Controversy Over Genshin Impact Monetization: Love It or Hate It?

Controversy Over Genshin Impact Monetization: Love It or Hate It?

by Mihovil Grguric

Gambling. 

Questionable.

Pay-to-play.

These are just some of the terms that surround the discussion on Genshin Impact monetization.

The game became an instant success, but its money-making process got a lot of criticism.

For this reason, I’ve analyzed how the game works, how it monetizes, and how players really feel about it.

How Successful Is Genshin Impact?

Genshin Impact is one of those games that push limits. It was released in September 2020 and up to this moment – everyone has heard of this game.

Let’s start with some basic information about Genshin Impact.

Publisher: MiHoYo

Cost: Free-to-play

Genres: RPG, Adventure

Subgenre: Action RPG

Platforms: Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch

Downloads: 125+ million

Unless otherwise stated, data in this article comes from AppMagic, a leading mobile app intelligence platform. Get 3 days of free access to all features as well as 10% off AppMagic by clicking on this link.

Now brace yourself for the crazy part – the revenues. Note that the numbers are probably climbing as I’m writing this.

After the game generated $60 million just one week after its release, it was clear – we have a gaming phenomenon. Soon, it became the best game of 2020 and received Google Play’s annual Best Game award.

As of October 2022, the game reached $2.9 BILLION in revenue. Yes, you read it right. What takes years for most mobile games, Genshin Impact did in a matter of months. Note that these numbers refer only to the mobile version of the game.

When it comes to country shares, China, Japan, the United States, South Korea, Taiwain, and Germany are in the lead.

It is interesting that Japan is a real whale market for Genshin Impact. They account for only 5.6% of downloads but still make so much in revenue. Further west, the US players made 18.6% of the game’s revenue.

One of the things that made this possible is the game’s advertising strategy. When you have a game that good, there is no need for fake gameplay and special effects.

I’ve analyzed the things that made the game so successful in the first place: its gameplay and monetization. All from a free-to-play perspective.

genshin-impacct-backstory

First Impressions

My first impression of the game was  – wow. As a matter of fact, most newcomers feel like this due to its breathtaking graphics.

The game starts with an impressive backstory video. Here, you find out that the main character’s motivation originates from a touching family story.

As they were traveling between worlds together, a Traveler was separated from a twin by an unknown god. In this phase, you can choose between a male or a female Traveler and you get to choose a name.

The Traveler is trapped in an unknown world of Teyvat, and gets a companion – Paimon.

game tutorial

Game Tutorial

The first thing you learn in the game is how to use controls. You will discover you can run, climb, swim, and glide. All in an open world full of things to explore and discover.

Once you get a hold of the joystick, Paimon will lead your way.

You will also learn the basics of combat from simple fighting challenges. All to prepare you for the real, tougher ones.

genshin impact art style graphics

Art Style

Genshin Impact’s graphics are probably the best thing about the game. It is set in a breathtaking 3D fantasy open world. The world is deep and diverse, with a wide range of locations to explore.

Want to know the best part? The game looks almost identical on all of the platforms. Yes, even on mobile.

The art style is inspired by anime, especially when it comes to characters. Their outfits are inspired by Chinese culture, and all of them are just beautiful.

You will also see some astonishing graphic sights in open landscapes that were inspired by real-life locations.

When it comes to battles, you will be able to see some fantastic visual effects that make combat even more exciting.

Great graphics need a great deal of space, so make sure your phone has at least 8 GB available. Get ready for some heating up as well. Or as one player said, “I can cook a whole meal on the back of my phone while playing this.”

user interface

UI/UX

When a game has such rich features, there are a lot of menus as well. For a new player like me, there was quite a lot of information to take in at once.

There are 4 most important categories to explore, and they are all placed in the top right:

  • The character screen
  • The inventory/weapons
  • Wishes
  • Events overview

Note that the first two are there when you start playing, while wishes and events unlock as you progress.

Other than these, you will find all the quests you need to complete, an all-in-one menu, and a world map in the top left.

Main Game Mechanics

To get the best idea of this game, let’s talk about the core loop. At its core, it comes with classic action RPG features.

