Apr 26, 2022

What are gacha games? Why are they so popular?

Emily Lawrenson

Emily Lawrenson

Qustodio writer

Why are gacha games so popular

Through smartphones, gaming consoles, and PC gaming, there’s a game style available now to suit everyone, and keep them entertained for hours on end. Thanks to mobile gaming, one type of game, which once had a smaller, more avid fanbase, is now gaining in popularity: the gacha game. But what are gacha games, and why are they so popular? Let’s take a look at the origin, rise to fame, and unique appeal of gacha games.

What is a gacha game?

Gacha games are video games which encourage players to spend in-game currency for virtual items as they progress. In gacha games, items such as cards and characters can be won through a mechanism, similar to a vending machine, in which players pull, spin, or roll using in-game currency to receive a random item.

Why are they called gacha games?

The first games of this type weren’t yet called gacha games at the time they were gaining popularity in the early 2010s, most specifically in Japan. As the phenomenon began to grow, they were named after gashapon or gachapon, a type of toy vending machine popular in shopping malls, arcades, and convenience stores across the country. Using the shortened form of gachapon as gacha, this gave rise to the term “gacha game”. Gacha games are now hugely popular, particularly in Japan and across Asia, where a significant number of the top-grossing games use some form of gacha strategy to make money. 

Why are gacha games so popular?

The excitement you feel when opening a present, or the anticipation of revealing what’s behind a scratchcard is comparable to what some players feel through gacha games. Like toy vending machines, there’s a slight element of mystery, and the surprise is the end reward. These emotions, mixed with more traditional gameplay elements such as adventure, or fantasy, make many gacha games rewarding and even exciting for the player. 

What are some of the most popular gacha games?

Some of the world’s most popular games incorporate gacha elements, and you may have played them without realizing they were gacha games. Genshin Impact, an anime-style action role playing game (RPG), grossed over $3 billion in its first launch year – the highest ever first-launch revenue for a game ever. Fate/Grand Order, a turn-based combat game, was 2017’s sixth highest-grossing mobile game, and it remains popular to this day, bringing in a monthly revenue of over $86 million

What are gacha games and why are they popular

Are gacha games gambling?

Gacha games have often been compared to loot boxes, which encourage users to spend money to obtain a random item during game play. Because of the random nature of the prize, these mechanisms have often been classified as a form of gambling, which makes children playing these games problematic for various reasons. These games often have an addictive nature, and as in-game currency is often different to the real world currency spent to buy it, children may spend large amounts of money without having any real idea of how much they are putting into the game.

Some countries have taken steps to legislate against loot boxes and gacha games. In Japan, “complete gacha”, in which users must continue to play until they collect the complete set of prizes in order to win, has now been banned. China requires gacha games and loot boxes to reveal the “drop rate”, or in other words, probability of winning the item, and has also capped the number of loot boxes which can be bought in one day. In the Netherlands, certain types of loot box games are banned, while in Belgium, video games featuring loot boxes are banned altogether, affecting certain gacha games. 

Are gacha games safe for kids to play?

The nature of gacha games makes them mostly unsuitable for children to play. While it’s possible to complete many different types of gacha game without ever spending any real-life money, the addictive nature of the games and the heavy encouragement towards in-game spending makes this a very difficult task indeed. However, many popular games do operate using gacha elements, which means it’s not always possible to know if a game your child is playing is a gacha game or not

There are several things you can do to help minimize the impact of gacha games on your child:

1. Set time limits on games

To help your child create the ideal online-offline balance, setting limits is key. Video games are best enjoyed in moderation, just like most of the finer things in life! Set limits on certain games, or let them decide how they want to spend their time playing video games for an allocated period of time. This can get tricky as children get older and their cell phones go everywhere with them, or if you have to manage individual timers for each of your children. Parental control tools like Qustodio can help you to set time limits on individual apps or app categories, so your child’s game usage stays consistent day after day, no matter where they are. 

2. Turn off in-game purchases

Make sure your child has no opportunity to be tempted by in-game purchases in gacha games, or anywhere else for that matter. In-app purchases can be turned off in settings on iOS and Android phones, and on individual game consoles. We’d also recommend not saving your card on any device, whether it’s your own or your child’s, so there’s no way for your billing information to be used again at any point. 

3. Co-play new games your kids download

After you or your child has bought a new game, or after they’ve downloaded a free-to-play game, get to know it with them by playing it together. Not only is this an opportunity for you to understand if it has any riskier elements or gameplay you’re not comfortable with, it’s also a great way to bond with your child. By getting involved in something they enjoy, you’ll understand their interests better, while also clocking up some quality family time. A win-win for everyone!

How can Qustodio help protect your family?

Qustodio is the best way to keep your kids safe online and help them create healthy digital habits. Our parental control tools ensure they don't access inappropriate content or spend too much time in front of their screens.