Commercial Game Success with ‘Gacha’ or Random Drop Mechanics

Pocket Gamer’s Mobile Mavens panel is a group of industry experts who discuss the hot topics of the mobile games industry on a weekly basis.

This week, they were asked about the growing influence of Card-Collection Games (CCGs). Our very own Wes Leviton weighs in.

[One key element on card-collection games’ commercial success is their ‘gacha’ or random drop mechanics; something addressed by Wes.]

Before determining if Gacha mechanics have the potential to reach a mass market casual audience it’s important to understand why Gacha mechanics are so successful in creating the astronomical ARPPU numbers that they’re known for.

While there are a number of factors contributing to their success, two factors in particular really stand out:

  • Design: Deep game systems

The reason we see a lot of successful Gacha in the RPG genre is because RPG games typically offer more layers than casual titles.

Heroes and enemies with elemental affiliations (fire, water, earth, etc.), character classes (knights, wizards, rouges, etc.) and skill types (attack, heal, enchant, etc.) are standard fare in the RPG genre, resulting in thousands of possible character permutations. Combine with rarity and fusion/evolution mechanics and you’ve got an environment ripe for Gacha opportunities.

  • Audience: Theorycrafters and Maximizers

Theorycrafting is the analysis of game mechanics to discover strategies and tactics with the goal of maximizing efficiency and character/party performance.

The RPG genre is the ideal environment for deep theorycrafting potential and tends to attract and retain players that are obsessive about maximizing their party and going to great lengths to squeeze the most out of each of their heroes. The most engaged of these players will spend a lot of time (and money) in the pursuit of the ever-elusive “perfect” party.

Does this mean that Gacha isn’t viable in titles targeting a broad, casual player base?

Wes Leviton

We know that complexity and hard to grasp game systems are simply too much for the casual market. To bring Gacha-like mechanics to the casual audience requires some simplification and careful design choices.

One recent title that attempts to do this is Spellfall by Backflip studios. While not a traditional CCG game by any means, Spellfall has successfully blended causal puzzle mechanics with semi-deep itemization that is both enticing to the mid-core market, yet easy enough for more casual players to grasp and understand.

Within Spellfall we see the typical causal targeted monetization vectors of power-ups and revives along side Gacha-like mystery boxes that offer the player a chance to find rare and ultra rare items.

Anyone looking to bring Gacha mechanics to the casual audience should spend some time with Spellfall.