Do Microtransactions Exploit Whales?

patio11 wrote (my bold):

When I was younger I had both aesthetic disgust and strong moral intuitions against monetization being driven by whales. These days, am far less sure of both.

One of the claims which Kongegate’s CEO made, repeatedly, in presentations is that they actually got their whales on the phone and they were simply professionals who liked to spend money on their hobby. That has become increasingly plausible to me as I’ve grown older and have more money than time.

I spent $X00 on Genshin in something like 6 weeks. I quit because of the time “commitment” and because I had gotten through most of the interesting bits, but if I had kept up habits, I would have played less than typical American watches TV and spent $X,000 a year. Which… does not strike me as unreasonable for what would have been my main hobby, given comparables like e.g. golf.

It’s a great game in a lot of ways. I don’t regret either time played or money spent. (The first one would have been untrue in a year, hence stopping.)

Side point: I think Genshin Impact is a better game if you don’t spend any money. Spending money makes the game easier while IMO not providing important benefits. Yes you can spend thousands a year to collect more of the pokemon anime waifus. That’s some pretty expensive art and recorded voice lines. The game (intentionally) lacks good breakpoints to spend a reasonable or moderate amount and draw the line there without making it too easy, and it lacks objective ways to judge how good at the game you are (when you fail, it’s ambiguous how much that’s skill and how much it’s the power level of your characters).

Major point: Based on reading Genshin subreddits, I am convinced that lots of people spend a lot of money on Genshin that they shouldn’t. Many are young people – not high-earning professionals – who do not understand the gambling math well. Genshin intentionally obscures how hard/unlikely/expensive it is to get stuff. One of the tricks they use is making stuff so rare/expensive that it violates people’s intuitions about what is reasonable, so they spend money thinking they’ll get more than they will. They also have carefully worded fine print that most people don’t read, but even people who did read it and know a bunch of math have been tricked (in one case I read about it, people realized they had been misled about the odds after working together to gather thousands of data points).

There is tons of spending from young people who see YouTube videos of content creators getting all the new characters and weapons. They want that stuff too. They don’t understand how much money those content creators make from their channels, how spending thousands of dollars gambling on the game is an easily-justifiable business expense that they’d be monetarily foolish not to do (but some have realized they shouldn’t do it anyway, apologized, and gone free-to-play).

I’ve also seen stories of people with ordinary incomes spending tens of thousands of dollars and screwing up their lives.

Besides spending for art and sound, and to make the game easier so you can feel like you’re better at the game than you are, there’s also significant spending to make up for people being bad at planning, organization and math. People allocate resources poorly, don’t plan ahead, etc., which can make the game a lot harder. The game is intentionally designed with lots of traps so people will struggle in ways that could have been avoided and which you can pay to fix. Instead of taking this area that most people don’t want to think about and designing the game so they don’t have to, the game makes it a big deal on purpose, gets people to screw up, and then sells them fixes.

I was already skeptical of current microtransaction practices, including gacha games. I’m sure high earners with a hobby provide some revenue but I’m doubtful that’s the proper way to look at the matter overall. And it doesn’t help that I’ve actually read people talking about Genshin spending – patio11’s own example – and IME their online posts wildly contradict his narrative. There are tons of naive people who obviously have no idea what they’re doing, have little clue how to play or what they’re buying, but who think they need to spend to get various things just to play the game normally. There are tons of other people who just want shiny stuff they can’t afford and don’t understand gambling math. And there are tons of people who do not keep accurate records of how much they’ve spent – even over short time periods let alone over months – and who spend much more than they intend to (while buying less than they thought they’d get, because the casino is designed to trick them). People also don’t understand how little control they have over the slot machine (you have more than zero control, which results in a lot of misleading information about gambling strategies – that info is useful but people misinterpret it as if it was a lot more effective than it actually is).

