Beyond Loot Boxes: Inside the Phenomenon of Gacha Games in Asian Markets

The dangerously addictive world of gacha games is getting bigger and transforming the gaming landscape but what is it that makes them successful?

Abhimannu Das
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<div class="paragraphs"><p>Beyond Loot Boxes: Inside the Phenomenon of Gacha Games in Asian Markets</p></div>
Beyond Loot Boxes: Inside the Phenomenon of Gacha Games in Asian Markets


AFK Gaming

Gacha games, an electronic evolution of Japan's traditional "gashapon" machines, have captivated a global audience with their allure of randomness and reward. The term gacha, derived from these vending machines that have been dispensing capsule toys since the 1960s, symbolizes the game mechanics where players spend to "pull" for virtual characters or items, often shrouded in mystery until revealed.

Decades later, the thrill of pulling for new shiny things has been replicated in mobile games where players “pull” for random characters and items. Genshin Impact is undoubtedly the biggest player in the genre and its developer Hoyoverse (MiHoYo) has released yet another golden goose in the form of Honkai: Star Rail. But the rise of gacha games started over a decade ago in 2012 and we are simply seeing ripple effects in the industry as players are becoming increasingly obsessed with gacha games. 

But why are gamers so obsessed with randomized drops? And why is the genre so spectacularly popular, especially in Asian markets despite its dangers and pitfalls and the slippery slope of gambling addiction?

The Origin and Rise of Gacha Games

The term "gacha" comes from the Japanese onomatopoeic word "gacha," which mimics the sound of the crank on these vending machines being turned. Players insert coins, turn the crank, and receive a random toy or figurine. This element of randomness and anticipation is central to the gacha experience.

In the late 2000s and early 2010s, the concept of gacha was adapted into mobile gaming, giving rise to what we now know as gacha games. These games typically feature a free-to-play model with in-app purchases, where players spend virtual currency or real money to obtain randomized virtual items, characters, or abilities.

One of the earliest and most influential gacha games was "Puzzle & Dragons," released in Japan in 2012 by GungHo Online Entertainment. This game achieved extraordinary financial success, reportedly earning $2.5 million USD daily at its peak. Following this model, numerous developers worldwide have incorporated gacha elements into a variety of game genres, from RPGs to strategy and card games, significantly expanding the landscape of mobile gaming.

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