- Goddess of Victory: Nikke is a highly successful product with a highly underused core mechanic, in which triviality and low player agency is smartly masked through the game’s flashy and speedy gameplay.
- The game monetizes well with niche audiences around the world but retains badly on average, except in Japan where it has managed to attract a huge and highly engaged player base.
- The game combines extremely high polish with a seductive waifu collector theme, a futuristic, post-apocalyptic narrative, and a very strong meta game feature set.
- Its suggestive and provocative marketing campaigns around the world showcase a never-seen-before level of blatancy and sexual innuendo, with presumably incredible results in terms of virality and UA.
- While its engagement KPIs in the West are insufficient, Nikke might have sparked a small revolution in terms of theme and acceptance of fan service in the Western market.
NSFW Warning: Please be advised that for the first time in the history of Naavik Pro deconstructions, some of the imagery and hyperlinks below are of a highly suggestive, sexual nature.
Breakthrough in the West
When looking at last year’s data, Team Battlers are the second largest subgenre (after MMOs) in the RPG category. More than 20% of downloads and 35% of revenue can be attributed to games that require players to create and manage their favorite teams of fighters and send them off to battle. But even within the subgenre, there is a lot of nuance and variation. As the Team Battler categorization groups games with a specific metagame, their core games can be wildly different.
Additionally, choice of theme in this category generally shows strong variation as well. This article will focus on a new title that has broken records over the past six months with its unique combination of core gameplay and theme choice.
Goddess of Victory: Nikke, developed by Shift Up and published by Level Infinite and Tencent, is the full title of this controversial, yet highly successful game. Many of our (largely male) readers might have seen ads fly by showing anime ladies in their underwear shooting robots from behind cover.
While these creatives initially and most likely have been greeted with a massive eye roll, after a couple of repetitions it does make one wonder if this blatant sexualization of the female form works in this context. While we at Naavik don’t condone sexualizing women as a strategy to optimize for user acquisition (UA), it’s important to keep reporting about these developments and trying to contextualize the success of game’s that rely on these unique formulas.
Next to noting that Nikke’s RPD on iOS has plateaued at around $32 since the start of the year, the image below should be able to answer this question quite clearly. Nikke recently passed 25 million downloads and has grossed more than $220 million to date.
What’s remarkable about Nikke’s case is its relatively worldwide appeal. Whereas games with similar themes usually don’t reach much further than Japan, Korea, and the occasional weeb elsewhere around the world, more than 57% of Nikke’s downloads and 30% of its revenue come from other countries.
What’s interesting is that, according to data.ai, retention numbers in the West look abominable, but the game still monetizes very well. Unsurprisingly, Nikke seems to be a niche in the U.S. and South Korea, but the few players who like it seem eager to spend at substantial levels. In Japan it’s more the other way around, where downloads are 10x the other two countries (skewing ARPDAU downwards) with equally strong RPD. Please note that in the table below, the first week of Nikke’s existence is excluded to not have the Japanese market’s initial spike in downloads influence the ARPDAU even further.
We’ll discuss the various reasons why Nikke is performing this way throughout this deconstruction. But the biggest prerequisite is top-of-the-line localization — including English dubbing for the game’s long and countless campaign dialogues — that has pushed Nikke to become the world’s top-grossing Team Battler over the last six months. That’s right: from its launch, Nikke has been outperforming Fate/Grand Order and Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle, both of which have been the all-time top performers in the Team Battler genre.
It’s been a great six months for Team Battler fans: in addition to Nikke, other games in the subgenre like Three Kingdoms, Heaven Burns Red and Blue Archive have all been strong climbers, but only the last of that group was released in the West.
Now, spoiler alert! Throughout this deconstruction, we’ll discover that Nikke’s core gameplay actually doesn’t have such a big impact on the game experience because of its highly restrictive damage calculations and minimal agency. For that reason, the game could actually also be categorized as an Idle RPG, which makes it very similar to games like Attack on Time, which released last year but failed to make a splash.
When looking at other games with the common theme of waifu collecting, most of them are Team Battlers too, but perhaps the most relevant comparison is Honkai Impact 3. This miHoYo game also performed relatively well in the West, but it offers a very different core gameplay experience with its free-movement Action RPG controls.