Also, Genshin’s pricing and time-to-grind for various resources are clearly designed so that buying stuff can appeal to a person working for U.S. minimum wage. In other words, in short, you can get way more stuff if you work for an hour (at minimum wage) and spend that money on the game than if you play the game for an hour. Getting various things is designed to be so time consuming that people with very little money are incentivized to spend. (What I’d strongly recommend if you play it or any similar game is just be OK with not having everything, and don’t get really obsessed with having any particular things. Just getting one copy all the Genshin characters could cost you ~$4000/yr, and you can benefit from up to 7 of each character plus there are weapons and other things including resin refreshes – spending money to bypass the harsh time gating they put on a bunch of the game, which makes you wait to do it more.)

Part of what they’re doing is literally circumventing gambling laws, both generally and also in order to get under-18s gambling. EDIT: You have to be 21 to gamble in Nevada, not 18.

Based on some advanced information (not guaranteed reliable), Genshin will have 2 new characters at once on the banner for xmas (in other words, they’re trying extra hard to incentivize spending at that time). Is that targeted at getting spending from professionals with disposable income? No. They can spend whenever. It’s so children spend all their xmas money on it or ask for Genshin currency for xmas.

I think Genshin makes tons of money in China (it’s made by a Chinese company and China is a huge mobile gaming market) where having an income anything like patio11’s is even rarer.

patio11 may be able to write newsletters about how credit cards work, but I think he’d be shocked by some of the bad decisions people make and charge to their credit cards. (I am no expert on that, but at least I’m not denying the problem based on my privileged experiences and perspective.)


[Genshin Impact is] a great game in a lot of ways. I don’t regret either time played or money spent. (The first one would have been untrue in a year, hence stopping.)

I think he’s rationalizing a poor use of money – hundreds of dollars for a game he quit after 6 weeks.

More importantly, why did he quit, exactly?

The game is designed so you can play small amounts spread out over time. It incentivizes spreading out your playtime. So why did patio11 take up the hobby for fairly short time time period, spend a bunch of money, then quit?

BTW, likely a meaningful amount of his money spend was within a week or two of quitting. People tend to not spend right away because they don’t know yet if they like the game or will keep playing. They get more willing to spend over time. They don’t predict in advance that they will play for 6 weeks and then spend all the money right away so that they can benefit from it for 6 weeks. The average dollar he spent probably gave him any benefit at all for under 3 weeks. It’s fairly common that people spend significant money on a game shortly before they quit because they expect to keep playing much longer.

Part of what spending does is give you a shortcut to rewards. But the rewards only mean anything in the game. They’re artificial and only matter to people who keep playing long term.

Anyway, why did he quit instead of spreading his playtime out? He’s exhibiting “addictive” behaviors (as intended by the game designers – they try to hook you and grab a lot of your attention, and then they also release temporary content every few weeks so if you ever take a break from the game you permanently miss out on stuff, plus they have ongoing systems that reward you for playing a little bit daily and there’s basically no way to catch up if you miss days, besides spending money). He’s not pacing himself. He had to quit cold turkey because the game’s manipulations work on him. He can’t organize his life well when faced with the incentive structure and rewards from this game. He has trouble with “self-control”, “self-regulation”, etc. He’s not a rational agent, with no emotions, making a bunch of wise decisions. Many, many people are even worse at such things, get hooked longer, do more harm to their lives, and spend money they shouldn’t.

patio11 thinking the whales can afford it, and no one is being exploited, reminds me a little of the “tax the rich” idea which ppl think means taxes won’t rly hurt anyone

Example of what gacha games do to people who don’t have money. People get manipulated and pressured - and many of them know it - and spend more than they want to or should.

I feel bad for that guy. It’s sad reading his comments. Does patio11 think that’s fine or did he choose to opine without ever looking at public info of that nature? Just turns a blind eye to suffering that’s easy to find on Reddit?

Threads kinda like this are posted routinely.

Don’t worry, the CEO of one of the companies that does this kinda thing to people said he talked with his customers and everything is fine.

