The Genshin Impact Success Story

Gemma Cockrell

Gemma explains the runaway success of the new free-to-play RPG.

Genshin Impact is a free-to-play open-world action adventure RPG, developed by Chinese developer miHoYo Limited. A new wave of games is being released from China, as their gaming market matures. These games are seeing lots of attention worldwide, with their biggest foreign markets in Japan, Korea and the US.

2020’s greatest gaming phenomena appeared out of nowhere – first Fall Guys, then Among Us – and now Genshin Impact. The game grossed $100 million across all platforms in less than 2 weeks! It was awarded September 2020’s Players’ Choice on the PlayStation Blog, and ranked 3rd in the free-to-play PS Store download charts.

Within 4 days it received 17 million downloads on mobile alone (at least 5 million coming from the Google PlayStore), resulting in over 500,000, mostly 5-star reviews. It was also the 2nd highest grossing game on iOS in its first week of release. It’s one of the most popular games on Twitch right now, averaging around 26,635 viewers and peaking at 202,169 right after launch.


Genshin’s story focuses on your character and your twin sibling, who are separated and sent into a deep sleep by an unknown power. When you wake, you find yourself in a world called Teyvat. You must find out why you’ve been sent to this new world, and find your captured twin.

There are always new and exciting things to discover when exploring the beautiful world, which IGN calls ‘the star of the game’. There are daily challenges alongside main story quests, so you never run out of things to do.

There’s a temptation to spend real money to unlock unique characters, weapons and item upgrades.

It’s very rare for a story-driven, open-world RPG to be free-to-play, but there’s a catch: Genshin has gacha elements- meaning it uses microtransations that work in a similar way to loot boxes. There’s a temptation to spend real money to unlock unique characters, weapons and item upgrades. It’s a gamble; you’re in with a chance of obtaining a rare reward, but that’s never guaranteed.

These systems are designed to siphon thousands from a few high-spending ‘Whale’ players. Luckily for the rest of us (and somewhat rarely in the free-to-play space) spending real money isn’t essential to progress- you can see and do almost everything that Genshin Impact has to offer without spending a penny, so it’s a personal choice rather than sly coercion.

One of the reasons for the game’s massive popularity is its availability on so many different platforms: iOS, Android, Playstation, PC and Nintendo Switch, in 13 languages. Genshin’s multiplayer is locked until you reach Adventure Rank 16, but from then onwards up to 4 players can join your game on the same screen. The game also supports cross-play, so you can play with your friends even if they are playing on different platforms.

The game is likely to see an increase in popularity in future months, as an update scheduled for December will add a new zone to the world. This indicates that the game will continue to evolve, ensuring its popularity continues to grow.


Genshin’s cell-shaded style, organic exploration and certain mechanics (stamina-based climbing, gliding) may draw heavy influence from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but its versatile elemental combat system still manages to create something special and exciting. 

After Genshin Impact has seen this much success, it seems inevitable that many more free-to-play AAA games will be released in the coming years.

Gemma Cockrell

Featured and Article images courtesy of Nostre NZ via Flickr

Image use licence here. No changes made to these images.

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