With reported revenues of over $ 100 million, Genshin Impact has got off to a tremendously successful start in the two weeks since its release.
In the first few days, gamers downloaded the mobile version alone over 17 million times.
The versions for PC and Playstation 4 are not included - Nintendo Switch is to follow soon.
In Germany and many other countries around the world, the game is at the top of the download charts.
The game by the Chinese studio miHoYo is a so-called "Free2Play" game.
It can be downloaded for free and is financed by players investing money in the game over a longer period of time after downloading it.
For example in new characters, better weapons or level up.
Often "Free2Play" games are designed so that at a certain point players notice how the use of money gives them advantages.
With its anime look, "Genshin Impact" is clearly aimed at younger players.
The developers require that you are 13 years of age or older to use their service. For children and teenagers and addicts prone players, "Free2Play" models can be potentially problematic.
However, this does not mean that every "Free2Play" game actually poses a gambling risk.
The "Free2Play" model is a veritable opportunity to give players with less money access to games.
After all, there are now quite a few video games that are sold at full price, but for which you should still spend money again and again.
"Games as a Service" is the name of the model that is widespread in the industry.
These "Free2Play" games become problematic when they use psychological tricks to draw players into the game, but at the same time block them paths that can only be opened with money - or where money makes it much easier or more convenient to continue playing makes it more attractive.
Like "Zelda", but free?
"Genshin Impact" is a more than solid game.
Even without the use of money, the players initially get an anime-style role-playing game that is strongly reminiscent of "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" from Nintendo.
The story with its funny opponents and clichéd characters is nothing special, but fulfills its purpose to draw a red thread through the game.
The game mechanics work flawlessly: Players fight, climb, swim and slide through the game - and it is these mechanics that were taken directly from "Zelda".
There is a lot to discover in the open world and players can explore the area freely, with the exception of a few dungeons, which can only be entered from a certain "adventure level".
Where "Genshin Impact" can be problematic
The studio makes money with so-called gacha mechanisms.
These are similar to the controversial Lootbox payment models and are based on robotic arm machines with which you can win stuffed animals - or not.
With real money the players buy in-game currency, which they can spend in the game for "praying".
This is the name of a random drawing in "Genshin Impact" which, with luck, can win rare characters.
"When a game puts in-game currencies in front of you, something is often concealed," says media educator Stephan Schölzel.
It is difficult for the players to see how much they have actually spent on an item or a gacha ticket.
"I therefore recommend using the rule of three to find out how much the game charges for which items."
It is also advisable to keep a book and write down every transaction so as not to lose track.
Several in-game currencies make shopping confusing
"Genshin Impact" has several in-game currencies: These are called, for example, "Creation Crystal" or "Primeval Rock".
They easily make you lose track of things.
For 1.19 euros, players get around 60 "creation crystals", for 5.49 euros they get 300 "creation crystals" and 90 "primeval stones" every day.
These are elaborate mechanics that should keep the player in the vague as possible - because this makes it all the more interesting to just spend a few euros to see what happens.
"At the beginning of the game, the players have a lot of things to do - they are overwhelmed with level advancements and experience points. But that dries up in the course of the game," says Stephan Schölzel.
This is how most of the "Free2Play" games would work: give players easy access and keep them happy with rewards so that there is even more incentive to pay money when those rewards fail.
In a Reddit thread, for example, players exchange ideas about exactly this problem and discuss which strategies can still be used to collect enough experience points later in the game.
Unknown chance of winning
"Genshin Impact", like almost every game with gambling mechanics, does not reveal how high the chance is of actually winning a coveted item.
"I've read of estimates that the drop rate of a very popular sword warrior in" Genshin Impact "is 0.6 percent," says Stephan Schölzel.
So to get such a character, players have to be very lucky.
Or a lot of money.
Manufacturers are not forced to indicate these rates, there is a lack of transparency.
Censorship allegations against the Chinese operators
Recently, allegations were made that the miHoYo studio was censoring certain terms in the in-game chat.
Although "Genshin Impact" is designed for single players, dungeons can be played online with up to four players.
However, anyone who tries to talk about "Hong Kong" or "Taiwan" is reportedly censored by players.
The company also stores a lot of personal data, which is not uncommon when using online video games.
The servers of the game are located next to Japan and the USA also in the EU.
This should give players the opportunity to request the company to delete their data in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation.
Can the game mechanics be addicting?
Christian Groß is a social and addiction therapist and deals specifically with the topic of media addiction.
"The most addictive mechanics in video games right now are definitely the gambling mechanisms," he says.
Loot boxes, "Pay2Win" or even gacha games are dangerous for certain players.
34.4 million people play video games in Germany, the majority of whom have no problems whatsoever with these games.
"But there are addiction-prone personalities," says the therapist.
These are people for whom video games offer a sense of achievement with which they compensate for failures in everyday life.
"Our brain learns through reward and punishment. If I have a bad grade in school, it gives me a negative feeling. But if I win a round in Fortnite in the afternoon, I'll be better."
In the case of people at risk, this compensation can burn in: in a creeping process, the computer game becomes the only source of a feeling of success.
"When these people then play a game that after a while only brings a feeling of success for money, it becomes very problematic," says Christian Groß.
He knows that psychologists are very often involved in the development of such payment mechanisms.
"They know exactly how to incorporate temptations."
However, there are ways to check yourself.
"You have to give yourself rules and check them again and again".
What is the maximum amount of money I want to spend?
How many hours to play
What other things do I want to do this week besides playing?
If critical review shows that these rules are being broken again and again, it is important to stop playing.
"Another game can serve as a substitute. For example one that cannot be played endlessly, but has an ending that is integrated into a story," says Groß.
"Free2Play" will stay
A "free2Play" game doesn't have to be bad or dangerous.
Rather, it is a payment model that will remain.
Certainly there are agents who are predatory, designed only to prevent the players from playing, for example by slowing down the flow of the game or by putting necessary items behind payment barriers.
But these games often disappeared from the market after a few months because they cannot build a community in the long term - they then live on so-called whales, i.e. individual players who spend huge amounts of money.
"Genshin Impact" takes a middle ground.
It has unambiguous gambling mechanisms that take effect later in the game and thus particularly appeal to players who want to complete the game and play several hours a day.
But the role-playing game offers enough substance to be easily playable for those who play more occasionally and are looking for relaxation and distraction.
For these players, "Genshin Impact" offers an entertaining game with a colorful game world and many tasks - and it's free.
If you want to be on the safe side, you should play games like "Zelda: Breath of the Wild" or the "Tales Of" series.
But money definitely has to be spent on the games - when buying in a store or online store.
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