1 or 10? Analyze the mechanics in gacha games

This article analyzes the factors that influence players' choice of drawing 1 or 10 cards in gacha card games.

1. Gacha Games

Presently there are a great number of popular card gacha games, like Onmyoji, in the market, which is always at the top of the App Store grossing list. Gacha card games are currently one of the mainstream types of the domestic mobile game market which is really popular in the China App Store. In 2020, gacha games accounted for 16% of the top 100 mobile games in terms of total revenue, and this proportion has increased to an even higher level in 2021.

Data source: Forward (Qianzhan) Intelligence

In terms of popularity, gacha card games have also been quite popular in the Chinese and US market in the last two years.

2. Gacha in games: single or 10-gachas in a time

At a time when gacha games are booming, 'gacha' has also become a hot concept in the game market. In fact, the gameplay of gacha or spin has been in our lives for a long time, such as the early days of card games—players went to physical stores to buy real packs of cards. Gacha in Japan has taken the idea and concept to a brand new level, and Gacha machines can be found in almost every street, where you put in coins to get random rewards (somewhat similar to a gashapon machine). The random rewards are usually items from popular manga or anime, to attract players to join the gacha.

Gashapon machine in Japan

For gacha, players usually get one random item for a reward at a time, when the idea of gacha is gradually being used in trading card games, what players buy is a card pack instead of a single card. Compared to single cards, the design of card packs is less likely to interrupt the emotional experience of players when turning over cards and now is also used by more and more games.

According to rarity, cards are divided into different categories, like N/R/SR/SSR/UR. And the cards are given various meanings due to the worldview and setting of the game, such as the shikigami in Onmyoji as well as the masks in Dream Chaser: the Showbiz, and players would collect cards, make them stronger and then go into battles. As gacha and collecting become more and more deeply embedded in all kinds of games, it is not difficult to see other games with elements of card collecting, such as Revelation mobile, cards can be used to assist in fighting as pets.

To get cards, there are two common types, single or multi gacha at a time. Some players prefer 10 gachas, as some of them think doing multi gacha is more possible to get better cards, so they would save up their cards or recharge appropriately to do a 10 gacha. At the same time, multi gacha often comes with certain discounts and guarantees for rewards, which can save some costs and give players a better chance of getting the results they want. There are also players who prefer single gacha, believing that 'single make miracles', they tend to immediately use the cards when they have the chance......Many players, game developers and even researchers are keen to discuss why players choose single or multi gacha, and what factors influence players' choices.

3. Gacha: from a psychological perspective

Multi gachas, from a psychological perspective, is a kind of delay of gratification.

Excluding other factors (e.g., players directly recharging for cards), compared to 1 gacha, 10 gachas at a time can be described as the behavior of players who don't do gachas instantly after having the chance, but instead, choose to accumulate until they meet the condition for multi and then do gacha. Therefore, different from the immediate satisfaction of doing only 1 gacha immediately after obtaining the chance, 10 is a kind of delay of gratification in psychological terms.

Delay of gratification, or deferred gratification, is the resistance to the temptation of an immediate pleasure in the hope of obtaining a valuable and long-lasting reward in the long-term. (Mischel,1961)

In the case of doing 1 gacha, a player can immediately get pleasure, which is instant gratification. In contrast, doing 10 gachas at a time requires players to accumulate for a certain amount of time, but they know they may have greater benefits because of the discounts on materials and certain guarantees. It constitutes 'the tendency and behavior to resist smaller short-term gains or delay immediate gratification in order to obtain larger future benefits, i.e., delay of gratification.

Single or multi gacha?

Some previous studies have focused on the possibilities, to explain why players choose 1 or 10 gachas. In fact, from the perspective of delayed gratification and instant gratification, it is not difficult to find factors that really influence players' choices.

The game goals influence

We often find that players usually have certain goals when they play a game, especially playing for a long period of time—for example, to achieve a higher ranking in the leaderboard, to collect a certain number of cards, and so on. If players do not set certain goals, they tend to have a more positive and optimistic attitude towards everything (the beginning effect). And these positive attitudes, driven by fantasies, will make players more willing to stomach the risk and more likely to try emergent behavior. And after setting their goals and achieving the goals step by step, players will be more cautious in consideration of their goals, restraining themselves from the desire of instant gratification, turning to 10 gachas with more rewards in favor of the delayed gratification.

In fact, when players do not have a goal for the game, they do not intend to develop themselves in games and prefer instant pleasure. Setting a goal is to give players a direction to pursue, and they will then do more plans to choose the more profitable options.

The influence immersion in-game

How does immersion in a game affect players' choices? The more immersed players are in the game, the 'closer' they are to the game psychologically. People's reactions to social events depend on their mental cognition of the event (Liberman et al., 2002). When perceiving events at a greater psychological distance, people will think of them with abstract, essential, and overarching features (High level construal); when perceiving them at a closer distance, people tend to consider the concrete, superficial, and local. (Low level construal).

Thus, all else being equal, players who are more 'close' to the game with higher immersion have a relatively low-level construal and are more likely to do 1 gacha. Conversely, players with a lower level of immersion were more inclined to do multi.

Actually, there are many other influencing factors, even playing on mobile or PC could influence their choice to some extent. The factors described in this article are mainly based on the 'irrational' decisions influenced by players' psychological features. When studying players, we often find that they are not as rational as they assume and that psychological and environmental factors will influence their choices a lot. These factors are not usually obvious, but rather subconsciously influence the decision. How players do gachas, indeed, is sometimes a kind of myth, and the influence of the above factors on players' behavioral decisions is not absolute. So, in conclusion, it is much more important for us to analyze this question to explore more 'irrational' influences especially from a psychological perspective, instead of focusing on the 'rational' ones, such as possibilities

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