So it seems that with Nikke, Tencent has clearly found another huge, gaping hole in the market to capitalize on and then managed to advertise its product in the West well enough to make it a global hit. The question remains for how long the game can extend its tail. Can Nikke keep its momentum and continue Westernizing the waifu-collecting phenomenon?
To be able to predict this better, we’ll dive deep into the aforementioned hole by covering the following topics:
- More on the game’s UA vis-à-vis the appeal it has managed to achieve
- A breakdown of the game’s unique core gameplay, and how much of it is actually real!
- The three facets of Nikke’s meta that take care of the game progression
- A short section on the game’s social and live-ops features
- An analysis of its monetization approach
- Our take on the future and the potential revolution Nikke has started
Let’s start with the most unconventional part of Nikke’s story and an elephant that’s way too big to keep hiding in the proverbial room that is this deconstruction. It’s not the first time Shift Up has created a game like this. The studio’s previous title, Destiny Child, is more blatantly lewd than Nikke. Also, Nikke is most certainly not the first time a game themed around Japanese/Korean aesthetics breaks out from its conventional home market. Other games like Love Nikki (apparently it’s all in the name!) have successfully conquered the U.S. and other Western markets in the past. See our recent deep dive into the rising popularity of ACG aesthetics in mobile games for more examples of this phenomenon.
What is a first in the case of Nikke is that the game is unusually popular around the world regardless of, and most likely even because of, its higher-than-average level of fan service. For readers unfamiliar with the term, fan service is most commonly used in the context of anime when visual representation of (generally female-oriented) content start lacking usual levels of subtlety. This usually manifests itself by strategically chosen camera angles and titillatingly flowing pieces of textile barely shrouding a character’s private parts. As can be seen in the video ad at the beginning of this deconstruction, the choice of making the core gameplay a cover shooter cleverly plays into the aesthetics of traditional anime fan service. Ironically, the specifically sensuous parts of the game’s characters seem to not be covered as little as possible most of the time.
Nikke does an excellent job dancing around the minefield that is the App Store and Google Play content policies by staying just inside the line of what’s permitted. In specific cases, when some countries have different rules about what’s allowed, the developers adjust course. Shift Up seems to have gone out of their way to make sure they are able to dodge any sensitive topics in terms of narrative, as there always seems to be a disclaimer available. Take for example the general question of female objectification, and the ability to avoid answering any related questions on the subject by classifying the game’s characters (referred to as simply Nikkes) as killer robots instead of humans, all while appointing the player as these robots’ “Commander.”
Following the waifu collector playbook, the character designers have done a thorough job catering to the many possible sexual preferences of the audience. In other words, every kink is covered. Nikkes vary from being innocent, tough, butch, or girly, and often fit stereotypes like office worker, doctor, latex fetishist, and sweaty gymnast. You name it, and it has most likely been included in the roster of 78 total Nikkes. What’s impressive (which is also one of the main reasons why Nikke is so successful) is that most of these characters — excluding the purposely anonymous, common ones — have distinct personalities. That in turn motivates players to collect them all.
Narratively, the story of Nikke is actually quite elaborate and deep, while not straying away from the usual anime-adjacent tropes too much. The premise is that the world as we know it has been overrun by machines and that in this future timeline, people live in the Ark. This is an underground refuge where the remains of mankind have been working on surviving and creating battle robots — Nikkes— that they use to scour the Lost Sector (the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the real world) to salvage supplies. Apparently these robots simply must look like attractive women. The way the main story is told (when progressing through the game’s campaign) is compelling enough to keep fantasy manga readers interested. The experience is interspersed with the right mix of gameplay, action, and conversation, and Nikke isn’t overly sexual most of the time.
As an estimate, when reading every dialogue, about 10-20% of them focus on relationship-themed topics (like snuggling, emotions, sexual innuendo, and flirty banter) while 30-40% of the dialogue is about mundane things (e.g. favorite food, general interests, and who said what to whom). The rest of the conversations, including practically all of the Campaign dialogue, covers standard game narrative topics: the state of the world, advancing the plot, meeting new characters, and traveling to new places. This mix of topics seems to be the right mix so as not to make the experience a continuous, classless simp-fest for the game’s overwhelmingly male audience.
