The Rise of Gacha Games | Daniel Yachi
Throughout the era of quarantine, people have become more connected than ever to their electronic devices, with the video game industry specifically experiencing a massive increase in players. But there's a rather new, or previously ignored player on the block, and it’s gacha games.
The name gacha comes from Japanese toy vending machines that dispense a random capsule containing a toy when coins are paid. Much like these classic machines, gacha games include a specific mechanic that has been making these games more popular than ever. Similar to the title, gacha games have players spend hard-earned money or in-game currency for a chance to get a random prize in game. Specifically, games like Genshin Impact and Cookie Run Kingdom have gained a significant following of cult-like players who gamble their in-game currency on a random algorithm.
Why exactly have these games become so popular? Well, these games tend to closely mimic gambling games where the player gets addicted to the rush of winning an uncommon prize. The addictive nature of risking real money for the pure satisfaction of some arguably meaningless in-game toy is significantly effective among younger audiences, who often tend to be the target market of these games. These young groups tend to not have a mature understanding of value when comparing real-life money and in-game cosmetics, so of course, parents have recently been holding grudges against these games. On top of this, gacha prizes are even more appealing as they tend to be in multiplayer games where an upperhand is given to those who spend more money, creating a toxic environment of “pay-to-win” gaming. One specific factor of gacha games is the easy access to parents’ credit cards that they have. For example, under most circumstances, a child could ask a parent to let them use their credit card to make one small purchase. Then, the card would be saved onto the child's device in the games, and the child would be able to make more purchases without any approval from parents. Furthermore, a 2019 research paper released by the Washington International Law Journal found that gacha games were in fact not only addictive to all audiences but also incredibly problematic when it came to possibilities for international money laundering. What makes the pandemic of gacha games so upsetting to a parent, however, is that they captivate children and their money while giving no functional object in return.
In Japan, where the gacha game scene is especially vibrant, there have been many reported cases of teenagers spending the equivalent of thousands of U.S. dollars on these games. This issue got so severe that the Consumer Affairs Agency was forced to put regulations on the gacha game industry in order to prevent more “exploitation” of children.
What should be done to address gacha games is hard to say, but as the Internet develops more and more everyday, it seems that the reasons to be more strict with childhood technology access seem to pile up taller and taller everyday.