It’s been over a month since Tower of Fantasy’s (ToF) global release, and there’s no doubt that those who enjoy massively multiplayer online (MMO) games or gacha (commonly called gambling or vending machine-style) games would have at least tried it out.
As a long-time fan of HoYoverse’s Genshin Impact, I felt I just had to see what ToF offered too, being that so many dissatisfied Genshin players seemed to be placing lots of hope on ToF to be a “better” Genshin.
Off I went to try it upon its global release, but I’ll readily admit it—I was cringing the entire time, and most of the fun I felt was limited to the character creation screen.
Having played Genshin Impact for a solid two years, I just felt deeply unsatisfied by what ToF offered early on, and so I quickly gave up on my wanderer’s journey.
I wasn’t about to waste my time continuing to play a game that I didn’t see myself developing a liking for in the future, especially if I was already so unimpressed at the start.
Don’t get me wrong though, I have nothing against ToF personally, and I remain unbothered by how many people love comparing it to Genshin. The game itself just doesn’t appeal to me.
However, this article on why I think ToF might not thrive or even “survive” in the future has nothing to do with its buggy gameplay, lacklustre story, or anything else within the game that others have a problem with.
No, my argument here is that it will be ToF’s own fanbase that will end up “killing” the game.
A repeat of history, but with potentially different results
When Genshin Impact first came out, comparisons between it and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BOTW) were rife.
Apparently cooking, a stamina system, and even gliding were uniquely BOTW elements, and Genshin just straight-up ripped them off (I’m being sarcastic, if it isn’t obvious yet).
However, I’m not denying that some elements are definitely heavily inspired by BOTW, something that HoYoverse themselves have openly admitted.
But in the midst of all of this, it also became obvious that a lot of people were just jumping on the bandwagon to criticise a new game without having ever touched BOTW itself.
Thus, with Genshin later proving that it was fundamentally different in story, gameplay, lore, and more, it made sense why the comparisons began dying out.
I’d like to touch upon one point a little more though, particularly the one where many of Genshin’s fierce critics in the early days had not played BOTW themselves.
For those unfamiliar with BOTW, it’s an action-adventure game developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch and Wii U consoles.
It has never been officially made available on PC or mobile, though there are emulators that enable one to experience the game on PC.
More importantly, BOTW is a game you’d have to purchase to legally play, which means that its barriers to entry are much higher compared to Genshin, which is a free-to-play game, available on various platforms including PC, mobile, and PlayStation (and pending a Nintendo Switch release since January 2020).
This was to Genshin’s benefit, as those who were simply riding the hate train without having ever experienced BOTW soon shut up when they found themselves actually enjoying what Genshin as a whole had to offer.
Now, ToF finds itself in Genshin’s old position, and by applying the BOTW-Genshin framework of comparison to Genshin and ToF, I’ve come to conclude that it is the fandom that will be what ends up running ToF into the ground.
Both games are on similar footing, to one’s benefit & the other’s disadvantage
For one, both Genshin and ToF are very accessible games.
Their free-to-play nature and availability on mobile and PC have opened them up to a massive global market, and as I said in the intro, many Genshin players would have tried ToF too.
If someone has played both games, then it’s only natural that they would make comparisons, and lots of them, particularly if they believe that ToF is indeed a potential “Genshin killer”.
With this, they might also hold on to high hopes and expectations that ToF can continually get better, especially if they aren’t satisfied yet.
This puts immense prolonged pressure on the ToF team to continue improving the game, which could lead to two scenarios: they do improve the game as per fans’ hopes, or they simply fail and fall flat, eventually fading into irrelevance.
Should the former happen, then fans will know that the ToF team is capable of meeting their expectations, and will continue raising their standards. If ToF becomes unable to keep up, its fandom will retaliate fiercely.
If ToF falls flat in failure early on, then that’s that. Either way though, it seems like a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation, all because of the never-ending comparisons.
Of course, there are ToF fans who are already satisfied with the current status of the game, only wishing for minor changes and improvements here and there.
To them, I’d say, “Good for you!”, as based on the majority of global coverage ToF has gotten, they don’t seem to be well-loved by their own players, let alone those who also play Genshin.
(You could argue this is simply due to a very loud minority, and that those who are dissatisfied will clearly complain. Meanwhile, those who enjoy ToF will just keep to themselves, or be bullied into submission by others. But that’s a whole other essay about fandom dynamics for another time, perhaps.)
Content creators are a large part of what drives game popularity too, and unfortunately, from what I’ve seen, some big-name content creators can’t even praise ToF without making it a backhanded compliment.
They’ll say things like, “I like Tower of Fantasy because I like mindless, grindey MMOs”, or, “It’s the kind of game you play when you want to waste time and are done with your main game for the day.”
There’s nothing inherently bad with either type of description, as to each their own. But the way some content creators defend their enjoyment of ToF against their fanbase makes it seem like they’re ashamed they like it.
And that is what I find rather sad about ToF’s treatment upon its global release.
Tower of Fantasy has led fans on too
To be fair though, ToF has never shied away from the Genshin comparisons, even welcoming them in its own early days with confidence. Plus, it’s had its fair share of controversies, not by anyone else’s fault but its own.
According to Redditors, it had daringly stated things like “benchmarking Genshin, next 2022 The Game Awards” in its promotional materials, allegedly copied elements from other games (like HoYoverse’s Honkai Impact 3rd), and created promotional material that was too similar to other artists’ original work to ignore, to name a few.
I had initially assumed that ToF’s title of “Genshin killer” was a fanmade thing, but it’s apparent now that it began with ToF’s own marketing ambitions.
And herein lies the problem. The gacha gaming community was quick to sink their claws into another gacha game, one that was purportedly said to be a serious Genshin competitor.
So, can we really blame the fandom for playing along with ToF’s marketing claims?
If ToF’s bugs, surface-level story, insufferable dialogue, and more, aren’t what kills it, then it’ll be fans’ persistent comparisons that will.
It’s only been a little over a month since it globally released to the tune of US$34 million revenue made in that duration, but that’s no clear indicator of its longevity in the market.
Nonetheless, ToF will have a chance to prove itself (and prove its critics wrong) with its upcoming major update, and it’ll be interesting to see whether this will turn the tide in its favour.
- Read more of our gaming content here.
Featured Image Credit: Hotta Studio