It’s notable how the developers at Shift Up have built the story by almost exclusively featuring the SR (Super Rare) characters (which are not too rare, but also not nameless drones). Rapi is the main character (and #1 top Waifu) who develops the story further with (initially) Anis, Neon, and Mihara. The SSR (Super Super Rare) characters are not included in the story because there’s no way to tell if players have already collected them or not.
One of the most interesting parts of Nikke’s breakthrough is the choice of its core gameplay. It is actually the first real cover shooter that’s achieved substantial success on mobile. Sure, other shooter games in which the player doesn’t move their character have seen some marginal success, but these are mostly sniper games like Sniper 3D Assassin or on-rails zombie shooting games like Zombie Frontier 3. Both lack an actual cover mechanic.
The only other real cover shooter franchise with reasonable lifetime revenue that we could find was Glu’s Contract Killer, but even that game’s core gameplay feels quite different to Nikke’s in that the player controls one character that automatically moves forward after eliminating a wave of enemies in a fashion akin to the gameplay the ol’ Time Crisis arcade machines (man… talk about good times). Just to put these comparisons into perspective: since its launch 6 months ago, Nikke: GoV has 10x’d the lifetime revenues of every one of the three aforementioned franchises.
So why is the idea of Nikke’s core gameplay so innovative? Well, as mentioned in the introduction, the meta is a team battler, which means that outside the core, the player works toward collecting the best possible team of characters to play with during the core game. That means that during gameplay, the player smoothly switches between the five different Nikkes they have selected instead of controlling one single character.
Unfortunately, here we arrive at the most prominent aspect in which Nikke seems to squander a lot of its core gameplay potential. While the concept of the game’s core gameplay is a unique take on cover shooting, and the execution looks super cool, it unfortunately doesn’t really qualify in terms of pure, unbridled fun. It’s honestly very difficult to determine the actual agency of the player at first glance because of the lack of visible feedback the enemies display when being shot. A lot is happening, but some, more attentive players will often wonder, “Does any of it matter?”
Looking closely, player influence on the outcome of the battles is actually very limited in most game modes, including the Campaign. Some or maybe most players might feel differently though, which is the “art” of this game’s visual design. Occasionally, areas of the screen the player is supposed to hit are marked, but the gameplay is too fast and chaotic to properly anticipate or come up with a different strategy. It’s very difficult to know where to shoot first. The biggest point of critique for Nikke is that its core gameplay is not enough of a game but too much a battle simulation.
In the pre-game screen, the player’s team power is shown, together with what is “recommended” to win this level. The game’s combat seems to be balanced so tightly that the moment the player’s power exceeds the recommended (read: required) power, a level can be won, while before it, this simply doesn’t seem to happen. This further establishes that the outcome of the levels is more a numbers game than an actual, strategic battle. More strategic players are concluding the same.
But, anyone who has ever played other Team Battlers knows that these games don’t have to retain players that much on core game competence and hard skills. Therefore, it actually might not matter too much that Nikke’s core game lacks agency, especially because — like all games in the genre — Nikke features an (admittedly not very easy-to-find) auto-combat mode.
A nice twist here is that players can still switch characters, trigger their special moves, and even take over aiming at any point during auto mode. This is quite cool, as it creates some kind of hybrid auto/assistance gameplay. But the moment the player finds and enables the auto settings, the game’s strategy seems to move toward the battle configuration.
Inherent to its subgenre, building a team is one of the most enticing aspects of any Team Battler, but because of the seemingly limited agency in Nikke’s core game, the visual aspects and emotional urge to collect and meet all the waifus seems to motivate more than the individual traits of collectable Nikkes.
One issue this could create is that the personal favoritism of players can easily lead to reluctance to keep upgrading their current characters —directly translating into blocked progression— as they might want to save their resources for the moment they collect their most desired Nikkes. For non-intuitive players, selecting and upgrading five Nikkes they fancy, and who also make a good team seems like a big commitment. To cancel this out, Shift Up smartly allows players to reset levels of any character practically for free and get the resource investment back, which is an essential move to keep players like these engaged.