How is patio11 so gullible? I’m pretty damn sure he knows how to use and search Reddit.

Is it just bias because he’s like “This is a good fit for me; I see a use case so probably most of the other customers are like me, too.”? It’s not even a good fit for him and he’s rationalizing some kinda dumb spending (that won’t really hurt him, though – he can afford it). And in general he likes to talk about how many people in tech make more money than most people expect and hype that up. And yeah, compared to standard beliefs, more people are making more money in tech than people would expect. But way way way more people have lives nothing like that. Did patio11 forget about them because they are not in his social circle?

Would he say “That guy is just gonna get sucked in for an extra $100 right now and maybe not even $1000 in the next year if he keeps playing. That doesn’t even count. He’s not a whale.” He’s a whale relative to his budget though, and people who spend $100+ (while making unrealistic, wishful-thinking plans not to do it again in the foreseeable future) do matter to the game’s overall income. The game puts a lot of work into getting that $100 out of that guy for a reason – because they do it to enough people that it adds up. If substantially all the money come from the people spending a lot more than that, the game would be monetized and designed differently.

Also basically his story repeats for people with a bit more money. People spend 10k who really shouldn’t. People at all income levels, below having a ton of money, are capable of spending more than they should. For this guy $100 is a bad idea that he might actually do, and for someone else $1,000 is a bad idea that he might actually do, and for someone else $10,000. And then above that there are people who make 500k or whatever hell patio11’s income is and who’s spending on Genshin may be dumb but at least doesn’t actually push the boundaries of their budget. But most people at most spending levels are spending more than they should. I recall reading a guy in reddit comments saying he spent like 50k on a different gacha game. IIRC that bad experience motivated him to be pure free2play for Genshin. And that story was not viewed as a fully unique snowflake by people in the community. Many other people know people who have really overspent on these games.

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He is claiming that the majority of the game’s income is coming from people who are just spending reasonable amounts of money on their hobby, in a way that they are OK with.

But if that is actually what is happening, why does the game make the math so complicated? They make it really confusing and difficult for people to figure out how much things actually cost. People have actually had to crowd source to figure out the numbers.

If the money was all being spent by people who were happy to be spending that amount of money, why not just use menu pricing?

The way things are priced in the game makes it hard to figure out how much it is going to cost to get things you want, so lots of people end up spending more money than they thought they would, still not getting what they want, and then giving up. Or, spending even more money because they don’t want to give up now that they’ve already put so much in.

If it actually were true that the game was getting the majority of its money from people who are happy to be spending the amounts of money they spend, then it doesn’t even make sense to hide the details of the costs like this. Why do you need to get a bunch of players to spend more money than they meant to if the majority of your money is coming from players who are happy to spend large amounts of money? It is just hurting your lower and moderate income players (which includes a lot of young people) for a small amount of extra money in the short term. And it actually alienates other people from spending any money at all on the game.

So if it were true that the majority of the money was coming from people happy to pay it, tricking a bunch of people into giving you smaller amount of money could end up getting you less money in the end because of the revenue loss from the people you alienated.

Here is some info about how convoluted the Genshin monetization and wishing (gambling) system is:

You can buy genesis crystals with real money. They come in amounts like 6480 for $100. I’m not sure that’s the exact amount because I’ve never bought anything and they use weird numbers on purpose. They also sell some smaller packages (e.g. $10 or $50) that give you slightly fewer genesis crystals per dollar.

The first time you buy a package you get double. I believe this applies to each package type. E.g. you can spend $50 and get double, and later spend $100 and get double. I don’t think this is clearly labelled and I assume many people don’t know it and buy the $100 first to avoid wasting their doubling on a smaller amount.

You can also buy Welkin Moon which is $5 to get you 90 primogems per day that you log in for a month. It’s a better deal but only lets you put a little money into the game over time and requires logging in daily to get full value. You also get 300 genesis crystals right away so the total ends up being 3000 IIRC.

