First, what is Gacha?
The term Gacha originates from “Gachapon”, which are these. You’ve likely seen these before even in the west – the little machines where you put in a coin, turn the dial, and get a little capsule containing a figure, or maybe some candy, or whatever. “Gacha” is the name of the company that made these originally, but it has come to be a term used for any microtransaction system that functions in a similar manner: You pay a small amount, and receive a random item
With regards to Fire Emblem: Heroes, this is present in the Summoning system that enables you to get more units. Using Orbs (A currency obtained either through in-game progress or bought with real world $$$), you can play. Your reward is new units to use, yay!
Through this system, players are convinced to take a shot at buying something perceived as valuable – and this becomes the central way the game brings in money. It is believed that for this kind of game, a tiny percentile of the players is responsible for the massive majority of the spending. These thousands-of-dollars players are called “Whales”, and by hooking them on the game and into a Gacha system, the game is able to fund itself. The advantage, of course, is that there doesn’t have to be a financial barrier just to start playing – so tons of people can also enjoy the game for free. In theory, it’s a win-win situation.
What’s this got to do with gambling?
If it wasn’t clear: Even though you pay, what you get in return isn’t fixed. Although you always get something from this system, whether or not what you get is what you want is… well, yeah. The results of summoning are random – and you need to fully understand this. We have confirmation that the chance of drawing specific characters/rarities will be visible in game, which is incredibly important to make informed decisions – but making informed decisions means not falling prey to the same mistakes gamblers make.
What should I know when I pull?
- Know the realistic rates of pulling the characters you’re interested in. It appears that FE Heroes, rather than using just a single infinite pool, will have you do Orb pulls from “Focuses”, which will give higher rates to specific heroes. Check these and know them.
- Know how probability works, and that nothing is guaranteed. Does that unit have a 10% appearance rate? Fantastic! Here’s the thing – that doesn’t mean you get it after 10 pulls. You might get her after 1… or it could take you 100. Is 100 pulls to get a 10% unit a statistical improbability? Yup! But guess what? That’s improbability, not impossibility. Theory’s cool and all, but in practice random chance is just that. With how many people are going to be playing, statistical outliers are going to happen… both good and bad.
- Know that the game owes you nothing. Though we’ve had confirmed the rarity of units will adjust slightly with each pull (The game will increase the chance of a 5* after each non-5* draw, until you get one), this will likely be a minor effect. Most importantly, no such system exists for who you pull. Just because you’ve drawn 50 times before, doesn’t mean the game is “going to give you it finally” or “has to” or anything. These thoughts are gambler’s traps. RNG gonna RNG, and you need to make peace with that.
- Know that you won’t get what you want. Okay, yes, occasionally you will. But unless you’re going to be a whale, there’s never enough to guarantee you can just buy your desired outcome. Make peace with that now, and accept that sometimes you will just need to walk away. Sometimes you will need to make the best out of getting other units that are new but maybe not what you really wanted. Sometimes you’ll walk away feeling like you got even less. The disappointment will sting, but the more you’re ready for it, the more you can learn to shrug it off and move back to the game.
- Know that you don’t need it. If FE:Heroes is even remotely well designed, getting perfect units with perfect starting ranks won’t be mandatory in order to succeed. You can play the game just fine without these things, even if you’d like to have them. If that’s ever not the case, and you’d actually need specific characters at high ranks to clear content… then that’s the sign of a game that’s gone to shit.
Financial Responsibility and You
Gacha can be played responsibility, but it is also a system that is designed to entrap players. It is, after all, Gambling. Gacha is designed to pull from expendable incomes (especially from those with huge incomes)… but it is designed to exploit. The rich. The gambling addicted. The intoxicated. The emotional. The foolish. There are countless stories from even the most generous of Gacha games of players who have gone absolutely ham and walked out without what they came for – and spent hundreds in the process, only to get nothing. Before you buy orbs, consider the following:
- Do you have the money to throw away? Everyone’s got a different wallet. This game is not worth losing food or financial security over, no matter how much you end up loving it. Ask yourself, “If I don’t get what I was after, am I comfortable having spent this?”. You’re not getting that money back.
- Is it your money you’re spending? If you have a joint account with a significant other, or are using a parent’s card or something, think doubly so about spending. If you’re spending your parents’ money, always ask. I shouldn’t even have to get into this, but don’t cause problems for other people!
- Are you of a level head? If you’re getting frustrated that you’re not getting what you wanted and are about to spend more, stop and recenter yourself; maybe come back in half an hour and see how you feel. It’s very easy to ‘rage pull’… and not only will it feel terrible if you don’t get lucky this time, it feels worse when you look at the expenses after. Similarly, don’t try to pull to ‘cure’ a bad mood.
- Are you intoxicated? Don’t buy when drunk. Just don’t do it. I’ve heard plenty of stories of people waking up with a hangover and a couple hundred dollars missing off their credit card to these games. Not everyone can afford that.
- Do you know how much you’ve spent? I’ve seen a few people in gacha games go “I don’t want to know how much I spent!”. This is dangerous, because you can end up spending more than you think very fast if you start chaining purchases on a pulling spree. Always know how much you’re spending!
- Consider a limit, and then play within it. If you’re not a whale who can sink thousands without a thought, it is a very healthy thing to do in Gacha to play within a limit. Maybe every new Focus you’ll sink 3$ for a single pull, just for fun. Maybe at the start of the month you’ll sink down 20$ for orbs, like a subscription fee to an MMO. Maybe once a month you’ll throw down up to 50$ on things you want to chase. Setting hard limits on things and sticking to them is extremely advisable to have a healthy Gacha experience.
Don’t let this discourage you from paying into this game. But go into this game – and any gacha game – with realistic expectations, a level head, and financial responsibility. I’ve seen far too many horror stories in the over a decade since Gacha microtransactions first appeared; and I know for a fact that FE Heroes will draw in people who’ve never played one before. Please enjoy the game, and don’t become the story.