How I Whaled in a Love Live Gacha Game and Survived

There are a few terms that we throw around in the gacha community, and one you’ll quickly understand is “Whaling.” This means spending a ton of money on free-to-play games to obtain various things like new characters, weapons, or whatever the game has to offer.

A few weeks ago, Love Live! School Idol Festival All Stars came out with a new Ultra Rare card of Setsuna Yuki, the veteran idol of the Nijigasaki High School Idol Club. In the weeks leading up to her release on the worldwide server, the community was filling up with players to discuss her insane stats. Putting complicated explanations of what Setsuna does aside, she’s basically the best scorer in the game across the board. It’s almost necessary to have her in your lineup to help with difficult songs to come.

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Leading up to this event, I’ve only spent a few dollars here and there on mobile games. When I heard Setsuna was coming out, I felt the typical FOMO and knew I wanted to pull her. With the amount of URS at the game, though, the chances of drawing her would be significantly low. So, I was prepared with a three-digit amount of money to do multiple ten scout pulls and would stop at a certain point.

To preface, a ten scout pull costs 500 gems. With your actual money, you’ll need to pay around $30. Or you can pay $32 for 600 gems. The first few pulls resulted in a few URs I didn’t own like Kanan Matsuura and Karin Asaka, who are both powerful in their own ways. A few more pulls in, and I would be getting SR cards, which is fine.

This is when a bit of existential pain slowly started to set in. After a while, I spent a considerable amount of money without pulling Setsuna and started to lose hope. My digital wallet began to near empty, but my hands seemed to have a mind of their own as I pulled again. Finally, as I neared my spending threshold, there she was, Setsuna’s bright glowing red hoodie and big smile greeting me. I finally pulled the one girl I wanted after spending what some would consider an insane amount of money. Did it hurt my soul? Yes. Did I care that I whaled? Not one bit.

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A few years ago, Apple created a new policy that required any game with any sort of “loot box” mechanic to show the probability rates of getting any item in that box. In Love Live School Idol Festival: All Stars case, Setsuna had a .500% probability of showing up during that scouting period. That said, I knew what I was getting in to.

There has been some outcry in the community when it came to people actually getting Setsuna or not. Users have been so enraged that they spent way more money than I  did that they ended up “quitting the game.” When it comes to any gacha game, I do agree that sometimes the pay-to-win aspect of some games is amplified so much that it almost becomes a chore to play if you have to spend hundreds of dollars just to get past a certain level or win a few games against other whales. However, in Love Live! School Idol Festival All Stars there isn’t exactly a PVP mode aside from ranking leaderboard that determines if you get an event UR card that isn’t exactly powerful.

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Setsuna is the “meta card” to have, but that doesn’t mean I can’t play the game anymore if I don’t have her. I don’t believe quitting a game is warranted if you don’t get what you wanted in a pull. You can still play; nothing is stopping you. I paid whatever money I was prepared to pay to get her, but I felt that I had the ability to stop at any time. The element of surprise had me eagerly moving on, so you could probably imagine some of my excitement when I still received UR Karin and UR Setsuna shortly after.

There are no concrete numbers, but there’s been some conversation among the community of the player base slightly dropping in Love Live! School Idol Festival All Stars. The thing is, any of these limited-time festival banners, otherwise known as FES banners, will have these same UR cards appear in later events. So you’re not necessarily “missing out.”

At the end of the day, the developers need to make revenue somewhere. When it comes to spending on any gacha game, I like to think of it as an MMORPG subscription, like with World of Warcraft. I typically want to have a small set amount to spend a month or every few months. I could choose to pay a lot more on a particular banner, but I would hope everyone would take a little consideration when it comes to how to support free-to-play games that they enjoy. Trust me when I say, a lot of companies don’t need hundreds of dollars from you immediately. It’s enough support even just to play the game and talk about it with your friends.

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I believe that you should support free-to-play games, especially if you like it. A lot of people tend to ignore the fact that many free-to-play games, especially gachas, are usually run by small teams and are only given a certain amount of funding.

If a game doesn’t draw some kind of a profit, they will most likely be forced to shut down the servers. So there isn’t anything wrong with spending a little on games that entertain you. Everything in moderation is fine, but I will also recognize that this is a potential addiction, and if you feel like you are entirely out of control with your spending, then please seek some help. Here is the National problem gambling hotline 1-800-522-4700.

Now excuse me while I spend an undisclosed amount on Bandai Namco’s gacha Tales of Crestoria.


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Brock Jensen

Saebyeolbe is the Tom Brady of Overwatch. MOBILE GAMERS ARE STILL GAMERS. Send me stuff brock@noisypixel.net.