No, exploitative gacha mechanics are not a good idea for western devs
We’ve been talking about exploitative gacha games and related business models on Massively OP for a long time, most recently and notably in depth earlier this year when we covered how Japan, Korea, China, and Singapore have all passed laws to take the model down a peg. In fact, China’s newest anti-gacha laws have since been used to target MMOs, card games, and even Overwatch’s skins. So given all the crackdowns, you’d think that the trend would be to avoid it, right? That industry analysts and watchers on this side of the pond would be wary?
But no. Bizarrely, there’s a new GamesIndustry.biz article this week in which AppLovin Managing Director Johannes Heinze advocates that western developers start including gachapon mechanics, even citing Pokemon Go as a good example of how well it works. He argues that gacha requires:
- A large, varied set of content
- A strong desire from the player to collect as many items as possible
- A game where gacha content is necessary for players to progress
- An effective mechanic for duplicate content (to prevent player churn from pulling too many duplicates)
The problem with this recommendation, however, is that Heinze is ignoring the ongoing crackdowns in the same regions where he says gacha is doing great. East Asian governments are specifically targeting these same gacha mechanics, then testing to see if other practices are similar to those, which is how so many other games get caught up in the dragnet. For the most part, openly displaying the chance to win prizes is needed to dodge regulators’ ire, so big western companies fond of obfuscating lockbox statistics like Blizzard aren’t safe, but Asian companies like Nintendo already cover their assets in their games that use it by consciously respecting these laws.
Gacha mechanics take advantage of psychology to get us to pay, focusing on money-making schemes (as Heinze is suggesting) rather than fun. Monetization is important, but so is ensuring the survival of the industry. Ignoring the very real issues this specific type of monetization strategy is having in its home territory is turning a blind eye to the eventuality that the anti-gambling west will someday impose the same regulation.