If you’re a gamer, chances are you’ve come across a pay-to-win games at some point. These are the games that offer in-game purchases that give players an advantage over others who don’t spend any money.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this business model, it can often lead to gamers spending large amounts of money on these games in an attempt to keep up with the competition.
- What Are Pay-To-Win Games?
- 5 Tricks and Techniques Game Developers Use To Keep You Spending Money
- 1. The Tutorial
- 2. Your First Micro Transaction Special Offer
- 3. Introduction To The Store and Game Currency
- Purchase Pricing
- Limited Time Offers FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out Mentality)
- 4. The Battle Pass
What Are Pay-To-Win Games?
Pay-to-win games are those in which the player can spend real money in order to obtain powerups, items, or other advantages over other players. This type of game design is often criticised because it creates a situation where those who are willing or able to spend more money have a distinct advantage over those who don’t.
This can create an unfair and unbalanced playing field and a feeling of frustration for those who aren’t able or willing to spend money on the game.
5 Tricks and Techniques Game Developers Use To Keep You Spending Money
There are many different pay-to-win strategies that developers use in order to make money from their games. Some of these techniques are more obvious than others, but all of them have one goal: to get you to spend your hard-earned cash on their game.
We will look into this using Fifa Mobile and the recently released controversial mobile game Diablo Immortal.
These techniques are implemented in many more pay-to-win games as well and not just specifically the above games. We are just using these games as examples of how developers use tricks and a bit of psychology to get you to spend money.
1. The Tutorial
The tutorial is the first step in pay-to-wins game design to get you hooked. It’s easy to breeze through the first few levels without spending a dime. The game is designed to make you feel like you’re progressing, but you’re really just getting a taste of what the game has to offer.
Iv been playing Diablo for around 10 – 15 minutes and is currently at level 10 with multiple level-up items. I’m already feeling the urge to continue!
Once you hit a certain point, the game becomes much more challenging and you’re forced to spend money to progress.
Introduction Of Free Sign-In Daily Rewards & Welcome Packs
You will be introduced to the free daily rewards system during the tutorial. You will be able to claim these rewards if you sign in once a day. The rewards will include things like in-game currency, experience bonuses, and more. The system is designed to keep you coming back to the game and further promote what they have to offer.
Depending on the game, you could also be offered a ‘special’ free welcome pack for joining the game. In the case of Fifa Mobile, you will be given a complimentary welcome pack with a very high chance of getting a good player.
This is called a virtual skinner boxer, named after B. F. Skinner, is a type of game that uses operant conditioning to get players to spend money. Players are rewarded for spending money, and the more they spend, the more they’re rewarded.
This means that players who spend more money are more likely to keep playing, and the game is designed to encourage this behaviour.
Loot Boxes and Randomised Crate System
Games will quickly introduce you to “loot boxes” or “randomized crates” in the tutorial and provide you with good weapons or players at the start to get you thinking you can win.
These are basically digital boxes that can be purchased with real-world money and contain a random selection of in-game items.
As you can see in my Fifa Ultimate Team pack, I have opened a high-stat Chelsea player that I can use on my team. This will introduce you to the packs mechanic and give you the belief that opening more can lead to better players.
Often, the contents of these loot boxes are not revealed to the player until after they’ve made the purchase. This can lead players to spend large amounts of money on loot boxes to get the rarest and most powerful items.
2. Your First Micro Transaction Special Offer
Pay-to-win games know the psychological triggers that keep you spending money, they actually conduct research into it.
They also know that most people will not spend more than a couple of pounds on in-game purchases at a time. But we are a creature of habit, and we can be trained to spend more and more.
Look at the image below, Fifa Mobile doesn’t even hide this method one bit. The starter player pack shows the possible players you could win if you buy the pack, but as we know, you will not get any below 90+ players and you may never get one until you are £100+ in.
Developers know that small transactions are more psychologically palatable than large ones.
