It’s been awhile since I wrote anything but work and rl has really gotten in the way of writing anything meaningful on this blog.
Since my absence, a lot has changed in the mobile gaming space, and i’m going to quickly jump in and discuss a trend that’s developing amongst, the hard core rpg space, the casual and in the hyper casual space.
This is the innovation of how players are presenting the gacha / lootbox feature.
In a space where content is the lifeline of your game, developers are crunching long hours to manage the expectation of their community and also meet the revenue projection that are laid out within the company. This has led to an uprise of a “crunch” work life balance where many employees are working throughout the night to meet deadlines.
Fortnite is an example of a company that is dealing with many allegations of poor work environments as their product model focuses on exclusive limited time skins that disappear after each season. This product dynamic requires the development team to develop 100’s of unique skins on a bi monthly basis.
This post is not about this, but rather a gacha model that requires you to release 1 or 2 items a month and still maintain your sustain your incoming revenue.
This new Gacha model is called the Merge Gacha.
Merga Gacha System
The traditional gacha model is setup in a manner where players are motivated by chase characters that themed around the rarity of the character. Pulling this card yields a positive experience as the character will forever be in your possession and the player commences to build and work on this character to relevancy.
The major shift in gacha was the mindset of designers to make all content have the potential to become a legendary or the highest rarity in the game. This way, your development team will never have any throw away characters and you have a system where everyone is viable in the game.
How does the merge system work?
This is commonly found in idlers and hyper casual games but a merge system is a system that requires <x> amount of the same Rarity and Character for the player to be able to merge these cards together to rank up to the higher rarity.
For example. If i have 3 Common Swords, i can potentially merge these 3 swords to rank up to the next rarity and come up with 1 Uncommon Sword.
So how is this fun if everyone is viable?
This here, is where the developers have included a very unique system in the game where the box itself can have a high spend ceiling all while keeping the content limited.
I just want to note that, this is an extremely important point as the holy grail in this space is to create spend experience that is always positive, once the player starts experiencing diminishing returns to the paywall, this is where people will start to second guess whether they should opt-in the product or not.
As a product manager, having a constant understanding of your product value proposition is important throughout the liveops lifecycle. But i digress
Going back to the topic, developers have merged, the merge system, commonly found in hyper casual games (no pun intended) into their gacha and have capped the rarity items in the box.
Now this dynamic for those that are not aware of gacha is ‘Very’ innovative, and lets discuss why.
The power of Merge and Rarity
This concept is to take all the characters you have in the game and clone them slap a different rarity onto the same character. Let’s say you have 5 different rarities in John Wick
You therefore have 5 different characters in your box with the same name but with different rarity, meaning every character a team makes you can multiply it by the number of rarities you have in the game.
But that just makes the lower rarities irrelevant doesn’t it?
No it doesn’t because the merge system allows no such waste of anything, everything you spend or earned can be merged into the same character. Meaning all the commons you have, have the potential of adding to your Epic Character in the game.
The dynamic this creates is that every penny you put into your gacha will add value one form or another based on your gaming style.
Merge Gacha Design
Now that you have your characters and its different rarities, now it’s time to discuss how you setup your gacha items and its drop rates.
Rarity Cap: Designers should cap the type of rarities that go into the gacha box. What this means is that, if you have, lets say, 6 different types of rarities in your game.
You should look to cap your rarity items in the box to “Epic”, what this means is that, there should be no way a player can obtain a legendary type of character unless the player collects 3 of the same character and of the same rarity. This allows for a higher purchase cap as the players will be required to farm or pay 3x the amount they would spend on a gacha to obtain a specific legendary Character, and because of the Rarity Cap in the gacha, players have to pay 9x times more to even think about obtaining a Mythic level Rarity.
With this system, as a liveops designer or product manager, you now have the option to power scale:
Horizontally: By adding new characters in the game or
Vertically: By adding new rarities in the game
Good luck with your design