Genshin Impact - Six months in the free-to-play wonderland of Teyvat

Posted by Campbell Bird on March 29th, 2021
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Six months ago this week, Genshin Impact released on multiple platforms, promising a vast open world of adventure and element-based combat. The only catch was that all of this action would be monetized via virtual slot machines known colloquially as "gacha."

Gacha games have their advantages in that they have a low barrier to entry, allowing players to hop into an experience without having to spend any money. The dark side of this design is that all of the most desirable game items and characters are locked inside a storefront that uses myriad psychological tricks to convince you that spending money for more chances to use this slot machine is a good idea (it's not).

As gacha games age, developers then tend to add more stuff to the gacha to keep players interested in spending money. In the vast majority of these games, the new additions to the gacha aren't just novel, they're categorically better than things that were available previously, which creates a cycle known as "power creep." With new stuff that makes old stuff feel obsolete, you can keep a playerbase grinding and/or paying to use a slot machine just so they feel like they're keeping up, especially if these new things coincide with game events that play to their strengths.

I have been playing Genshin Impact nearly every day for the past six months and have been waiting for power creep to set in, and it just hasn't. The community at-large seems to agree, as it's currently celebrating a special event that marks the return of one of the first characters added to the game, Venti, as he is still an extremely powerful character compared to the rest of the playable cast. There are rumors that Venti's reappearance is the first of many planned reappearances of older characters in the gacha machine, and everyone seems to be pretty stoked about it.

This is a strange phenomenon for gacha games, and even larger gaming culture in general. The standard response to reprises and reappearances of content in games is typically met with outrage about "lazy devs" padding out their game by reusing old stuff. I think miHoYo gets a lot of credit for avoiding this criticism because of the careful attention-to-detail their team has put into character balance and the way character dynamics are then weighed against all of the missions, locations, and events added to Genshin Impact since launch.

With the exception the initial release of one character, the community has embraced everyone in the game and proven their value and viability in all the game's toughest challenges. In this way the game's gacha machine feels like an add-on store that you don't even need to look at if you just want to enjoy the world of Teyvat.

That's exactly what I've been doing, and I've been having a blast. I haven't spent a single penny on Genshin Impact and have never felt the need to. There has been no new content in the game that has felt out of reach for my core group of characters, and I've been motivated to try and get new characters purely because I like their style and moveset rather than where they sit on a tier list. If this keeps, up, I can see myself continuing to enjoy Genshin Impact on a daily basis for a long time to come.

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