Gacha game mechanics originated in Japan and are the virtual adaptation of the country's vending toy machines. These mechanics have been cropping up in many free-to-play mobile games, requiring players to spend in-game currency for a random pick of the draw. The selection usually consists of characters or items- rarer ones having an exceptionally shoddy draw rate- and game progress is more or less dependent on continual use of the mechanic. This leads to players eventually spending real money to advance.
The gacha mechanic has most recently infiltrated mainstream titles such as Pokemon Masters and Mario Kart Tour. In both games, the respective gacha mechanics (Sync Pair Scout in Pokemon and the Pipe in Mario Kart) are virtually the only way to obtain new characters. This severely cheapens the experience that these titles are known for. It makes them feel, well, like a vending machine.
If you're stuck on a quest in Pokemon Masters, the only way to advance is to level up your active sync pairs significantly. If you don't have the right sync pair type, you've got bigger problems. The only way to obtain new sync pairs is to try your luck in the Sync Pair Scout. Then you have to hope that you get the type you need. The only other way to accrue sync pairs is by meeting them through quests, which isn't very helpful if you're stuck on said quest. Pokemon Masters even goes so far as to offer special rewards that you can only get with paid gems (in-game currency that you have bought with real money).
This mechanic is almost more infuriating in Mario Kart Tour, as the gacha pulls from a pool of Drivers, Karts, and Gliders. Maybe you're in need of a Kart with better handling, but all you keep shooting out of the Pipe are Drivers or Gliders. In this sense, you are almost guaranteed not to get what you were hoping for. Both games boast incredibly low success rates in their own way.
"Don't like it. Don't play."
This is something we have heard numerously in response to our gripes about the gacha mechanic. While it's fair to say, we may not have a choice much longer. Mario Kart Tour is already beating its console counterpart, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in sales. Mario Kart Tour was downloaded over twenty million times, while Mario Kart 8 (Nintendo Switch's best-seller) has only sold 17.8 million copies. If gacha continues to grow in popularity and proves profitable enough, it will no longer be a matter of avoiding games with those mechanics. If gacha gains enough momentum, every game will begin utilizing it and players won't have a choice but to not play at all if they don't like it.
It's Big In Japan
Gacha mechanics are a mainstay of mobile gaming in Japan, but this is one export we might be better off without. Several countries have begun rallying around the idea of banning gacha mechanics in the form of lootboxes, and these mobile game gimmicks should be given the same treatment. Both traditional gacha pulling and lootboxes are predatory practices, and set a shoddy precedent for game design.
Maybe it seems like we're too hard on these different monetization gimmicks. Free to play games have to make their money somehow, right? This doesn't change the fact that mechanics like gacha bar game content so significantly, it all but forces players to pay to advance. This defeats the purpose of something being free to play in totality. If this craze catches on and enough companies grow to love the gacha mechanics, it will be everywhere - proliferated even more so than it is now. Then there will be no escaping the monetization for free to play mobile gamers.