Here’s what I mean by that, you need to:

  1. Complete quests
  2. Fight enemies, collect characters, items, and resources
  3. Upgrade characters and equipment, unlock new features
  4. Repeat

I know, all of these don’t sound extraordinary at all. It’s the details and various mechanics that make this game special and give it depth.

Open World

If you don’t like structures and limits, you will certainly enjoy the anarchy of an open-world game.

Genshin Impact is set in a fantasy open world. What this means is that you get to explore just about everything.

You can climb mountains, swim in the lakes, do whatever you want. No one is going to punish you for taking a walk or a wrong turn. Just keep an eye out for monsters, since they might be out there as well.

narrative mechanics

Narrative Mechanics

In Genshin Impact, there is quite a lot of storytelling. To make it as believable as it gets, all of the characters come with a voiceover. Even the people who are just passing by.

You even get to decide on what your personality will be like. Kind of.

When speaking to other characters, you get to choose what you will say. In most cases, there are two choices. However, they don’t directly affect the course of the game, just the course of conversations.

Characters

As you play, you will quickly collect 4 characters to join your team. Each of these characters comes with one key element and uses one unique weapon.

Other than that, they have their own set of talents, star constellations, and artifacts to collect. As you progress through the game, your goal is to collect powerful characters and to upgrade them.

The best thing is – you can swap and combine them at any time. This is especially useful in battles, which brings me to the next game mechanic.

combat tutorial

Combat

When battling enemies, brains and brawn are equally important. Every character has four different types of attacks but what matters most is understanding the elemental system.

Here’s how it works.

There are 7 elements in the world: Cryo (Ice), Dendro (Nature), Pyro (Fire), Hydro (Water), Anemo (Wind) Electro (Lightning), and Geo (Earth).

Both your characters and your enemies are tied to one of these elements. You will be able to easily recognize them by color. When two opposing elements meet, they trigger elemental reactions.

Let me put it this way.

If you meet some water monsters, you can freeze them using your ice characters. If ice monsters cross your path, turn them into plain water with your fire character.

Leveling Up

While playing Genshin impact, you will discover that there are two types of leveling up:

  • Character Levels
  • Adventurer’s Rank

The Character Levels are tied to individual characters. Each time characters level up, they get better stats. This means more health, attack, and defense power.

On the other hand, as you complete quests you open more of the game. The more you discover the world, you get to increase your Adventurer’s Rank.

Once you reach level 20, a level cap sets in. From then on, you are focused on Ascension Quests for further progress.

genshin impact currencies

Currencies

In Genshin Impact, there are quite a bit of different currencies, so it may be challenging to keep up with their purposes.

Let me give you a basic overview.

  • Mora stands for gold. This currency is the easiest to gain from the game.
  • Primogems are more valuable than Mora. You will get them from playing the game but in small amounts.
  • There are two types of Fates: Antiquated Fates and Intertwined Fates. Their main purpose is to make Wishes.
  • Genesis Crystals can only be purchased with real money. You can use them to buy in-game packs or convert them into other currencies.

There are even more currencies, but these are the basic ones you need to know to understand how the game works.

The same goes for mechanics. There are a bunch of additional layers from cooking, crafting to expeditions, unlocking a co-op mode, and more.

However, we’re here to talk about what we know best – monetization.

genshin impact

Genshin Impact Monetization Strategy Breakdown

When you have an RPG game, you have a lot of players eager to level up. To help them do so, you have to deliver the right monetization features.

Here are some of the most common IAP monetization features in RPG games:

  • Purchasable weapons
  • Skipping wait times
  • Time-limited IAPs
  • Loot boxes
  • Gachas

Out of all these features, Genshin Impact decided to put their stakes on one – gacha.

Gacha System in Genshin Impact

Imagine a game with no constant pop-ups, special offers, and discounts bombarding your gameplay.

You don’t have to imagine, Genshin Impact is all of that.

This game is based on a gacha system. Some even call “gacha games” a subgenre.

The term gacha stands for “pulling” or “spinning” to gain something from the game. Gacha works as a traditional toy vending machine where you try out your luck until you get the best reward possible. In order to do so, the players use an in-game currency.

This model is nothing new, as it has been around in a big number of mobile games, especially in those coming from Asia.

However, let’s be real –  trying out your luck is just a prettier term for gambling.