And what makes a potent team of Nikkes? Well, players need to worry first and foremost about something called Burst, which sounds more complicated than it actually is. Each character has a Burst level, visualized by Roman numerals. While this is something that requires a bit of thought, it basically just means any team must have all three Burst levels (I, II & III) represented at least once. This is because enabling a character’s Burst mode is Nikke’s equivalent of having a character ability, and to reach Full Burst mode, all levels of Burst must chronologically be activated. The character with Burst level I has to be activated first, then II, and finally III. This enables Full Burst, which does a load of damage.
Then, theoretically, it’s important for players to worry about two other statistics. One is the fact that Nikke’s have weapons that are close-, mid- or long range, and because enemy distance to the team also differs, a damage bonus or penalty is applied to weapons that don’t match the distance. Secondly, there’s the elemental type of damage the Nikkes have (e.g. Wind or Fire) but also this parameter is more for show. In practice, while these characteristics might make some minor differences, most players will most likely not care, as any feedback or mention of this during battles is lacking. Lastly, there are three different types of level objective: Destroy, Defense Battle and Base, but when auto-battle is enabled, the most casual players will not even notice the difference.
The most important lesson that can be learned from all of this, is that gameplay depth in terms of combat can be low, as long as the perceived depth is facilitated for. While some players are onto the developers creating a deterministic battle simulator, the majority of players will happily keep min-maxing, even though it won’t influence much.
The metagame in Nikke:GoV is what really keeps players going, and by “going” we mean: logging in daily, visiting all the features at least once a day to earn the daily reward quest, and maximizing the resource rewards used to keep upgrading a team’s characters. Drawing out a full resource-flow diagram is practically impossible, but when simplified, it looks like this:
The metagame’s feature set is elaborate (like it should be for this subgenre), but practically all of its features by themselves are quite common in most Team Battlers, so we won’t dive too deep unless there’s something refreshingly notable. What the game does extremely well, though, is the way it wraps and divides all its features into clear and fun spaces and menus. Initially the game starts off with a strong focus on the story campaign, but it steadily expands features players can engage with.
Part 1 - Campaign
The base of the game’s progression is built around a map exploration fantasy. Following the game’s narrative, players scavenge the surface of the planet with their team of waifus. Over time, players progress through different chapters, which allow the tension in the main narrative to fluctuate, the environments to change (e.g. from cityscapes to snowy plains), and additional meta features to unlock.
As is typical in these games, all Campaign battles can be completed twice, as after a while, players unlock the “Hard” difficulty, which basically means “complete all fights again, but with a delayed power progression”. Safe to say, the narrative doesn’t repeat itself; the combat stages are simply configured to have a higher power requirement.
The most elaborate encounters and dialogues happen at the end of the chapters (see chapters 2, 3, 4, 5). Each time the player completes the last battle of an area, the (already very lengthy) dialogues are extra long, the boss battle is eventful and the turn of events are notable.
One specific example how the game reutilizes the Campaign maps in an interesting fashion is a mobile phone feature that allows players to engage with the game’s characters through simple text message dialogues, which then leads to an unopened area with a “SUB” stage, a mini boss, and a reward chest.
In short, the campaign progression unlocks further opportunities for players to bond with their Nikkes. Hidden stashes of items to find, flirty messages received on the phone, new features to unlock, presents to gift and level up Nikke relationships are all unlocked gradually and enforce the feeling there’s always something to do.
Part 2 - Outpost
After completing Campaign chapter 2, the player gains access to the Outpost. It has a surprising and original theme, as it is built around the fantasy of a Base Builder (although it actually isn’t that). What it is, is a Hub that facilitates access to the majority of the game’s Team Battler features —posing as buildings— inside a 2-dimensional army base.
The central building in the Outpost is the Command Center, which is mostly a collection screen where players can rewatch campaign dialogues and talk with their Nikkes. Every day the player is able to speak to three characters of choice to increase their bond with. These “Advisory” dialogues are very short, repeatable & stand-alone. After the bond between the player and a Nikke increases, character-specific dialogues can be triggered, some of which (depending on the character) are a good place to sneak in some suggestive content.
