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Mihoyo is Setting the Bar for Free to Play Games

Genshin Impact stands out thanks to its high quality and attention to detail

Feb 22 · 7 min read

Genshin Impact, a free-to-play (F2P) action-adventure RPG has left its mark on the gaming industry with its unique RPG system and sprawling world for players to explore. You can explore the world of Teyvat, interact with an array of unique characters, and engage in fun, exhilarating combat. This game has more than proven that it can hold its own. But what makes Genshin Impact a game that stands out against its competitors is its design and great care for detail in developing this fun-filled game.

Mihoyo, the company behind Genshin Impact, is focused on creating games for the otaku community. After all, their motto is “Tech Otakus Save The World.” For those not familiar with the term, otaku is “defined in Japan as a word that defines a person who has obsessive interests, and can apply to a wide variety of topics, including anime, manga, cosplay, collectibles and more.” With a target audience in mind, Mihoyo has focused on creating a positive player experience. Something that Genshin Impact does effortlessly.

Genshin Impact sets the bar with free-to-play games with its music, game design, attention to detail, and providing an engaging world with a variety of challenges and locations for players to interact with.


The soundtrack of Genshin Impact is one reason exploring its expansive world becomes a memorable experience. Composed by Yu-Peng Chen, music has become a key tool in defining the different locations in the world and situations you will encounter with your character. Genshin Impact uses music as a world-building tool in setting the mood and building upon the environment across different locations.

Having a good soundtrack can drastically elevate a game to greatness. An example that comes to mind of a game empowered by its soundtrack is Skyrim.

For most F2P titles, the music is not always the primary focus. This does not imply that other F2P games lack a good soundtrack, but in no way do they stand up against Yu-Peng Chen’s work. If I had to pick an F2P that reaches the high bar set in Genshin Impact, I would settle with Granado Espada.

When all is said and done, Mihoyo’s investment in creating a moving soundtrack helped elevate the gameplay and the Genshin Impact world.

A Solo Player Experience

Mihoyo designed Genshin Impact for a solo player experience. This is not a new concept for F2P online games, since other titles such as Path of Exile have the same focus. But when we think of F2P online games, we tend to think of the multiplayer feature So how did Mihoyo come to this decision?

I would argue it’s due to experience. Mihoyo has published a handful of gacha games on the mobile market. One design point in these games is the constant release of new servers to keep the flow of money and players. The reason behind this is thanks to these games have PvP and some form of ranking systems in PvE. This allows new players to have a chance at dominating any ranking. To generate a continuous stream of competition, servers are constantly released, leading to players spending money on these new servers to be on top ranking-wise.

By choosing to make Genshin Impact a game focused on full solo PVE and adding no ranked competition, developers can focus on dedicating resources and time on crafting a strong single-player experience.

The competitive formula of gacha games work, so why change up this guaranteed stream of revenue? The reason is that this method does not work on PC and console because it would mean creating a game that could compete with other competitive games on the market, such as LOL or CS: GO that would most likely doom the game even before release.

With this understanding, it shows that Mihoyo had a coherent plan on how to get Genshin Impact on the market and be successful. In my honest opinion, I have a feeling this was possible because the shot-callers at Mihoyo are true Otaku gamers themselves. They’re able to envision an experience that players like themselves would enjoy.

Player Experience

Mihoyo goes to great lengths to craft an enjoyable experience for players. They’ve developed an engaging world by taking extreme caution and care on level design.

Good level design is difficult to accomplish, but Mihoyo’s talented team has shown players incredible design and creative approaches in in-game challenges and locations. For example, in my previous article I discussed how the creators made moving around the map enjoyable by the strategic placement of portals in the world. It makes the world feel more accessible and connected to the players.

They’re not the pioneers in this approach. For example, in World of Warcraft’s first expansion, The Burning Crusade, they added flying mounts to make moving around less of a chore and enjoyable. Genshin Impact, however, took this concept to the next level. They used the portals not only as an access point, but to help create unique experiences for casual and hardcore players.

A good example of this can be found here:

The above is an example map of the different portals that can be found in-game. The resources in section A are close to the portal, providing easy access to players. You do not need to spend an extensive amount of time running or climbing to reach these resources, which would be a good fit for casual players.

However, in section B resources are further away from the portal or there are difficult obstacles in the way. This provides an experience for more hardcore players who are ready and willing to overcome these challenges.

By providing these different levels of challenges, it appeals to the different styles and experiences players are looking for. Genshin Impact becomes a game that is welcoming to all.

An Eye for the Details

The creators and artists behind Genshin Impact have an expert eye for detail to improve gameplay experience and create a world you can fall in love with. The above video provides insight from Genshin Impact’s design team in creating the snowy Dragonspine region.

For example, the artists used references from real-life snowy mountains such as the Alps to help create an area that will leave you with chills. As players navigate this icy landscape, visibility will decrease when entering snowfall areas and you can see details in the snow — where snow gives away to show cold, packed earth or dead branches shaking in the wind. To take it a step further, they found unique ways to incorporate the environment with gameplay.

“The rush of cold you feel on a snowy mountain is expressed not just in the art style, but also in the gameplay. Examples of this include the Sheer Cold meter that appears once players set foot on Dragonspine.” — Xiao Ao, Level Designer

Another unique feature is the connectivity between different areas on the map. Players can explore different caverns and come across another area on the map. This helps create a seamless transition between areas and provides players different ways they can explore a region.

The creative minds, also, had fun with creating themed areas for players with unique environmental features. For example, moving through the cave system means a change of music and the sound of yourself and what else lies within echoing about its walls. It’s these small details that help create an immersive world.

The details shared above are just the tip of the iceberg of the incredible work placed into the different regions you can explore.

These details stand out is because it’s not normally seen in free-to-play games. The priority is creating enough repetitive content to hold players’ attention until they release the next content patch. This is obviously not the case in Genshin Impact. Their attention to detail and other unique features in-game has helped make sure Genshin Impact is a game you can’t help but explore.

Final Thoughts

Whether or not Genshin Impact is your cup of tea, it’s undeniable that the quality of the game is way above the standard we expect from an F2P title. This is thanks to the combination of strategic marketing choices, talented developers, and flow of creativity in game design and art by Mihoyo.

Genshin Impact has set the bar to greater heights with its expansive and breathtaking game. I hope Genshin Impact becomes an example to the industry that quality is key to success and that other F2P titles will follow in its footsteps.


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