And you can buy the Battle Pass for $10 which lasts around 45 days and gets you various rewards but you have to actually play a lot to get the rewards.

Genesis crystals can buy primogems at a 1 for 1 ratio. You also earn primogems by playing the game. also you can buy character skins for genesis crystals but not for primogems.

160 primogems buys a wish. There are two types of wishes, intertwined fates (red) and acquaint fates (blue). I might have the names slightly wrong and might have reversed the colors. I think of them primarily by color. red are the higher value wishes which are less commonly given out as in-game rewards (besides earning primogems sometimes you can also earn fates directly sometimes).

Earning primogems in game is carefully limited. You can’t just play more hours to get more. You primarily get them from single-use stuff (like finding all the chests in an area, and each chest will give 2-5 or maybe it’s 1-5 or 1-10 or something idk exactly, and the chests never respawn) or time limited stuff (they do a lot of temporary events). There are also 4 random daily quests you can do for a total of 60 primogems.

Primogems buy other stuff besides wishes. They also buy resin refreshes. Resin is a time gate mechanism that limits your access to playing various parts of the game that are important for leveling up your characters and weapons. You get 1 resin per 8 minutes, which is 180 per day, and you can hold 160 max (any extra is wasted) so you have to play a little bit more often than once a day to avoid wasting any resin. You can get some extra resin from in game activities, but only in pretty small amounts. However, you can get an extra 60 resin from spending primogems, and this is limited to 6 times per day (so you can get 180 regular resin + 360 from primogem refreshes), which means you can make triple progress if you spend the max. The price of resin refreshes increases as you do more of them in the same day. I’ve never done them so I don’t know the exact pricing. If you’re spending real money on them, and you buy it $100 at a time, it’s roughly 0.65 cents (two thirds of a penny) per primogem, and I think you would spend in the ballpark of $10 a day to get all your resin refreshes. You could look up exact amounts. Some people do the full amount every day and some do a partial amount daily. The stuff you get from resin gives basically zero contribution to wishing.

Anyway, getting to wishes. You wish on banners. There are 4 types of banners.

beginner banner has a limit of 20 wishes ever, so it’s not that important and i don’t know all the details. i think it’s mostly similar to the standard banner plus you’re guaranteed to get Noelle.

standard banner is where you use blue wishes. it can give:

  • 5 star weapon
  • 4 star weapon
  • 3 star weapon
  • 5 star character
  • 4 star character

but only from specific lists of what’s available on the standard banner. there are 5 5-star characters for the standard banner and 10 weapons (2 each of the 5 weapon types).

roughly 85% of the wishes yield a 3 star weapon which is basically useless junk (a few are a little bit useful, especially early, but you end up with tons of duplicates of all of them even if you never spend money).

weapons can be powered up a small amount using duplicates of the weapon. this is called refining. they start at rank 1 and using up 4 more copies will get you to rank 5, the max refinement.

characters are powered up in the same way but you need 7 copies instead of 5. they start at 0 constellations and go up to 6 constellations.

you can have multiple copies of the same weapon but only one copy of each character. if you get a character again after 6 constellations you don’t get anything except extra starglitter.

when you wish, besides getting characters and weapons, you also get two more currencies, starglitter and stardust. starglitter is the better one. in short you get 2 glitter per 4star and 10 glitter per 5star. something like that. if you get a 4star character that you already have max constellations on, you get 5 glitter as a consolation prize, which is a very bad deal but i’ve read reddit comments of people who are confused about the math and think it’s not bad.

you get 15 stardust per 3star and maybe more from other wishes but i’m not sure. you can buy up to 5 of each type of wish per month with stardust. you can also buy some dumb stuff, but you should save it instead and then if you take a break from the game you can log in every month to buy more wishes to use up your stardust.