The Command Center later even unlocks another meta progression task that slowly unlocks (rehabilitates) a rogue Nikke of the player’s choice.
The Tactics Academy is where most of the Outpost progression takes place. Here is where players can unlock more building slots, increase the time of dispatch missions in the Bulletin Board or the amount of resources that come in over time. Tech is gated by the kinds of buildings the player has built in their Outpost. Players can only build these buildings if they scour the campaign maps for Lost Relics that are building blueprints.
The most important place in the Outpost in terms of progression is the Defense building, which provides players with Idle income. The amount of income gained by emptying the Defense building every 12 hours is actually the main source of income for Nikke upgrading and Commander experience in the entire game; another example that shows that Shift Up values daily player retention above all else.
Other buildings in the Outpost are the Bulletin Board, which allows players to send Nikkes on (Idle) missions, the Infrastructure Core, which increases the player’s stamina to unlock Brief Encounters with Nikkes in the Outpost environment, the Recycle Room where players can convert their overflow of Nikke-specific upgrade tokens, and the Synchro Device, that enables the player to select a second team of Nikkes to be the same level as the lowest Nikke in their main team.
Part 3 - Ark (other meta)
The third leg of Nikke’s feature tripod is the Ark. In the narrative, this is the underground city where humanity was forced to live after the Raptures (evil machines) took over the planet’s surface. In terms of systems it’s an impressive grab bag of stand-alone gameplay features that didn’t fit in the Campaign or the Outpost. Most features in the Ark are chores game modes which the most progress-focused players will want to complete to gain the specific, yet crucial kinds of resources every time they can be engaged with.
First, the Simulation Room allows players to strategize more deeply on team composition, as its UI and roguelite buff system focus extra on stats players need to complete the necessary array of stages. Players are pushed to engage with the Simulation Room every 24 hours.
The Tribe Tower is another gacha/Team Battler classic where players fight through vertical yet permanent progression paths, some of which are themed to only allow Nikkes of a certain manufacturer (type) and open only on specific days of the week and with a limited amount of wins each time.
Interception is a daily boss battle that doesn’t require defeating it, but simply grants increasing rewards after engaging with three daily attempts.
Then, the Arena is a Ranked PvP mode that matches players up against teams of others. Battles play out asynchronously (and not through regular cover-shooting combat) while leaderboards are kept in three tiers (Rookie, Special, and Champion). Beating other player teams comes with its own strategies and does involve specific and detailed scheming for players who will want to keep winning.
Last but not least, there is the Lost Sector. Next to the Arena, this mode is the only Ark mode that is not a total grind, making it by far the most fun. Unfortunately, it offers only a very rare and short gameplay availability. This is because Lost Sector levels are handcrafted, adventure-puzzle zones that require traversal in the correct order.
The features that are collected in the Ark try offering a relatively broad selection of gameplay, but for players who don’t see a lot of fun in the core gameplay, most of these game modes push meaningless engagement without progression (with the exception of the Lost Sector, but that feature can be engaged with only very infrequently). Even the most die-hard roguelike fans won’t probably enjoy the Simulation Room, as the battle stats are too trivial and choosing boons seems practically meaningless. Adding more meaningful progression like the Lost Sector could make this section of features feel less like a burden.
Live-ops & Social
As the outermost layer of the game’s feature onion, players can engage with a solid assortment of features that are laid on top of its progression. The game’s social system is built around Unions, which are teams. Currently, the features this social layer has to offer are relatively minimal. The first, and most original feature is the Shooting Range, which is a leaderboard tally of how much damage players can do in 1.5 minutes.
This mode offers no rewards, so it’s just to show off. The second feature is the Union Raid, which is a time-limited, collaborative goal that involves killing bosses by accumulating enough damage done (by the entire Union) within the time limit. Lastly, being in a Union grants access to a specific section in the store. We expect the features included in the Unions to expand much more over the next few months, as the game is still quite young.
Looking at live-ops impact for Nikke is a little tricky because their frequent updates often bleed over into each other. Additionally, since the game is still quite new, looking at the game’s update history (and minimal release notes) it’s a little tricky to attribute any of these live-ops events to specific KPI increases. One huge bump in revenue can easily be identified in the first week of 2023.
