The latest plot threads twisting through Inazuma may be some of Genshin Impact’s best yet. Full of intrigue, drama, and fanfare that goes beyond the highs of previous patches , version 2.1 is, without a doubt, my favorite update to Teyvat yet. Roaming through Mondstadt, Liyue, Inazuma is technically free, but I spend so much time in these cities I don’t mind parting with little chunks of disposable income here and there. My in-game spending habits certainly feel generous at times—and that generosity is honestly never something I’d expect a gacha game to match—but Mihoyo’s one-year anniversary celebrations feel a bit deflating. I don’t know what I was expecting, nor do I know how to perfectly gauge ‘fair’ in something free-to-play, but what I do know is… this isn't it.
Genshin Impact’s patch cycle has found a steady, satisfying beat. Every month and a half or so, Mihoyo delights us all with new banners, story updates, and events. They debut to eager fans through half-hour live streams that detail the goodies coming up with every version change. These big reveals have become something I always tune into, and rarely do I find them failing to meet expectations, but the recent anniversary stream felt a bit like hosting a birthday party no one showed up to. Mihoyo could have at least stuffed a couple of bucks into an envelope and wished me well, but instead, they’ve repackaged an older gift and tried to pass it off to me as something new.
Specifically, I’m a bit ill over the messaging around the celebration and how Genshin Impact will reset some of its first-time bonuses for spending real money on Primogems, the game’s premium currency. This time around, we’re getting roughly the same rewards we do with each patch Wish-wise, plus a free ten-pull. That means you’ve got one more shot at rolling on a banner with a 0.6 percent chance at getting a five-star character without any pity mechanics, and the rewards don't even make it in time to roll on all of 2.2's new banners. There’s nothing guaranteed for your participation—no character you’ve been pining after for ages, no ascension materials, no goodies for constellations, nothing. I reckon I’d even been quite keen on a free four-star ticket at this point, but Mihoyo isn’t budging on adding in any rewards that detract from those random pulls.
That free top-up reset it’s bragging about for first-time purchases isn’t anything to celebrate, either. Every account is allotted a bonus of extra Genesis Crystals (which largely function like Primogems) once after every package purchase. After picking up those bundles from the shop, your real money will net you significantly fewer crystals on the next purchase. The practice isn’t uncommon at all amongst gacha games, neither is the reset, but lining up the return of those first-time bonuses like you’re being done a favor when spending $100 of your own cash during the anniversary is more than a bit off-putting.
Mihoyo gives gems away for free, and sure, it’s easy to argue you could always remain free-to-play and end the conversation there, but that’s not what happens. Plenty of folks, myself included, get excited when a new banner pops up and indulge in one of those packages, and Mihoyo’s success illustrates as much. Ultimately, Genshin Impact—like every other game with some sort of paid, random mechanic—relies on being stingy while baiting you into a purchase that may or may not be worth its price, but I’m less motivated by special occasions that don’t feel special.
Genshin Impact—and gacha gaming at large—gets a little complicated when trying to wager time money value. I’ve probably spent more hours running tedious calculations on the ideal party composition for The Spiral Abyss than I’ve spent playing other games this year, and that has a lot of value. I’m not arguing for long-term, free handouts from a studio with a team to compensate for their exceedingly brilliant storytelling and world. It’s just a bit frustrating to attend the game’s first birthday bash, only to leave with no goody bag.