Genshin Impact: Have you heard of it?
In a very bored state a few years ago, my friends and I decided to play a game on YouTube. The object was simple; find videos with very large amounts of views that the others hadn't seen. This could be anything from the absurd (see this video of an Irish comedian reciting, word-for-word, an old interview with Frank McCourt with an impressive 64k views) to the more mainstream (my friend was unaware of K-Pop star Lisa's track, "Money", which has a whopping 500 million views). Although the game was short lived, it was a fascinating experience delving into things that we'd never heard of that seemed to be insanely popular. Had the rules of this game been extended to include things outside of YouTube, Genshin Impact would have won me the world cup.
According to Sensor Tower, a company that monitors mobile apps, Genshin Impact earned over $2 billion dollars within its first year. In November 2021, the game had over 9 million daily users. Despite its popularity, I am yet to come across a single person that has heard of or, indeed, played the game. While I am positive that this is a fault of my own, it was interesting to see how big (and involved) the community had become around this game I'd never heard of. In essence, Genshin Impact is an open world role-playing game based heavily around the concept of leveling-up to defeat baddies. It looks great. Its characters are detailed. It's got a beautiful, sprawling open world and it's free to play! Its anime-style battles are detailed, requiring the user to come equipped with a heavy knowledge of combos. The fights are engaging and offer a beautiful boost of serotonin (through flashy power ups) once you win.
A gorgeous open world game with good combat that's free to play sounds too good to be true, I hear you say. Well in a certain sense you are right. Genshin Impact makes its money by encouraging players to spend real cash on the chance of winning new characters. Simply put, it operates on a system similar to Fortnite, by offering users the chance to buy loot boxes. There are still opportunities to win or find rare items throughout the game, but Genshin also offers you the opportunity to risk hard cash and obtain the items through sheer luck. If you don't feel like sinking 50 hours into the game, why not take the risk on your credit card? The Guardian said that playing Genshin impact "means constantly resisting the temptation to spend too much money on it".
Genshin Impact is the first big success from the Chinese video games industry. For years the gaming industry has largely been led by American and Japanese developers. Genshin seems to be changing the balance of power. Unfortunately for Genshin's developer, miHoYo, the game's success is slightly caveated by the fact that it borrows heavily from Japanese games and culture. Genshin Impact is remarkably similar to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and a lot of the characters are styled similar to Japanese anime. Despite massive economic success, Japan's soft power still comes through in this Chinese game. Regardless, Genshin Impact is still immensely popular. The game has also done particularly well amongst women. There's a large number of female characters to choose from, as well as a large reddit community to help players along their travels. Genshin has spawned cosplay, fan art, fanfiction and a huge amount of online dissection. The more I discovered about Genashin Impact, the more I revealed my ignorance. It was the most mentioned game on Twitter in 2021. It transpires that I have just been living under rock for the last 2 years, but perhaps I am not the only one. Regardless, it's great to see fandom develop over such a short amount of time and it will be interesting to see where the Chinese gaming market goes next.