The increase in bookings is likely linked to the Brand New Year event that was enabled and the rewards that were part of it. Unfortunately there are too many variables (changes) that occur every update, like the major difficulty decrease in the Campaign that happened right around that same time.
Most of the features that are not allocated to be a permanent part of Nikke’s economy are its Live Operations. As is required to become a top-100 grossing hit, the game offers seasonal events like its Maid in Valentine event or the long-lasting Day By Day event that runs for the first months of a player’s lifetime.
The most remarkable event that recently became available actually featured an impressive synchronous multiplayer where — for the only occurrence in the game — the player wasn’t controlling a team of Nikkes, but took the role of a single killer robot, adding the challenge (and development hassle) of team matchmaking into the mix. Very profound.
But the biggest breakthrough in terms of live-ops happened late February. To quote the GameRefinery Blog: “The biggest of these [anime-themed crossovers] was Goddess Of Victory: Nikke’s first-ever playable collaboration event with the acclaimed anime series Chainsaw Man, which saw the game cut through the competition to the 25th-grossing rank.” The event didn’t simply offer a few themed tasks and missions. It encompassed a dedicated area to explore, a double-feature campaign, two exclusive Nikkes to collect, and its own Seasonal Pass with tasks to complete.
Nikke: GoV also contains a dedicated Season Pass implementation but while most games make it a main part of its meta progression, in this game it has been pushed very far into the background and doesn’t seem to provide a whole lot of incentive (yet). Its progression is slow and tasks aren’t incentivized properly. On top of that, it competes with other events (like the Chainsaw Man one) that will undoubtedly happen through the course of a season.
The last element in terms of live-ops that shouldn’t be overlooked are the game’s gachas. While it’s not a traditional means of live-ops in most other games, for collector games like Nikke, one of the biggest reasons why it’s grossing so well is its elaborate gacha system which offers plenty of pools (in this context also called banners) to pull from. Some of these are only available for a few days! The fact that some of them require a special form of Hard Currency that can only be acquired by means of IAPs is unconventional and highly polarizing, adding a hardcore “Pay or stay away” mentality to the collection part of the game. More information on the game’s gachas will follow below when we talk about the game’s Monetization.
As we’ve seen in the introduction, Nikke’s retention rates are only very high in Japan and not in other regions. The main reason why this is the case seems to be cultural, as gacha games inherently work the best with players who have been exposed to gacha from a young age. In the land of the rising sun, the game’s collection mechanics can be attributed to the high retention, while players in other countries (especially in the west) are less susceptible to these mechanics.
As covered in the introduction of this article, the promotional material Tencent uses to promote Nikke works naturally well because of its graphical nature and action-packed core gameplay. In terms of search keywords, there’s nothing crazy going on, as strings used first are titles of other ACG like Path to Nowhere, Girls Frontline, Destiny Child, Arknights, and Blue Archive.
Secondarily, search queries target players who search for words like Anime, Waifu, Gacha or JRPG. Where it gets interesting is the developers actively trying to push the limits of what’s allowed by showing live-action ads with sexual connotations in select countries. A Thai commercial even created enough of a controversy to get banned.
Elsewhere, in South-Korea, videos advertising some free gacha pulls turned out to offer much fewer than was claimed and created some backlash as well. Then, in Japan, big-budget promotions like 3D billboards in Shinjuku tried to entice the Tokyo population into playing. Additionally, after Nikke:GoV launched, billboards in trains and metro stations were also not an uncommon sight in Japan and Korea.
Lastly, Worldwide the fact that the game can alternatively be played in landscape orientation, as this was implemented for cross-platform play on PC also shows that the developers are looking to expand their player base beyond the traditional mobile gamer.
Multiple other examples that explore peaking the interest of players who appreciate the female form have been recorded and partially helped boost the game up to the #1 spot on the Free Charts in both App & Play Store.
