A handful of gaming titles have seemed to really resonate with people in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of those is Genshin Impact, a fantasy RPG from Chinese developer miHoYo, which made its debut in September 2020 and has not looked back since.
In the nearly two years since its release, Genshin Impact has been averaging $1 billion in revenue every six months and has officially surpassed $3 billion in player spending across Apple’s App Store and Google Play as recently as this past March, according to data from Sensor Tower.
While Genshin Impact is available for consoles and PC, the game is largely consumed by mobile users, and in Q1 of 2022 was ranked as the number one revenue-generating “gacha”-based mobile game in the world. During this last fiscal quarter, Genshin Impact was able to accrue $567 M in revenue, which doubles the amount made by the number two title (Lineage W).
Incentives in free-to-play games — For those of you that are unfamiliar, gacha-based games rose to prominence in the early 2010s, with a concentration in Japan before fanning out to other countries in Asia. Gacha games implement similar mechanics to loot boxes, in that players are able to spend in-game currency (which can be purchased with real-life currency) on virtual slot machines in order to acquire a certain character or item.
While the genre is generally disliked by gaming communities due to the obvious parallels to gambling and the volatile nature of the system, Genshin Impact has been able to masquerade the design within an otherwise wonderful RPG.
As Inverse pointed out in October of 2020:
Genshin Impact is the cutting edge of a new spin on the subgenre: gacha games that don’t bombard players with ads and pop-ups to spend more money ... This evolution of gacha has drawn hundreds of thousands of players to forums like Reddit to brag about the powerful characters they rolled and commiserate over their gacha misfortunes.
The Western equivalent to Genshin Impact would probably be Fornite, given that at the core of the latter’s design is an engaging playing experience that is able to insert purchasable cosmetics into the fold, without making these in-game transactions the focus of the game. Additionally, both titles are constantly implementing updates that offer new gaming features, themed-items, and completely new worlds or areas to explore.
If traditional AAA games can be compared to movies in that they offer a vast world to inhabit, with a linear progression that ends at a certain point but can be re-explored, games like Genshin Impact and Fortnite are long-running TV shows that have to consistently redefine the terms of engagement so that their respective fandoms do not lose interest.