Zenless Zone Zero, Tower of Fantasy and when Gacha becomes a cannibal

We’re on the verge of two potentially massive new games from Chinese developers following the success of Genshin Impact, which generated billions in revenue since its release.

One is from Genshin developer Hoyoverse, Zenless Zone Zero, and one is from Perfect World, Tower of Fantasy, a new MMORPG game.

I’ve been playing Tower of Fantasy, and sure enough, maybe 15 minutes into the game, you’re introduced to its gacha system, the one that pulls you in for powerful rare weapons and attached skins to use. Zenless Zone Zero will also have a gacha-based character roster, and of course, gacha is the reason Genshin Impact made so much money in the first place. You’re not only paying for electricity, you’re also gambling.

Gacha creates an interesting problem, however, if you like these games, and it’s something I don’t experience in the same way with other games. With most live games, the problem is timing. As it is, I can’t keep up with every new development in Destiny, Outriders, Avengers, Division, and Wonderlands at the same time. But if I want to stay up to date? Paying $10 for a new season or $20-$40 for an expansion isn’t the end of the world.

But gacha? That’s different. While Genshin Impact does a good job of giving players a lot of freedom to play essentially the entire game without spending money, they do equally good job creating attractive characters and weapons so that you to wish spending money. And I spend the money I have.

Now, this has created a weird situation where I feel like I’m so invested in Genshin Impact, that I’m shut out of these other games in the same genre, because I don’t want/can’t afford to start a gacha “collection” from scratch. It’s hard to imagine investing in Tower of Fantasy or Zenless Zone Zero instead of just continuing with Genshin as they continue to add content and new regions.

In the case of the Hoyoverse, this becomes pure cannibalism. It’s easy to see a situation arise where a player may have an interest in both ZZZ and Genshin, but not the budget for both. So either they spend less on Genshin or they don’t bother with ZZZ at all.

In the case of Perfect World, if you’ve built your entire monetization system to mirror a rival, you’d better deliver a product that’s more compelling than that rival. It’s not a traditional game where you simply have to convince a player to spend $60 for a box, Tower of Fantasy has to deal with trying to pull Genshin players who have spent tens, hundreds, or even thousands of dollars within that ecosystem, and tell them they’re going to have to start over with them, or stick to perma-f2p.

The thing about gacha is…it works. There is so much revenue on the table with this model, which some consider predatory, that these sacrifices may be okay. There is no Hoyoverse care where you spend, as long as you spend somewhere with them. Even if Tower of Fantasy does 20% of Genshin’s draw, that’s still huge.

However, I do wonder about the long-term viability of the gacha. If this becomes an increasingly common revenue stream, I wonder if the genre is eating itself because it’s just not sustainable for the player. Or it becomes an instant shutdown before the game even starts, aka, I’m less interesting in Tower of Fantasy because it’s a gacha, and Genshin taught me how much of a sink it can be. This also looks like something heading towards potential regulation, now that loot boxes are doomed in many places. It’s the same concept, but honestly, it’s even worse in many ways.

There’s definitely some West vs. East here, as gacha is much more common and accepted in Asia, and it’s just starting to take off in the west with games like this, but it’s something I definitely want to keep an eye on, and see how sustainable this is over the big arc. trend.

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Take my sci-fi novels Herokiller series and Earthborn Trilogy.

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