Monday, 3 March 2014


Most (but not all) of the items in this picture were won through gacha machines. I have more, but I couldn't pile them all onto Kitti because she's only got so much virtual skin to plaster them to.
A new round of the Arcade opened, and half of Second Life is now - if they weren't before - addicted to gacha machines. If you are blissfully unaware (and probably, thusly, not bankrupt), a gacha is one of those machines you mainly see in the supermarkets these days into which you put about 50p/£1 and get out a random prize. The last place I saw one IRL was at a garden centre, with a big bubble-dome on top of the machine full of an assortment of semi-precious stones. In SL, you can put just about anything into a gacha machine including toys, hair, skins, plants...whatever you can think of. 

The gacha machine seems to be a big hit in SL at the moment, and all of the fairs are following in the Arcade's example and adopting this method of selling. When you play a gacha, you are always guaranteed a prize (unlike the merciless yet-to-make-it-big-in-SL claw/crane game), but it might not be the one you want. Some items have 'rare' status, being scripted to drop through the prize system at a very limited rate.

What is so remarkable about this? You ask. That's very nice, but why is this interesting?

The gacha machine is interesting because it makes people go NUTS. At the previously blogged-about FutureWave event, I got to listen to some of the store-owners talking about how well their items were selling, and they were reporting that individuals were spending massive amounts of virtual money at their stores. As I am writing this, I put out an ask in the Arcade group chat requesting that people IM me with rough estimates of how much they have spent on gacha machines there and one person reported having spent L$40,000 (which amounts to about £100 IRL). They might be exaggerating, but listening to people talk about these events in general, it isn't beyond the realms of possibility that they are telling the honest truth. Most people are reporting around L$2,000 - L$5,000 which is, obviously, considerably less but it is still tens of pounds in the real world. To put that into perspective, most gacha machines charge around L$25 - L$100 a go. 

In the FutureWave group, sian (who had a store set up there) told me that she found many of the bloggers who had already received the items in her gacha for free playing her gacha machine anyway. They already had the items, but wanted to get more - just to play. 

We are addicted to playing the luck game, and - I can speak from experience - there is something about being in that atmosphere, surrounded by people who are also gaming and winning and losing, that makes you consider playing machines for items you know full well you are never going to use ever again. I now have an inventory stuff of cuddly kitten toys that I am probably just going to place on a shelf in my skybox. I played the Glam Affair gacha for a skin in a tone Kitti doesn't usually wear. And I consider myself to be a very restrained gacha player, setting my number-of-goes limit before I even arrive and being sure to stick to it. Many gacha machines give out one item in different colours, and when that is the case I rarely play more than once, deciding to work with whatever colour I get. Sometimes the gacha machines are about collecting everything to complete a set, but I'm not much of a collector and tend to avoid those machines.

It's highly likely that you'll receive doubles of items if you play the gacha enough, and/or that ten minutes later, you'll be wondering why you bought the items anyway. Alongside the Arcade is a massive trading system of people swapping items to get what they want and complete their sets, and there are always hundreds of yard sales popping up all over the place of people trying to sell on their items. The items are laid out on tables and customers can simple go and buy the ones they want, rather than leave it to luck. In the past, I've found it useful to go and shop at these instead - and I think plenty of people do that - but the way we shop at yard sales is so totally different than the way we shop through a gacha machine. Impulse buying goes way down. It is, quite seriously, the gacha that makes us go mad.

Somewhere, the Gacha God is rubbing his hands together, looking down on the multitudes of people at the Arcade (which is so full, nobody else can get in - quite literally), and saying 'Gotcha'.

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