back to starglitter: 5 glitter can buy a wish of either type and this isn’t capped on how much you can buy per time period. there are also 2 4-star characters available per month which you can buy 1 each of for 34 glitter and there are also 5 weapons available per month (1 of each type) which cost 24 glitter and i think might have a cap for how many you can buy in the 1-5 range. some of my numbers may be a little off.

anyway when you wish you get glitter and dust that let you buy more wishes which makes wish math more complicated due to the partial refunds adding more wishes.

but i was talking about banners. there are separate pity systems for 4-stars and 5-stars. it keeps a count of how much you wish. at the start, or after you get a 4star, you are guaranteed to get a 4 star within 10 wishes. for 5stars the guarantee is 90 wishes.

there are hidden soft pity systems that the playerbase figured out from data. the game has tens or hundreds of millions of active players and is making hundreds of millions of dollars per month last i heard. so there’s a lot of spending and some of it has been tracked to figure out what you’re buying better. the game gives a decent amount of detail in game but has tricked even the savviest players in some ways and gathering data has revealed more info.

soft pity means your odds to get stuff goes up before reaching the number of wishes where it’s guaranteed. for 4-stars, soft pity starts at 9 wishes. so there’s a standard chance to get a 4star, which is something like 5%, however on the 9th wish it’s more like 30% or 50%, idk exactly, and if you still don’t get it it’s guaranteed on the 10th. soft pity for 5stars starts are 74. the regular chance is 0.6% but at wish 74 you get like a 7% chance which quickly scales up to more like a 50% chance by wish 80 so getting to wish 90 is very rare. these numbers are ballparks.

also, there’s some rule about somewhat alternating between weapons and characters. this applies to both 4stars and 5stars separately. people aren’t sure exactly how it works but one theory is that basically you can’t get 3 of the same thing in a row. e.g. if you got 2 4star weapons in a row, your next 4star will be a character or vice versa. IIRC the other theory is more like “in any set of 30 wishes you will get at least 1 4star character and 1 4star weapon”.

so that’s the standard banner. it’s available any time and they’ve been adding new 4star characters to it gradually around 4-7 weeks after the 4star character is first available on the character banner.

so the 3rd type of banner is focused on characters and has a single 5star character as the lead and 3 4-star characters with higher drop rates. it has basically the same pity systems as the standard banner. this is the main place to use red wishes. if you get a 5-star, it’s 50% likely to be the character featured on the banner, and otherwise will be one of the 5star characters from the standard banner. but if you lose your 50% chance roll, you’re guaranteed to get the featured character next time you get a 5star on the character banner. for 4stars, something like half of your 4stars will be one of the 3 featured 4star characters and the others can be 4star characters or weapons from the standard banner. idk the exact math on this but i think basically if you don’t get a featured 4star character you’re more likely to get a weapon than a character.

the game only displays your wish history for like the last 6 months so it can be important to keep notes about whether your next 5star is a 50% chance or guaranteed and your 5star and possibly 4star pity count for each banner.

every 3 weeks they rotate the character banner to have a new 5star character. this can either be a brand new character or a rerun of a character from the past. if you don’t get a 5star character now, you may have to wait 6-12 months for a rerun banner so that you can wish for that character again. for new 4star characters, i think they reliably get added to the standard banner the next patch after they’re new.

the 4th banner is the weapon banner which has 2 featured 5-stars and a similar but different pity system than the character banner. it also rotates every 3 weeks at the same time as the character banner rotates. it also uses red wishes like the other temporary, rotating banner. i’ve never wished on it. the 5star pity is at 80 instead of 90 i think. the featured 5-star weapons have uneven probability split something like 70/30 and this was not documented anywhere. one youtuber spent like $500-1000 and got the wrong weapon like 7 times and gave up. he believed it was a 50% chance between the two weapons but the community now knows that it isn’t – it’s biased against the weapon that most people want (generally the newer or better one). you can also get other 5-star weapons besides the 2 featured ones i think but idk the odds. for the 4star weapons, the are some featured ones, idk how many, and they have a major probability boost, and if you get a 4star that isn’t a featured weapon then it can be a weapon or character from the standard banner (maybe not everything – they list exactly what is available on what banner in some fine print that i assume most people don’t read). i don’t think new 4star weapons get reliably added to the standard banner in the way 4star characters do but idk.