It is the same reason why supermarkets place candy by the till; we are more likely to make an impulse purchase when we are already spending money.
The problem is that these small transactions can quickly add up.
We may not think twice about spending 99p on a new skin for our character, but, over time, these purchases can really start to add up.
It is not uncommon for people to spend hundreds or even thousands of pounds on in-game items.
3. Introduction To The Store and Game Currency
The in-game store is where developers want you to regularly spend money on items that will make the game easier for you, or at least give you an edge over other players.
Let’s take a look at Diablo Immortal and Fifa Mobile store and currency system for examples:
Diablo Immortal is an action RPG developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment for Android and iOS devices. The game is a spin-off of the Diablo series and takes place between the events of Diablo II: Lord of Destruction and Diablo III.
Diablo Immortal has been under some scrutiny by the Diablo community since its release. Some feel the game is a cash grab and have good reason to be.
According to an article, fully upgrading your character in Diablo Immortal could cost up to £82,000, that is not an error!
Let’s take a look at their store to go deeper into the issue:
So we can see that the currency for Diablo Immortal is eternal orbs, by spending real money, you can earn the amounts above.
Seems very familiar to all of you, I am sure.
Then we come to the Eternal Legendary Crests, Blizzard’s way of selling loot boxes without having a loot box. As some countries consider loot boxes as a type of gambling, Blizzard has found another way of having them on the game but in a different way.
Eternal Legendary Crests give the player a higher chance of acquiring legendary gems. Another quick upgrade the player can make compared to the hours of gruelling game time that is required to get to come close.
Reforge Stones allow you to add Bonus Attributes to your Primary Gear and can be purchased in-store. This will make your character more powerful, which is especially important in player vs player games.
Diablo Immortal has a cosmetics section where you can purchase your character to use in-game. The standard cosmetic character is 1,000 gems which equate to around £14.00, which is pretty expensive If I don’t say so myself.
You haven’t seen anything yet.
Check out the “Collectors” item called Winged Darkness, this will set you back around £20.00.
There are so many parts to this game, we have Crests, Bundles, Cosmetics, Services, Currency and Materials. There is no wonder this freemium game can cost you an arm and a leg or around £80,000 to maximise your character.
Diablo Immortals’ gameplay is actually excellent and if the main focus weren’t on tricks to get you to spend money, I would think this is a good game.
FIFA Mobile is a football simulation video game developed by EA Sports and published by Electronic Arts. The game is based on the FIFA series and features more than 650 clubs from over 30 leagues, including the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, German Bundesliga and French Ligue.
FIFA Points are the in-game currency used to purchase new packs and players. You can earn them by playing matches, completing quests, or opening up special events. In addition, you can also buy them with real money.
Here’s a quick rundown if you’re wondering how FIFA points, gems, and coins work in the store.
FIFA points are used to purchase items such as coins, gems, event currencies, Training XPs, Skill Boosts, Packs and Pack Bundles and are the main currency in Fifa.
Gems can be used to purchase items in the FIFA store or to open packs as well and can be earned for free.
Coins are used to buy players and items on the transfer market within Fifa Ultimate Team and are very important for improving a player’s team to go up against others. Coins are earned by winning matches, completing objectives, or selling players and items on the transfer market.
This leads us to the next method that game developers use to get us to spend just a bit more cash than we were planning on.
The reason developers use an in-game currency is, so the player has mental separation from real money and the currency used in the game. It’s much easier to spend currency that isn’t real,; psychologically, you’re more likely to spend it.
Another trick for using the in-game currency is the exchange rate on offer, the more money you spend to get FIFA points, the more you get. It makes you feel like you are missing out on FIFA points if you don’t spend a little more. Games with no currency cannot utilise special offers, discounts and purchase pricing like the ones that do.
Now we come to what is called Purchase Pricing, a method used to ensure players will always fall short of being able to purchase the next item in the store.
