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Genshin Impact, Six Months Later

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Screenshot: miHoYo

Genshin Impact was a landmark game for 2020, and for global awareness of Chinese-developed video games. Its impressive graphics, compelling fantasy world, and charming characters impressed and attracted millions of players.

While the game had an exciting launch, gacha games are typically designed to have a long lifespan. Only two out of seven planned regions have been released, and the developers have promised several years of main quest content. The game continues to draw praise for its high-effort updates, and it shows no signs of slowing on quality. Let’s see how far Genshin Impact has gone in the past six months:

  • The official Genshin Impact webcomic was first uploaded to Webtoon on November 23rd, 2018.
  • The Genshin Impact video game was announced at E3 2019, where it drew comparisons to Breath of the Wild.
  • In August 2019, Sony announced that Genshin Impact would be available on the PlayStation. Several attendees of ChinaJoy, the largest games expo in Asia, were upset that the game appeared to be a “clone” of Breath of the Wild. One man even smashed his PlayStation 4 in protest.
  • On September 18, developer miHoYo announced that Genshin Impact would not be hosted on the Huawei and Xiaomi app stores, most likely in protest of their 50% revenue fee. Analysts drew comparison to the ongoing feud between Epic Games and American mobile app distributors.
  • Genshin Impact was released for the PC, mobile, and PlayStation 4 on September 28th, 2020. Over 20 million players pre-registered. Its launch day viewers on Twitch surpassed even Fortnite. Players could try their luck at pulling for the Anemo archer Venti on the Ballad in Goblets banner, which was the first limited-time wish in the game.
  • Klee’s banner was released on October 20th. Her highly-damaging Pyro explosives made her a standout unit on the Sparkling Steps banner.
  • Youtubers such as Mtashed and Tectone spend thousands of dollars on Genshin Impact, with varying takeaways about the gacha systems. Does whaling on camera help or harm gaming audiences? These are old questions that have been discussed to death among gacha players, but Genshin’s widespread popularity brought these issues to greater public scrutiny.
  • Players would have met the cocky Fatui agent in the main quest, but Tartaglia became available on the November limited banner Farewell of Snezhnaya, along with Diona, Beidou, and Ningguang.
  • A content update called “A New Star Approaches” (Version 1.1) arrived on November 11th, 2020. It added a city reputation system to Mondstadt and Liyue, in addition to the seasonal event “Unreconciled Stars.” Players could earn a copy of the Electro archer Fischl by completing the event, which heavily featured co-op challenges.
  • miHoYo released the first Genshin web browser game, called Stone Harbor Treasure Journal. It was a visual novel style game where the player completed quests with either Zhongli or Childe in order to earn their meal ticket.
  • On November 19th, Genshin Impact’s Facebook account posted that the company had sued two beta testers for violating their non-disclosure agreement. This would not be the last time that the company would take a public stance against leakers.
  • December marked the beginning of Zhongli’s banner, Gentry of Hermitage.
  • In December 2020, miHoYo quietly fixed a loophole that allowed player email addresses to be publicly viewable. Many players had their accounts hacked, and the company refused to issue refunds.
  • Following Genshin Impact’s “Best Game of 2020” win in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, miHoYo executives announced their intentions to create a Genshin universe IP.
  • A bilibili content creator named 影视飓风 recreated the fantasy city of Liyue as a diorama, which took over a thousand hours to build. It’s pretty impressive, considering that he didn’t have the 3,700 years that Rex Lapis had to build the city in the game.
  • Many Chinese players were hugely disappointed about Zhongli’s viability as a playable unit, and the most discontent players protested by mass-requesting hard copies of their invoices.
  • Version 1.2 of the game was released on December 23rd, which added the Dragonspine region, along with a new artifact domain. The update also included “The Chalk Prince and the Dragon,” which was a limited-time event where players could fight co-op and solo battles for items and upgrades. Players who were impressed by Albedo’s storyline could try pulling for him in the accompanying Secretum Secretorum banner.
  • At the end of December 2020, miHoYo agreed to improve Zhongli’s skills in response to social media feedback. Gacha characters are typically improved when they are outpaced by the meta, so changing Zhongli several weeks after launch was a highly unusual move by miHoYo.
  • Ganyu was also part of the 1.2 update, but her banner (Adrift in the Harbor) would not be released until mid-January.
  • miHoYo released a browser minigame called Slime Paradise, which was very similar to Neko Atsume in content and appearance. Players could log in every day to collect gold, which they could use to purchase accessories. These accessories would generate tickets, which could then be exchanged for materials in the base Genshin Impact game.
  • A Reddit user named thelightomelette created Venti’s lyre out of real walnut wood. I’m hoping that it’s more durable than the lyre in the game.
  • The Lantern Rite Festival event (based on Chinese New Year) went live in February 2021 as a part of the 1.3 update, and it included a tower defense game called Theater Mechanicus. Players could not deal direct damage, but they used various towers and environmental artifacts to defend their portals. Lucky players could also obtain the polearm-user Xiao in the Invitation to Modern Life banner.
  • The official Chinese voice actors for Klee, Venti, Xiao, and Qiqi collaborated on a Genshin Impact fan video. “Let the Wind Tell You” accumulated over 2.6 million views on Youtube, and was sung entirely in Mandarin.
  • miHoYo changed Barbara’s voice direction in the 1.3 update, causing some to remark that her new demeanor is too somber. Several players wrongfully harassed Lauren Stahl about the changes.
  • In March 2021, a KFC x Genshin Impact collaboration was announced. Diners could obtain an exclusive pin, stickers, and in-game items with their meal. Several events were cancelled once the crowds violated Chinese coronavirus guidelines.
  • Hu Tao arrived in early March as a part of the Moment of Bloom banner.
  • A rerun of the Slime Paradise web game was announced for late March. This time, it would also be available on the PlayStation 4.
  • miHoYo threatened to crack down on closed beta testers who leak content from the upcoming 1.5 update. Data miners revealed the possibility of a new boss and a housing system.
  • A new Genshin web game was announced in mid-March. Players could cook dishes in A Wanmin Welcome and receive them on their main account.
  • The 1.4 update came with the Invitation to Windblume event, where players can enjoy a variety of minigames. The new update also added “Hangout Events,” a visual novel event which offered players the opportunity to spend time with Noelle, Chongyun, Bennett, and Barbara.

And that’s where things are at. Genshin Impact has earned over $1 billion in its first six months, and shows no signs of stopping. Due to its massive growth and popularity, Genshin Impact will undoubtedly have a strong influence on other live service games. I was especially excited about how minigames and experimental web games were tied into the main content. The game has a bold, unrepentantly anime art style that does not shy away from its ACG (Anime, Comic and Games) influences. These additions appeal to players who are usually seen as ‘casual’ and ‘nontraditional’ in the Anglosphere despite their huge numbers in the gaming market. Genshin Impact’s success has shown that these players are a significant audience who deserve to be taken seriously.

Sisi Jiang is a game designer who prefers making games over writing about them.