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Are F2P “freemium” games a good design, and do gacha games belong in the same boat

Whenever I started playing a F2P game I always thought "so where's the catch?" In most cases F2P games have "pay to skip progression" systems or skins/vanity. I have two examples, Fortnite and Warframe.

Fortnite, a battle royale game, uses an in game currency that you need to buy with real money. That currency allows you to buy skins or other vanity items that don't effect the gameplay.

Warframe, an MMO RPG, has a more intricate system. Your access to items in the game is locked behind farming and crafting. So let's say I want a weapon which drastically changes the way the game is played. I go farm the resources, get a blueprint, and craft my weapon. The only obstacle standing between me and the weapon now is a real life timer that can go from 12 hours all the way up to 3 days.
Using an in game currency, which can only be bought with real money, you can skip that timer or simply buy it without needing to craft it.
That is one use of the currency, the other being skins and various vanity items.
So it sounds the same as Fortnite but it isn't. The game has a built in system for trading items and premium currency. So let's say you want an expensive skin that would cost around $20. You can farm up items, trade them to other players for the premium currency, and buy your skin. Akin to Steam trading.

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I think of these two systems as nearly perfect, with Warframe's being better. One benefits a paying player without inhibiting the non paying one, and one benefits the paying and non paying player almost equally. I'd call them both "pure*" F2P.

Now we have a "freemium" game, Destiny 2, an MMO RPG.

Destiny 2 started out as a paid game. A few years later they changed their pay model to "freemium".
Anybody can download the game for free right now, but extra content is locked behind expansions that cost real money. The base "F2P game is enough for anyone who wants a good mom rpg experience. Each expansion costs around $20. It bring new areas, new mission, character customization, weapons, etc.

Lastly a gacha game that blew up in the last half a year or so, Gehsin Impact, an open world RPG.

The whole game is entirely free to play. The only content that's "locked" behind gacha are most characters and most weapons. But due to the game and gacha system balances most F2P players should have a majority of characters and weapons, and they should be able to perform just as well as paying players.

Destiny 2 had around 60,000-70,000 average players, with peaks of around 100,000 players every month in 2020. Genshin Impact has a very unstable player count but it's estimated to have around 30,000,000 monthly players. That number went up from 20,000,000 on release.
Even with almost 30,000% more players Genshin Impact is not making 30,000% more revenue. I only have estimated numbers but it looks like they're making around 50% more.

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Most Genshin Impact player are F2P, and that high player number comes from it being on PC, PS4 and PS5, and on mobile. Also gacha games have been originally designed for the asian market. I was surprised by the revenue reports for android/ios because I thought who'd have that much money they can spend on a game but be stupid enough to play it on their phone instead of on the PC or PS4/PS5. As it turns out a lot of people in various asian countries like shorter play sessions and playing on a phone, even though they could play on something better. In the west if someone wants to spend hours on a game it's usually a pc or console title. I've heard of countless people that don't dare to touch the game or have quit just because it's gacha. All those people would gladly spend money to buy a game, but wouldn't gamble that money for a chance to get something in a game.

Is Genshin Impact shooting itself in the foot by keeping the gacha system and alienating itself from the largest part of the market? Currently its main source of income are a small number of people spending large amounts of money on the game. Wouldn't it be better for them if they had a larger amount of players but who are willing and able to spend money on a game? Like the aforementioned Destiny 2.

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Which of these systems is the best for a modern game. The "pure" F2P, Freemium, or gacha?


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