Why Genshin Impact is a Breath of Fresh Air in the Free-to-Play Genre

Oct 20, 2020 | 0 Votes by Mikhail - rate Your vote
Genshin Impact is one of the biggest surprises of 2020, with miHoYo delivering a gameplay experience that rivals high-budget triple-A titles, setting an example for the free-to-play genre in the years to come. WWGDB - Why Genshin Impact is a Breath of Fresh Air in the Free-to-Play Genre

Genshin Impact received bad press a year before release, with internet citizens and pundits alike claiming it is a direct rip-off of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. There was even an occasion where a Chinese Zelda fan destroyed his PlayStation 4 as a form of protest. Talk about dedication.

Thing is, Genshin Impact is far from being Zelda clone, although there are a lot of similarities. In a way, it can set a positive trend for future free-to-play games and even in the RPG genre, although it can pose a number of problems in the future as well. Thanks to its large open world, beautiful art, memorable characters, and deep combat and elemental system, it’s a game that only comes once in a console generation yet can potentially make a major (Genshin) impact.

Jokes aside, why exactly is this new RPG from China something that can make monumental changes to the F2P genre? Let’s take a good look at a few things it has proven so far:

It proves free-to-play games can actually be good


Lumine and Paimon


Yes, we know: there are a lot of fantastic free-to-play games out there. Good examples include Wargaming’s World of Tanks and World of Warships, WarThunder, DOTA 2 and the other MOBAs, and of course, the battle royale trio of Fortnite, Apex Legends, and Call of Duty: Warzone. Thing is, these titles have one thing in common: they’re mostly multiplayer PvP experiences with little singleplayer content.

To be honest, I find it hard to imagine how a free-to-play singleplayer game with microtransactions can actually deliver an excellent experience. Genshin Impact ended up breaking barriers and exceeding expectations by dishing out a large, vibrant world with tons of content and characters to interact with. It’s safe to say that on this occasion, miHoYo did world-building better than other established names in the industry. Just look at how different Monstadt and Liyue are: from windswept plains and Western European architecture to Chinese-inspired locales.

With that in mind, if Genshin Impact can deliver an outstanding free-to-play experience, there’s really no excuse for triple-A developers and, well-backed some indie game makers, to do the same. Just give us a new world, a well-thought-out combat system, and strong characters, not reskins or experiences copied and pasted from older games.

The singleplayer free-to-play model works


Lumine in a dungeon


Genshin Impact proved that financially, the singleplayer free-to-play model works. Currently, the game grossed $100 million in just two weeks after its release, making it the highest-selling IP from a Chinese developer. Reportedly, it recuperated its development costs and it will definitely earn more in the long-run.

Concurrently, Genshin Impact can hand out dozens of hours of gameplay. However, the game is still unfinished, with only two regions/nations (earth and wind) available with more planned in the future. Note that the fire, shock, plant, water, and ice regions are still in development and will come in succeeding updates.

Essentially, this means that there’s more to look forward to and to spend for. The coming regions will undoubtedly mean more characters, items, and quests to look forward to. Much like an MMO, this can become an IP with a long lifespan that can go on to entertain its player-base with new stories and content for years.

Trends that could change the industry


Venti in Genshin Impact


Genshin Impact is a new IP and its current state implies that we’ll see it expand throughout the years. Although it’s a fantastic game and other developers might want to take a leaf out of its book, it could set a number of scary trends.

One good example would be the emergence of other singleplayer free-to-play games. They’ll follow miHoYo’s example: release the game you can call “incomplete” and add in future updates. Worse, since the game is already on its way to becoming profitable, we could see triple-A developers take note and make their own current IPs similar to Genshin’s “first season of an anime” state and release technically unfinished titles.

Genshin Impact’s characters are nothing short of fantastic, most are hidden behind a paywall. In a nutshell, you need to have enough money - and luck - to draw five-star characters like Diluc, Venti, and Keqing, along with exceptionally powerful weapons which have a 0.6% chance. Just imagine other RPGs employing a gacha method to draw characters and weapons. While I don’t think it will be something that will become a norm, it would have been better if miHoYo gave us the chance to buy these characters in an open market. To be frank, I’d pay $10-$20 for a couple of five-star characters and I’m sure other players would be too.

The future of free-to-play gaming


Keqing in Genshin Impact


Overall, Genshin Impact has done what may not have been possible before: deliver a free-to-play game that manages to impress and dish out an experience that far exceeds its peers. Its development and future content is something we all need to watch out for. It made a big splash across all platforms but will it continue to sustain its run?

Its success and whether it can continue the momentum will undoubtedly contribute to the future of free-to-play games. Here’s to hoping it’ll manage to exceed expectations.

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