And gambling is always controversial.  As such, gambling mechanics in the game even made it to legislation in certain countries.

Other than gacha, Genshin comes with subscription features. Although, at the core, everything is gacha-related.

genshin impact monetization wishes

Genshin Impact Monetization Setup

When you first start playing Genshin Impact, you get to just – play the game.

There is no shop, no shop tutorial, no pop-ups. Nothing to distract you from fully enjoying and engaging with the game.

It isn’t until you reach Adventure Level 5 that you get a peek into monetization. At this point, you unlock wishes and the game’s shop.

Wishes

In Genshin Impact, wishes are the code name for gacha. All you need to do is to make a wish and you will get either characters or weapons.

If it were only that simple…

Here’s how it actually works.

You will be able to choose a themed wish that fits your needs best. There is one standard wish, and then a few more that are time-limited.

character event wish genshin impact gacha

The time-limited wish offers rotate based on in-game events. They feature either a character event wish or a weapon event wish. The thing is, when you see a rare character or weapon highlighted, it is more likely you will get it. We will go over the odds for that later.

Now, to even make pulls on gachas, you use the Intertwined Fate (special wishes) or Acquaint Fate (standard wish).

In order to earn these, you have three options: level up, play Battle Pass, or use Primogems. In most cases, you will use Primogems and convert them into Fates. The thing is, all this requires a lot of time and effort, so you might want to purchase them.

If you want to purchase Wishes: buy Genesis Crystals, convert them into Primogems, then convert them into Acquainted or Intertwined Fate.

Yes, it’s that complicated. And yes, it is on purpose. Keep reading to find out why.

battle pass genshin impact monetization

Battle Pass

What is an RPG game without a battle pass? Genshin Impact developers sure know its value so they incorporated this feature into the game.

You won’t even know there is a battle pass in Genshin Impact until you play the game for a long, long time. More precisely, until you reach Adventure Level 20.

And here’s how it works.

Once you unlock the Battle Pass, you can complete different daily and weekly missions. All of this to level up – all the way up to level 50.

There are three versions of the Battle Pass:

  • Sojourner’s Battle Pass (free)
  • Gnostic Hymn Battle Pass ($9.99)
  • Gnostic Chorus ($19.99)

All of these versions include rewards such as XP for characters, weapons, and currencies.

However, the paid versions can get you unique weapons that you can find nowhere else in the entire game. Plus, they are more generous. With the Gnostic Chorus, you will start the Battle Pass on level 10 instead of level 1.

genshin impact monetization shop

Game Shop Set-Up

Here’s an overview of everything the Genshin Impact store has to offer.

When you enter the game’s shop, the first thing you will stumble upon is a recommended IAP offer. It is named Blessing of the Welkin Moon. Unlike most of the game’s offers, it comes in real-world currency.

At its core, this offer is a subscription. The thing is, once you purchase it, you have to log in daily for 30 days to claim all the rewards.

Then, there are special categories in which you can only be pay with different in-game currencies: a Gift Shop and Paimon’s Bargains. Here, you will find bundles with different items, as well as different discounts.

Finally, there are regular shop offers. You can purchase Genesis Crystals in real money only, and you get to choose from 6 different-sized packs. Oh, and there is a first-time buyer bonus on each of them that doubles the amounts.

Now let’s talk prices.

subscription genshin impact monetization

Pricing Structure for In-App Purchases

The store’s subscription card, Blessing of the Welkin Moon, comes at $4.99.

If you decide to purchase it, you will get 300 Genesis Crystals and 2700 Primogems. While you will get the Genesis Crystals right away, the Primogems are spread over a period of 30 days.

I can never stress this enough – players love subscriptions. This offer is the best selling IAP in the game.

genesis crystals genshin impact

The standard store offer consists of 6 different packs of Genesis Crystals. The cheapest one comes at $0.99 while the most expensive one will cost you $99.99. Naturally, the more expensive the offers get, the more they pay off.

Genshin Impact Gacha System: The Controversy

Genshin Impact is not the first gacha game in the world, nor the last one. However, its gacha system somehow managed to cause a lot of noise.

Here’s why.

Basically, it is all about the odds. When you pull the gachas, your greatest wish is to earn the featured 5-star weapons or characters.