you’re 100% guaranteed to get the currently promoted 5star character within 180 wishes max, which is enough to hit the hard limit of 90 twice. but the weapon banner doesn’t have a guarantee like that (the one where, if you don’t get the promoted character from the 50% chance, you will get them next time). you can get the wrong weapon over and over.

after a lot of complaints, they added a different system to weapons. you can pick what weapon you’re going for and if you get the wrong one you get 1 point in this new system. it might be called fate points (which is confusing because wishes are faits) but i’m uncertain from memory since i’ve never used it. if you have 2 points then you’re guaranteed to get the right weapon next time. these points expire when the banner rotates.

the pity systems do not expire. if you spend 50 wishes on the character banner and don’t get a 5star, you’re still at 50/90 pity on the next character banner.

pity is tracked separately for each banner type and for 4stars and 5stars, but is saved over time. except the special weapon pity points thing they added, which expires at banner rotation every 3 weeks. so if you want a specific weapon you can now get it guaranteed but you need up to 240 wishes to hit the weapon pity (80 not 90) 3 times.

wishes cost around $2.50 each if buying $100 at a time without the first time buyer bonus. so 180 wishes for a guaranteed 5star character is $450 and if you want max constellations then you need the character 7 times so the price cap is around $3150. however the average wishes to get a 5star character is more like 75 and you get the banner character more like 75% of the time and also the wishing gets you dust and glitter that let you buy more wishes. so the expected prices for 1 or 7 copies of a 5star are significantly lower than the worst case scenarios. More like $250 and $1750 based on some quick estimates.

If you want everything perfect you have to get 7 copies of every new 5star character and also 5 copies of every new 5star weapon. And actually you might want 10 copies of some weapons so that more than one of your characters can have it (with refinement rank 5). And weapon and character banners rotate every 3 weeks but are sometimes repeats instead of new things, so an actual new 5star is comes out maybe once a month on average, probably a little less often but i think it’s more frequent than every 6 weeks, but idk exactly.

getting new 4stars, even one copy, can be a problem. IIRC it’s something like 70 wishes on average to get a specific promoted 4star character on the character banner. but there’s no guarantee so you could do 700 wishes and still have a small chance not to get the character. and if you want 7 copies of them, on average i think that’s around 490 wishes ($1225) but with bad luck you could double that or more. they tend to introduce new 4stars on banners that rerun a 5star character so that people who already have the 5star – even 7 copies of it – have a compelling reason to wish on the banner. so if you’re trying to get all the characters, you don’t just have to worry about the 5stars, you also have to worry about new 4stars who are put on 5star rerun banners. if you don’t get them right away you’ll probably be waiting a month or two for another chance. you could get them from the standard banner too but that is awful odds b/c there are like over 20 4star characters on there (~all of them) so the chance to get a specific one you want is quite low.

so anyway that was a lot of info with a lot of numbers and most people don’t know a quarter of it and couldn’t deal with all this crap even if they wanted to. they purposely use many different systems and numbers to make it really convoluted to obscure what’s going on.

i have spent $0 on Genshin Impact and strongly advise people do not spend money on this game.

Also, spending money on Genshin is highly profitable for streamers and youtubers. Lots of people watch the gambling. Like you can literally just gamble for hours and people will watch and you can make a lot more money than it costs if you’re a decent sized channel. (it’s the same with e.g. Hearthstone – popular streamers can just buy packs and open them on stream and ppl will watch that).