In the above image, we have the FIFA points price, and below it, we have the resources price. Now, this clever trick goes unnoticed, but it’s an exceptional tool in any developer’s arsenal.
Every item on sale in the store is mathematically calculated to ensure that the player will have a little currency left or need to purchase more currency.
For example, if I spend £4.49, I will receive 500 Fifa points. If I go to the resources packs, we can see how useless purchasing any FIFA points under £5 really is.
If you want to buy a fifa pack with a better chance of getting a good player then you need to get your wallet out.
The mega bundles are 5000 points each, which will set you back around £38 in real money. So you’re looking at purchasing 5750 fifa points for £44.99, nothing on the store is 50 fifa points so what exactly is the point?
Well they want you to buy more afterwards.
Just remember, you are not guaranteed any of the players that they promote in the events and mega bundles, only a higher chance of getting them.
If this feels like a casino then you are not far off, developers can hide the roulette table but the bottom line is its gambling without the chance of winning any real money at the end of it.
We have a natural tendency to want to avoid losses. Pay To Win games exploits this by making us feel like we need to spend money to catch up.
We have a natural tendency to want to avoid losses. Pay To Win games exploits this by making us feel like we need to spend money to catch up. They use a variety of tricks to get us to spend money, and most of us are unaware of them.
One common trick is called “anchoring.” This is when the game gives you an item for free, but then prices all the other items in the game relative to that first item. So, if the first item costs £100, then the next item might cost $50. This makes us think that the second item is a bargain, when in reality it’s just an inflated price.
Another trick is called “loss aversion.” This is when the game dangles a carrot in front of us, but then takes it away if we don’t spend money. They’ll show us a tantalizing new item that we can’t get unless we spend money, or they’ll make it so that we can only get the item if we pay.
Limited Time Offers FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out Mentality)
These are offers only available for a limited time, creating a sense of urgency. Pay To Win games often uses limited-time offers to get us to spend money.
The game tells us we only have a certain amount of time to buy something before it’s gone forever.
This creates a false sense of urgency and can often trick us into spending money we don’t have. If you see a limited time offer, take a step back and ask yourself if you really need it. Chances are, you can live without it. Don’t let these pay to win games tricks get the best of you!
Seeing ourselves improve and making progress is satisfying. Pay To Win games make it so we have to spend money to level up faster and see results sooner. This is called “progression” in the game industry. And it’s a psychological trick to get us to spend money.
Think about the last time you played a game and felt really good about yourself. You probably felt like you were making progress. Now imagine how you would feel if you had to spend money to keep playing the game and making progress. You would probably feel disappointed, frustrated, or even angry.
That’s because we value our progress. We don’t like to see ourselves wasting time or going backwards. So when a game requires us to spend money to keep making progress, it feels like a waste.
What’s even more insidious is that many of these games are designed to be played with friends. So not only do we feel like we’re falling behind, but our friends are too. And no one wants to be the person holding everyone back.
After we’ve spent money on a game, we’re more likely to continue doing so because we don’t want to feel like we wasted our money. This is known as the sunk cost fallacy and it’s something that Pay To Win games count on.
Pay To Win games get us to spend money is by offering us shortcuts. We can buy items that will make our characters stronger or we can buy in-game currency that we can use to get ahead.
Of course, these shortcuts come at a price and the more we use them, the more we’re likely to spend. Pay To Win games are designed to keep us spending money and they’re very good at it.
4. The Battle Pass
A battle pass is an in-game purchase that gives you access to exclusive content, such as new weapons, skins, and levels.
Battle passes typically cost around £10, and they often come with a ton of bonus content that you can’t get anywhere else.
While some gamers are okay with spending money on battle passes, others feel like it’s a rip-off. Another way to entice gamers in to spending money on better loot and skins.
So there we have it, pay to win games are being even more brason nowadays and dont even care about the methods they use.
Let us know what you think in the comments.