All the captions and descriptions in the Wish section seem promising. The time-limited banners all say, “Probability Increased. Every 10 wishes is guaranteed to include at least one 4-star or higher item/character.”

The problem is, the actual chances of you getting the highlighted items are a slim 0.6% (Wired). For comparison’s sake, here’s how they compare to other gacha games.

Here are just a few examples of gacha rates on rare units in similar games (Siliconera):

  • Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius  – 8.75% or 1.25%
  • Azur Lane – 7%
  • Fire Emblem Heroes – 6% or 8%

wish rewards genshin impact

To help improve the odds, Genshin Impact provides so-called pity pulls. What this means is if you’re being extremely unlucky after rolling for a long time, the game will randomly give you a good reward.

This is what the 10 wishes disclaimer actually stands for – pity. There is even a guarantee you will eventually get the featured characters/weapons. This will take 90 pulls.

The problem?

To even get close to 90 pulls, you will have to spend a fortune. In most cases, you will just end up with unwanted characters, weapons, and duplicates of those you already have.

For a lot of players, this kind of system can be highly addictive and even dangerous. It can make people spend hundreds of dollars in a matter of minutes. That is why there is a lot of discussion on Genshin Impact monetization.

Is Genshin Impact Free to Play?

Of course, Genshin Impact developers describe the game as free-to-play friendly. However, a lot of players disagree.

In theory, yes, you don’t have to spend a dime to play the game. You can simply save up the Primogens you receive from playing the game to make wishes.

However, if you are a free-to-play player, you will only gain enough Primogens to make a wish a few times a week.

Can a F2P player really enjoy the game? How much will this slow down your progress? Is there a paywall? 

All of this became a hot topic on Reddit, Youtube, on the app stores, and other comment sections. So let’s go over some of the most interesting player observations.

wishes meme

Reddit F2P Discussions

Many Genshin Impact players wrote about how playing the game feels from a F2P perspective.

Here are some highlights.

“The game is beatable and all content is beatable playing F2P if you have the time to grind out the game…” – IvvyX.

“It takes a lot of gameplay to scrape up enough for even a single pull, and a lot of the one-time bonuses – such as chests…discovering new areas, and adventure rank – rewards just a tiny pinch of primogems, or at the greater end, a single pull.” – Maygii.

Most players agree – even though the game might not be pay-to-play, it sure is a “pay for a full experience” game.

In this interesting thread, a player made detailed calculations on just how slow a F2P player’s progression is.

“If you are strictly F2P, unfortunately the rate of daily guaranteed income would only allow you to hit the 90 pull pity in about 9 months.” – ArmoredPotatoe.

Ouch, 9 months? That’s how long it takes a baby to be born. Except here, you’ll be getting a pull pity instead of a baby.

genshin impact meme

Reddit Casual Players’ Discussions 

Casual players don’t seem to mind Genshin Impact gacha mechanics. According to them, even if you don’t engage with the gacha, you can still have much fun with the gameplay itself.

Here are some casual player reviews.

“Imagine being angry about a free game where you can easily never spend money and still have just as much fun”. – Zimores321.

“As someone who hates Gacha mechanics, I’ve been playing the game for a few hours and honestly, the gacha mechanics don’t seem intrusive or even really needed.”  – Hudre.

From all of this, we can conclude – Genshin Impact never forces players into the gacha system. Casual players can have a lot of fun just playing and vibing with the game.

genshin impact paywall discussions

Reddit Paywall Discussions

Now let’s talk about F2P players that are more eager to progress. Namely, these players have started discussions about a paywall in the game.

There is one particular timing where many players state they reached a wall – at about 20 hours of gameplay. However, it seems like it is more of a progress wall than a paywall.

At this point, your progress slows down significantly. This happens because you start running out of explorations and quests that grant you XP. They do refill, but it takes time for that to happen.

Meanwhile, many players agree that there is a paywall in the game when it comes to collecting 5-star weapons and characters.

However…

“I’ve had a ton of fun with the game, WITHOUT using a 5-star…”

“The moment I could beat a lvl 36 boss with my lvl 15 team with no 5 star character, I realised that I can compensate stats (to a certain extent) by playing well, and it felt nice.” 