This is extremely misleading for viewers who see the content creators getting all kinds of stuff and think they too can get stuff – maybe not as much as a content creator but some of it right? they are badly misled. early on a content creator, mtashed, realized this and made a new account that doesn’t spend money and switched to that as his main account. i think his original account spent over $10,000 and he abandoned it (less than 6 weeks after the game came out, maybe less than 3 weeks) and apologized to his community and said he didn’t want to encourage them to spend money on the game even though spending money on the game paid for itself many times over for him personally.

tons of people spending money do not know within a factor of 10 what they are buying or how much money a content creator spent for the stuff they say him get.

also, FYI, i could analyze and criticize this a lot more. i’ve left a lot out. i barely covered pay2win, time gating and time limiting stuff and fear of missing out. yes the game simultaneously makes you wait a lot for some things and play on a a ~daily basis spread out over time to get the most stuff, while also having a lot of stuff go away after 1-6 weeks (generally permanently or for 6-12 months, depending on what it is, and in general for events they won’t tell you whether it’ll be gone permanently or not, whereas characters you know will rerun eventually). but i think this is enough for now.

People have spent maybe $3,000,000,000 (3 billion) on Genshin’s gacha system and counting. I think it’s interesting to know how it works. It’s fucked up though and super manipulative, confusing on purpose, convoluted, uses many different non-round math numbers, many different currencies, etc. I don’t know how patio11 could think it’s reasonable.

Forgot to say buying wishes with stardust costs 75 dust each but this is permanently labelled as being on sale with IIRC a 40% discount even though it’s always the same price. possibly the discount label is related to the limited stock of 5 of each of the 2 wish types per month in the stardust shop. dust and glitter both also buy stuff like mora (gold) and materials dropped by common enemies, which are a bad deal to buy, unless you spend a lot of money and have way more dust than you can spend on wishes, in which case converting some to mora at a bad rate might be worthwhile. stardust can also buy dust of azoth (limited amount per month i think) which lets you convert between character ascension gem types. 1 dust lets you convert a tier 1 gem type, calling the low tier tier 1. there are 4 tiers and 6 gem types (1 per element – will be 7 when dendo is added). upgrading to the next tier takes 3 gems so they’re worth 1/3/9/27. the highest character ascension costs 6 of the top gem so that’s a total of 162 points. converting 1 point costs 1 dust of azoth. so if have none of the right gem you’d need 162 dust of azoth to convert extras from other gem types to do the level 80 character ascension. the lower level ascensions cost various smaller amounts. the price goes up about around 2-3x each time. and you ascend at levels 20,40, 50,60,70,80 (for each separate character) because they don’t want to use even, easy numbers. and max character level in Genshin is 90 but the benefit of going over 80 is fairly low due to no more ascensions to reach. (And levels past 80 cost a ton of xp – unlike most RPGs, xp primarily comes from time-gated farmable items not from killing monsters, so that you can choose which character to give xp to and if you get a new character you can level them up right away if you saved xp materials). The combat formula does include level though. To a rough approximation, you add your level plus enemy level and look at what percentage of the total your level is and multiply your damage by that. So e.g. if you’re 80 and the enemy is 90, you get a damage multiplier of 80/170 which is 47% but if you leveled up to 90 then your multiplier would be 50% which is a 6.4% increase in damage from those 10 levels (plus those levels give a small amount of stats (attack, defense, hp) that’s probably worth under 1% damage on most characters). Also you do get a small amount of xp for killing monsters so some people leave characters 1 level below max so that xp isn’t wasted, e.g. leaving a character at 89 so they can still gain xp. The time to go from 89 to 90 just from killing monsters is, I’d very loosely estimate, multiple years of typical play, so I don’t think you need to worry about leaving more than 1 level of leeway.

A recent article says Genshin passed $2 billion in sales. But also says:

This excludes sales figures from China, and the sales on PC and PlayStation, which means the actual total revenue from the game is actually more than US$2 billion.

So the real total could be over my loose $3 billion estimate. I didn’t necessarily estimate too high like the article headline suggested.

