What is Gacha-based meta-game?

What is the Gacha-based meta-game in Japan?

Game cycle

graph TD
  MainGame["Main Game"] -- Want to get stronger --> Enhance["Character Development"]
  MainGame["Main Game"] -- I want a character with an advantageous attribute --> Gacha["Gacha"]
  Gacha -- I want to train the character I got --> Enhance
  Enhance -- I want to see the results of my character training --> MainGame

This is the cycle of the Japanese metagame.

As you can see, the starting point for all of this is the gacha. You get a character that has an advantage against the quest’s enemy characteristics through gacha, and then you train that character to achieve a high level of success. The game cycle is to train the obtained characters and clear the high difficulty quests.

If you do not intend to make money and just want to maximize player engagement, the source of characters does not have to be gacha. It can be a reward for the main game (e.g., a character joins as the scenario progresses).

The following points in this game cycle satisfy players

graph TD
  MainGame["Main Game"] --> Enhance["Character Development"]
  MainGame["Main Game"] --> Gacha["Gacha"]
  Gacha -- you got a rare character --> Enhance
  Enhance -- You completed a quest that you could not clear --> MainGame

The essence of this game cycle is not gacha, but a game cycle in which the main game can be played slowly as the character grows over a period of weeks or months.

However, it should be understood at the same time that the current position of gacha is an effective position when considering monetization.

Character Development

Now, let’s delve a little deeper into game design for character development. Even if we simply say “character development,” there are various approaches to realize it.


The most obvious growth element is character level. By organizing characters into a party and playing the main game, they gradually gain experience and increase their level.

One of the characteristics of games with gacha is that the number of unwanted characters keeps increasing. To solve this problem, it is common to provide a mechanism to gain experience by synthesizing unwanted characters into characters as materials. Players also consider synthesis to be a more reasonable way to gain experience than playing the main game.

Level Cap

There is a level cap defined for each character. Generally, the lower the character is discharged from the gacha, the higher the level cap is set.

However, in some games, low rarity characters have only a low initial level cap and can be raised to the same level as high rarity characters if the level cap is raised. I think this area of design is where the game designers really show their skill.

The specific method of raising the level cap is usually achieved by synthesizing the same character or enhancement materials.

If we view the former as an economic effort and the latter as a time effort to achieve, it may be easier to formulate a policy on how to reward players.

Synthesizing the Same Character

In a gacha, you inevitably end up in a situation where you reacquire a character that you have already obtained. The most common use for characters already obtained from a gacha is to be able to raise the character level cap.

By synthesizing the same character, the level cap can be raised by 10, which means that the character can become stronger. In many games, there are about five levels of level cap increases available.

Synthesizing Enhancement Materials

It is also common to be able to raise the level cap by using reinforcement materials that are dropped with a probability of success when conquering quests.

Raising the level cap is designed to require materials that only drop in high difficulty quests or have a low drop probability in raising the level cap.

Character Characteristics

A variety of character characteristics will be provided for characters. One way to play with this is to provide a variety of unique characters and let the player decide which character should be trained now.


Attributes such as earth, water, fire, and wind are easy to understand examples. If it is more advantageous to play quests with fire enemies by having water characters in the party, more players will need water characters.


The next most obvious role would be the role of attacker, healer, and tank. When organizing a party, it is important to consider not only the attributes but also the roles, as this will add depth to the game.


Next, let’s look at skills. There are three types of skills designed for the recovery role.

  • Immediate recovery
  • Gradual recovery
  • Barrier

The type of healer that can recover the moment the recovery skill is used will be easy to use.

A skill that recovers gradually but the total amount of recovery is more than that of an immediate recovery healer may also raise the game, although the timing of its use may be difficult.

Barriers are also interesting. It looks like you can play a technical game where you operate the barrier so that it does not run out so that you do not take damage itself.

Elements for training other than characters

In addition to characters, it is also common to offer equipment through gacha. Naturally, equipment also has levels and can be developed in the same way as characters.

While this is effective from a monetization point of view, too much of it may be too much, and players may not be able to see through it. However, too many of these elements may be overlooked by players. It is also important to strike a balance.

Gacha creates a party formation gameplay

An interesting side effect of a game cycle in which characters are obtained through gacha is that the players can’t all have the same cards in their hands, so they can’t all have the same cards in their hands.

Since everyone will never have the same hand of cards, the question arises as to what is the best party formation for the quest you are about to undertake.

The game can be played like a trading card game deck formation.

Do I have to pay to enjoy the game?

This is a question we often receive from developers who have little experience playing Japanese-style meta-games.

Naturally, since you cannot freely organize your party, the range of enjoyment will be less than for players who have paid for the game. However, the game’s management policy addresses this problem by allowing players to play more and more gachas for free.

It is also common practice to let players pull 30 free gachas (equivalent to 100 USD) the moment they start the game, and it is also common practice to increase engagement by allowing players to pull one free gacha every day during an event period. It is also common to give away in-game currency needed to draw gachas as you progress in your quest.

Generally, if you play every day for a month, even an unpaid player can pull gachas 20 to 30 times in many games.

The game that offers the most largesse as far as I know is Granblue Fantasy, but this game regularly holds roulette events where you can randomly draw 10 to 100 free gachas every day.

In addition, a few high rarity characters are enough to advance through the game’s main storyline. For dedicated players who want to play the end content with high difficulty level, we can provide a game that can be enjoyed enough even by players without paying.

What does it mean to increase the number of players without paying?

This may be a question many may ask.

A certain percentage of paying players are born from non-paying players. If you do not increase the number of unpaid players, you will not increase the number of paying players. What follows is a shrinking player population.

In a long-term game, no matter how much you work to increase engagement, players will leave. Therefore, it makes sense to attract new players, maximize the player population, and increase the number of players who play the end content as much as possible.

What are your game sales goals?

This depends greatly on the business policy and the economic strength of the region. Generally, in Japan, the game is designed to generate sales of 10 USD per game player per month (ARPU 10 USD).

This number includes non-paying players. In other words, players who are spending a lot are paying many times that amount.

When designing a game, it is important to keep in mind that there are players who pay as much as 1,000 USD per month.

Harakami has sold 5 billion USD in the 27 months since its release. If we consider this as an ARPU of 10 USD, we can take it as an average of 18.5 million people playing the game each month. This is a realistic line since the game has been downloaded more than 110 million times on smartphones alone. (That’s still a tremendous number of players…)

2023-02-11 Kazutomo Niwa

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