It seems as if collecting 5-star weapons and characters is more of a luxury than an actual need. They are stronger than the free to play counterparts, but a lot of players claim they were able to progress without premium characters and weapons.

mtashed youtuber genshin impact monetization

A Youtuber That Quit

After spending $7,200 on this game, a popular Youtuber Mtashed gave up promoting the gacha system.

He made a video with a brave public apology on the verge of tears. Here are some of the things he said.

“I’m worried that me promoting this game and showing off these weapons has baited other people into spending money on this game… And I think this system is very predatory, I think that this system is gambling.”

“I can’t believe this exists in a game and I refuse to promote it. I can’t do it and I’m so sorry that I did.”

Afterward, he deleted all of his previous videos that promoted the gacha system and went completely free-to-play with a brand new account.

personalization features

User Retention in Genshin Impact

Player retention is where RPG games stand above most other genres. Especially when a game is at the top of the genre like Genshin Impact.

Let’s run some numbers on the top 2% of RPG games, straight from the Benchmarks+ platform by GameAnalytics.

On average, top role-playing games keep more than 50% of players after the first day. After a week, retention numbers get cut in half, averaging at less than 25%. In 28 days, even the top RPG games have trouble keeping more than 15% of players.

Just like that, the top 2% of RPG games lose about 85% of players.

This is why games pay special attention to keeping players engaged and retaining them. The most important thing to accomplish is always having exciting content for players to dwell on. When a game accomplishes this, it will be able to monetize its player base.

Here are some user retention techniques that are implemented in Genshin Impact:

  • Multiple level-up systems
  • Personalization
  • Live events
  • Event rewards
  • A co-op mode

For the most part, Genshin Impact puts focus on giving an individual player a sense of accomplishment. The thing is, even though there is a co-op mode, the game is mainly played solo.

It is interesting to note that the game doesn’t send out reminders such as push notifications at all. We all know how rare this is in mobile gaming.

It is safe to say that Genshin Impact is unobtrusive in more than one way.

Genshin Impact Monetization: The Good and the Not-So-Good

When a game’s monetization is this controversial, you have to consider both sides of the same coin.

In this case, these are the game’s need to make money and player satisfaction.

genshin impact monetization the good

1. Casual F2P Players Can Really Enjoy the Game 

This is especially true when you first start playing the game. You will get to play for a fair amount of hours until you even unlock the game’s store.

When you unlock it – you may even miss it. The whole wish (gacha) system is not obtrusive at all.

As long as you keep playing casually and F2P, you will find that you don’t necessarily need the fancy stuff a lot of players pay to get.

2. Including Subscription Features

The fact that the game’s top seller is a subscription offer says it all. Players like subscriptions because they come with great value for money. Besides, if they play the game regularly anyway, it’s no problem to log in daily and claim their rewards.

Other than that, it is well known that RPG players like battle passes, and this game didn’t miss out on this either.

3. The Currency System

We believe this system works wonders for the game’s revenues. Having multiple currencies and converting them from one to another can make people spend more.

The thing is – many of them don’t even feel like they are spending actual money.

Genshin impact monetization the not so good

1. The Gacha Win Rate

I mean, 0.6% odds, really? Even the pity system doesn’t help much to reduce the players’ disappointment. Especially when you compare the game to other games with gacha systems.

While some just say this is how things must work for the game to catch whales, it is a questionable model. No wonder it makes so many players head to forums and vent.

2. Not Including Additional IAPs

Some players are simply not into gambling and would rather invest in other IAP features where they actually just get the thing they buy.

It doesn’t even have to be related to in-game progress. For example, there are a lot of player comments wishing common RPG features like purchasable skins.

3. Long-Time F2P Friendliness

There are many concerns about how enjoyable the game is in the long-term. This doesn’t even have to refer to the gacha win rates.

According to player experiences, a lot of them get bored and disappointed after hitting the progress wall.

To prevent this from happening, the game could add more variety. For example, more events or increasing the generosity of in-game rewards.

Final Thoughts on Genshin Impact Monetization

We can all agree Genshin Impact is just stunning, engaging, and entertaining. I will leave you to decide what you think about the game’s monetization.

Make sure to stay tuned for even more analyses of top-grossing games and subscribe to our newsletter!

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