Video games have made a unique presence in the world of entertainment, making their way to gaming consoles, PCs and even smartphones. But it seems that the smartphone is the favorite home of another unique form of gaming, the gacha game.

Many countries, such as Japan, China and parts of Europe, have become aware of the addictive nature of gacha games and have taken steps to monitor them, banning some forms of gacha games altogether. But why? What are these gacha games and what is it that makes them so popular?

What are gacha games?

Gacha games are games that entice you to spend real-world money in exchange for random prizes, which will vary in both quality and value. Sometimes you can find something that is worth the price you pay. In most cases, the reward is very small. Unfortunately, the chances of actually “winning” at a gacha game are extremely low.

The extent of the game’s gacha mechanics varies from title to title. Some games, called full gacha games, require players to collect a complete set of prizes in order to continue. This forces the player to spend money if they want to advance in their game. These types of gacha games are arguably the most harmful and have even been banned in countries such as Japan.

For example, other gacha games like Genshin Impact are completely playable without spending any money. The gacha mechanics of Genshin Impact primarily allow the player to obtain various weapons or characters and do not affect the events of the main story at all. Genshin Impact is one of the many free mobile games that you can play and enjoy without paying a single penny. But as optional as its gacha mechanics are, they still prove to be attractive to players, especially younger players.

Gacha games have had far more revenue success than any of the best PS5 games, selling for $60 to $70 a piece. According to Sensor Tower, for example, Genshin Impact generated over two billion dollars in revenue in its first year alone. This is because the greater nature of the gacha mechanics, combined with the live-service model, keeps gamers hooked to a single game for longer than usual.

Where did the name “gacha game” come from?

The name “gacha” comes from a type of vending machine that originated in Japan but has since become widely popular throughout the world. Have you ever been walking around a mall and seen one of those machines that have a selection of different characters or toys inside round plastic cases? They are Gachapon, or Gaspon Machines. You insert a coin and get a random item in return.

These mechanics work much the same way in gacha games. The player has no control over what they will receive in exchange for their money, and often the chances of winning one of the more valuable prizes are not made clear to the player prior to play.

Why are gacha games so popular?

One of the reasons gacha games are so popular is that these incredible rewards seem so easily attainable for players. With just one more roll of the dice, you can be the strongest character in the game. This removes the element of skill that is usually required in the game to collect the best prizes. Anyone can be a pro if they spend enough money.

Many gacha games are also incredibly fun in their own right. This draws players in from the start and makes them more likely to spend money for the chance to win a new skin or a character they’ve always wanted on their team. This becomes especially true if they’ve spent the last 30 hours building their party and met with enormous difficulty that either required months of toil or pay.

Winning at any game is fun, and getting an amazing reward for just a dollar or two gives players a thrill that keeps them coming back to continue that high.

When you combine these mechanics with the pay-to-win structure that many mobile games have, the temptation to spend more money is even stronger. It is undoubtedly the addictive nature of these gacha mechanics that can be attributed to their widespread popularity and success.

Are Gacha Games a Form of Gambling?

Gambling is the betting of money in the hope of winning something of high value in a game of chance. It describes the mechanics of gacha games to a T. So when it really comes down to it, the gacha game mechanics are just another form of online gambling.

There isn’t much difference between sitting at a slot machine and paying for in-game currency to get a chance to win the jackpot or try your chances at winning an amazing weapon or character.