As is the case with most gacha games, Nikke’s monetization strategy can mainly be categorized as aggressive, and it’s working. The game’s battle pass pricing is steep and drop rates for its numerous SSR Characters are low (4% per pull). This is where the game doubles down on the driver of collection and by continuously releasing new Nikkes that have to be acquired through the game’s numerous gacha events. They can be categorized as such:
The Basic Recruitment banner allows pulling most non-limited Nikkes. Standard draws earn Silver Mileage Tickets, which can be traded in the shop for Spare Bodies to increase a Nikke’s level cap, although new Nikkes cannot be acquired this way. Silver Mileage Tickets do not expire.
After pulling Standard gacha enough times, its Wishlist pity system is unlocked. Fifteen non-limited Nikkes from all non-Pilgrim Manufacturers can be added to the Wishlist. When an SSR Nikke is pulled from Standard Recruitment, the only SSRs that can drop will either be Pilgrims or the Nikkes listed on the Wishlist.
The Special Recruitment will feature a new Nikke (only some of which will be added to the Standard Recruitment pool later) with increased drop chance. Special draws earn Gold Mileage Tickets. 200 Gold Mileage Tickets can be traded in at the Mileage Shop to acquire a copy of the Specially featured Nikke. Unlike other games' pity systems, Gold Mileage Tickets do not expire, and can therefore be saved for a later banner.
Guaranteed SSR (Paid only)
This banner features a 10-time draw that guarantees at least 1 SSR Nikke and is another good example of Shift Up’s aggressive monetization strategy. The guaranteed SSR gacha that is advertised as one-time-only for first-time commanders requires a purchase of €23.99 in Gems, as the gacha only accepts premium hard currency, acquired through IAPs. The developers even got caught hard-coding some odds-changing behavior into the gacha, which has since been rectified.
In terms of UX, a strange choice the developers made is to use the same icon for premium hard currency and (less-) hard currency acquired as in-game rewards, but put the word “Charge” on top. The game already has a huge amount of currencies and resources, why not make a full distinction between paid HC and earned HC by changing the currency’s icon altogether? I guess we’ll never know...
Generally, the game’s (high) Revenue per Download seems to have plateaued at this point and it seems there is not a lot the developers can do about it. The game’s core gameplay throughout the entire game is very limited and one-dimensional; every battle feels the same. In terms of meta, the game has some possibilities left to expand their feature set, especially on the social front. Unfortunately, features like these historically don’t have a lot of impact on monetization (as they rather impact retention).
To conclude, why did this specific waifu collector perform so much better than the competition in its genre? Nikke’s success can be broken down into four factors:
- Very strong marketing creative potential due to its graphic nature and enticing-looking core gameplay
- Westernized themes and dialogues (while preserving the Eastern aesthetic) with interesting, unique characters
- A strong meta feature set that exceeds most competitors, presented in a fresh and original manner
- Very high levels of polish and dedicated localization for Western, secondary markets like e.g. Germany
The future of Nikke looks uncertain, as revenue has taken some major hits in the months since launch.
Shift Up seems to have discovered a niche audience in the West, which initially seemed to monetize very well. But in any game, core gameplay should be the main driver, not compulsion loops like gacha. Given the game doesn’t provide any depth or strategy, one could assume the worst by saying Nikke won't be able to expand much anymore unless Shift Up does a major overhaul of the game’s balancing and UX to provide players with more agency, which is a risky endeavor.
In Japan, the game should be able to survive a little longer, as the market is huge and the production value is high. But the gacha games market is also highly competitive. The biggest question will be if Nikke can retain enough Eastern players, and for how long. Lots of players might still be in the honeymoon phase after meeting their favorite Nikke, but when this feeling eventually wanes, it will simply be a superficial robot incapable of providing meaning.
While this might sound bleak for Shift Up and Nikke itself, one of the positive aspects here is that in terms of core gameplay design, the game can definitely trigger the revolution in design and approach that cover shooters have so desperately needed. The game itself doesn’t do a great job popularizing the fun behind it because of its limited agency. The lack of feedback in the core game’s UX gives away that it’s more a simulation than anything else. But this doesn’t mean that future games inspired by Nikke, but with a more balanced agency in the core game and a more feedback-focused UX won’t be able to take this much further.
In terms of theme, whether you like it or not, Nikke might be able to trigger a small revolution in the West, proving that heavy fan service can in fact monetize in those markets and especially so since there is so much room for improvement in retention.