they were “so incredibly disappointed that this is an AFK game” even though every other aspect was some of the best they’ve ever seen.
With players’ initial interest in Memento Mori because of the art and music, their hopes were eventually let down by the company’s non-transparency with their game.
The exact opposite situation happened with Grimlight, where players were initially set off by the chibi art style, but were eventually drawn to it because of the developers’ clear and consistent communication.
With any gaming company, players want to know that the developers have their best interests at heart, and any clear communication and transparency would win more points than having simply a good looking game.