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Top Gacha / Lootbox Design [Explained]

The rise of social gaming and the concept of Gacha may go hand and hand in Asia but a lot of these Japanese company who have built their empire around this monetization concept didn’t have as much success as they thought they would going overseas.

For those that are new to this term,

Gacha: its origin is from Toy Vending machine that dispenses plastic balls with a special toy inside. The term “gacha” is the actual sound it makes when the plastic ball comes out of the shoot. “gacha gacha”

This in turn, has been incorporated into social gaming design in asia where players monetize by playing the gacha system to unlock new cards or special characters.

Successful Japanese social companies like Gree, and Dena, built their success around this concept as they grew there revenues XXX fold during their run. But things seem to hit its peak when they challenged other markets outside of Asia. Gree failed miserably as their overseas strategy, failed right before it actually started and Dena took a different approach but still is trying to maintain its market presence.

The real question is why didn’t their success actually translate well in other markets.

If you look carefully on these trading card games (TCG) games were designed, they were actually tailored towards gamblers. Which leads me to believe that because Asian cultures are more susceptible to gambling tendency is one of the lead factors on how social gaming companies found so much success in the Asian markets.

In fact According to the American Psychiatric Association, in the Chinese American community, 20 percent are considered problem gamblers compared to five percent nationwide. One study on the Southeast Asian community said as many as 59 percent of Southeast Asian refugees are pathological gamblers.

Some psychiatrist believe that this is due to Asians strong belief in luck, fate and fortune.

This is what, reported about Asian gambling on July 9, 2014

“Research shows Asians in the U.S. have a disproportionate number of pathological gamblers (i.e. addicted) as compared to the general American population. According to Dr. Timothy Fong, an associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA and co-director of the UCLA Gambling Studies Program, the rate of gamblingaddiction ranges from 6 percent to nearly 60 percent, depending on the specific Asianethnicity (Southeast Asian refugees scoring highest) as opposed to the national rate of 1-2 percent.”

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Its no wonder why, Asia has embraced the Gacha concept but didn’t work as anticipated when they challenged this concept in the West. Gree believed in this gacha concept so much that they we’re strategizing similar to the Nintendo Business model where, 80% of there revenue comes from overseas and 20% Domestically. Only problem was that they “assumed” that gacha model was going to be embraced similar to the Japanese.

Below are very popular Gacha systems that have been designed in social games today:

Boxed Gacha

A fixed amount of items are contained in this box. A user can play the box gacha until the box is empty. User can look at the cards that are contained in the box gacha and eventually obtain the card. (ie, if there are 10 cards in the box, worst case by the 10th gacha the user will obtain the card he or she wanted.

Objective: This was the most success, government accepted gacha model, after Kompu gacha was banned in Japan. A Pure monetization based gacha.

Flying Gacha

The flying gacha is a relatively new concept to address the lack of User Acquisition strategy. This gacha is tailored towards the beta testers and the early birds. If a user signs up for the beta testing period, he or she will be rewarded with one gacha spin. The prize list will also be displayed. If the player is not happy with the item he or she received, they have the option to invite a friend to the beta testing period which in term give the inviter a free gacha spin. User will rinse and repeat this process until he or she obtains the item they wanted. (Note: You can only take obtain 1 item per account)

Objective: This gacha concept was designed to increase the participation rate for beta testing, and for the hopes for this design to make the game more viral.

Kompu Gacha

Although illegal in Japan now, not too sure about other countries but this gacha concept was the main reason why a lot of social companies experienced a rise in revenue. The concept is generally for users to gacha all the items that are in the Kompu Gacha to receive the ultimate reward. This ultimate item usually was the most powerful item in the game, leading whales to monetize until they obtained it.

Objective: Maximize ARPPU. Another concept that was regulated because of this system was that designers were setting the drop rates really low so that it was difficult to actually complete the item list to obtain the ultimate reward

Friend Gacha

Friend Gacha is another viral based gacha design, but this design was more for users to increase social game play inside the actual game. In Japan, players are relatively anti social therefore, designing a friend currency where they can obtain by being social in -game helped motivate users to be social “in-game” in term they obtain friend gacha items.

Objective: To get users to be more social in-game, to help make them understand how much more fun the game is when you play with others.

Raid Boss Gacha

Raid Boss Gacha is most commonly found in trading card games where the game contains limited time events, ie Raid Boss’ battles where users are required to work with their friends or guild to defeat them and attempt to obtain a very rare item that he drops by killing it.

Raid Boss Gacha is a special gacha that yield cards that does extra damage (x2, or x3) to raid boss’ but is considered a rather normal card compared to any other part of the game. Therefore, during the raid boss event, these cards become extremely high in demand.

Objective: This motivates the users to spin the Raid Boss Gacha to obtain these x2 or x3 extra damage cards so they can defeat the strongest raid boss’ in the game and obtain the Raid Boss Premium Items

Limited Time Gacha

Limited Time Gacha are most commonly done with special cards that they only want to release for a selected period of time. This is mostly seen by tying in a Celebrity or a 3rd party Intellectual property that gets associated into the game. (Ie, Special limited time, Brad Pitt card in your game)

Objective: To attract new users that can recognize the specific IP or Celebrity for them to download the game.

Redraw Gacha

Redraw Gacha is designed for users to attempt to obtain better items, by giving up their current item, and paying less for their second spin, with the possibility of earning a better prize.

Objective: the most commonly found in designs where a users is in dire need of a specific item, and this mechanic will help allow the users to possibly obtain this item a at cheaper price. A cost beneficial based design for users that are spending conscious with their game habits.

Premium Gacha

This model is commonly found in freemium games where designers split up their gachas in price points. The premium ones contained higher valued cards with a better drop rate but cost a little more than something like a normal gacha.

Objective: Identify the different types of players in your game and provide different types of choices of gacha for them. (Price point system)

Friend Recruit Gacha

Friend Recruit Gacha, done right will be the most effective tactic for viral marketing for freemium games. Only problem is that, Apple and Google shut these things down very fast, since they are anti Viral platform.

Designing a system for users to recruit one of their friends to play the game, and obtain some sort of currency to obtain a highly valued item will help your game go extremely viral. Only problem is how to actually design this, when a lot of viral techniques get shutdown before every game company starts to exploit it.

Objective: This gacha is strictly to maximize your K – Factor and have your game go as viral as possible. I personally think, designers should spend more time designing around this gacha but easier said than done i guess…

Step Gacha

Step Gacha is quite rare in design, probably due to its ineffectiveness in design, but the design is ideally to have a user gacha once, and dangle another item infront of the users at a cheaper cost in hopes that the user takes the bait and gachas again, to obtain the specific item he or she is wanting.

Objective: Provide a cost effective approach in obtaining an item of need. A lot of coding on the back end is required to understand what exact carrot is required for this gacha system to work

This is just a sample size of all the different types of Gacha that is popular in mobile freemium game designs today, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that your game design should stick this way. The focal point is whether a specific gacha is suitable for your game design, and what KPI objective are you trying to improve. Once you can identify this, you should be able to design your own type of gacha that is more KPI specific.

Also, its important to understand that just because a certain monetization mechanic works in your country, i doesn’t necessarily mean that it’ll work in other countries and cultures.

Good Luck!

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