A long-time staple of Japanese free-to-play games, Gacha monetisation has proven to be one of the main talking points in the mobile development scene throughout the last few years. As a method which puts surprise, luck mystery and intrigue at the centre of the user experience, the technique is now finding itself as a key monetisation element in Western free-to-play titles as well as those from Japan.
The technique is based on the principles of Japanese “Gashapon” machines where users insert money in order to receive a random prize (usually a branded toy) every time. The prizes are always part of a complete set and so the player will have to use the Gashapon machine multiple times in order to complete the set, often picking up duplicates en route.
Gacha monetisation in mobile games such as GungHo’s Puzzles & Dragons follows a very similar principle. Players can pay to use the in-game gacha mechanic in order to claim a prize or a new monster to use in-game. The player never knows what prize they will get, but they will with the games numbers stacked cleverly in a way which gives just a sliver of a chance they’ll receive an ultra-rare item, the process becomes compelling and potentially highly rewarding.
This balance between risk and reward is what has brought gacha monetisation into the global market and made it an integral part of many Western free-to-play games. Here we look at a few of the best examples:
A card-collection based battler, Activision Blizzard’s Hearthstone is a title almost ready-made for gacha principles. Cards in Hearthstone can be purchased for either in-game gold or real money and with a strong online community, the game has plenty of players willing to invest in order to give themselves the best shot.
One aspect of the process missing in Hearthstone is the ability to trade. Trading duplicate toys is an integral part of the Gashapon experience in Japan and some form of trading has made itself into a number of free-to-play titles. Hearthstone eschews this, instead having players utilise their duplicate cards in a crafting system where they can combine their duplicates to create new cards.
2016’s biggest mobile game also uses Gacha methods in order to boost revenues and retention, most notably when it comes to the card collection portion of its gameplay. Unlike Hearthstone however, Clash Royale allows trading and gifting of duplicate cards between clan members. Not only does this help ensure that duplicate cards still have some value, but also helps boost camaraderie, player interaction and a sense of community in-game.
8 Ball Pool
A long-standing fixture near the top of the App Store charts, Miniclip’s multiplayer focussed-pool title puts Gacha mechanics into a very different scenario from the card-based battlers above. With millions of players worldwide and a huge amount of ranking levels, 8 Ball Pool players naturally find themselves facing new and more challenging opponents regularly. The game’s Gacha elements sees players use either in-game or real currency to take a game of chance in between matches, resulting in prizes ranging from temporary skills buffs to more powerful cues and cosmetic upgrades.
Like many mechanics popular in mobile games, Gacha systems require a significant amount of testing and refinement to ensure they provide players with the correct risk-reward ratio. Gacha systems that are overly thrifty can frustrate players while those that are too generous can potentially remove the sense of progression and accomplishment players get from a well balanced game. To make this refinement process easier, developers will often require the ability to tweak and fine-tune available rewards through live server side updates rather than lengthy app resubmissions. In many cases, the rewards from Gacha systems are often applied by a backend server to prevent players from cheating through device-level exploits.
ChilliConnect provides solutions to all of these technical challenges, enabling developers to implement flexible and secure Gacha systems without the need to build and manage their own servers.
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