EDIT: Some PC (and PlayStation?) players buy Genshin stuff on iOS or Android in order to get a better deal. On iOS you can use iTunes gift cards which you can often buy for 90% of their face value (from legit places like Costco), sometimes less. On Black Friday you’ll probably be able to buy itunes gift cards on ebay for 80% of face value (which may or may not be helping money launderers? i’m not sure). For Android, I’ve heard people talking about spending on Genshin via the Google Play Store in order to build up rewards points for the store or something. idk how it works since I’m not an Android user but you can get some benefit for mobile device spending. But probably 90%+ of people don’t know and optimize this kinda thing so it shouldn’t lower PC or PS5 spending that much.

And China is a huge market for Genshin, which is made by a Chinese company. In my understanding, the Chinese community is considered the best in terms of figuring out the best game strategies, gathering the most data, etc., Some of the game knowledge in English comes from people able to read Chinese and then share the info.

Mobile (ios and android) is more popular than PC or PS in general but idk how dominant it is (80%? 95%?).

But I believe PC is pretty popular among people like patio11 because it’s the best way to play. Mobile is particularly popular among kids and people who don’t have a gaming PC for reasons of money or space. But if the people spending money were mostly the kind of person patio11 claims, then I think PC would actually be the majority platform by revenue, which it’s definitely not.

PS is also a better gaming experience than mobile. The main problem with mobile is touch controls are worse. Mouse and keyboard lets you control the game better than a console controller which is itself significantly better than touchscreen. You can buy various types of controllers for mobile but in short they’re inferior to console controllers and not many people use them.

Mobile is also worse for screen size, which might actually be the larger problem than poor controls in most people’s opinions.

There’s something screwy about people who spend thousands of dollars on Genshin but don’t buy a gaming PC or even a PS5 or even an iPad, and who only play on their phone, but I think that’s pretty common. (One big reason is lack of space at home to put a PC, but if you don’t have space for a desk with a PC maybe you shouldn’t be spending thousands of dollars on mobile game gambling. I’m not saying that’s wrong for everyone in every situation but it’s suspicious.)

(iPads are actually worse to play on than phones in some ways because being big can make it harder to quickly use all the controls, but they give you more screen size. The best mobile device to play on, from Apple, is probably either the largest phone or smallest iPad; I’m not sure which.)

I read a Reddit comment that explained something well to a guy who had been playing Genshin for 2 months and was wondering how other people had way more stuff than him.

It was a few days ago and I don’t have the link, but rough summary:

The standard model for RPG games is you make progress by how many hours you play.

But Genshin uses a mobile gaming model where you make progress based on how many separate days you play on. A lot of people have been playing for way more than 2 months – 300+ days rather than 60 days – so that’s why they have way more stuff.

You can’t just catch up in Genshin by playing a lot of time. Playing spread out over time matters a ton.

Genshin is based around time-gated systems including daily commissions and temporary events every couple weeks that give out a significant portion of the stuff players have. If you participate in more events you get more stuff.

[end of summary]

This is an intentional design to try to keep people hooked on the game and incentivize them to open the game regularly.

Even paying money only partially makes up for playing the game over time. E.g. at max spending for resin (~$300/mo), you can only catch up at a rate of 3 days per 1. In other words, 1 month gets you 3 months of free-to-play progress. You can’t buy more than that for the resin system.

You can do uncapped spending to buy characters and weapons with the wishes/gambling, but you can get a much better deal on some wishing if you spend $5/mo and log in every day (but that’s capped – you can’t spend more besides buying stuff at the standard much lower efficiency). And you can only get the current banner character. You can be willing to spend $100,000 but if you want Venti or Ayaka or many other characters, you will have to wait up to like 9 months for them to be available again. A big spender who has played the game over time could have every character, but a new big spender will have to stick around for many months to get most of the characters. Basically you can only get one limited 5star character every 3 weeks.

Anyway I liked the distinction in game models for power per hour played vs. power per number of days you’ve played for.