Yes, The Game Is Pay To Win

The question should be: are gaming companies taking pay to win mechanics too far?

The release of Lost Ark, a free-to-play game, has sparked discussions about pay-to-win mechanics. Here is a simple definition of pay-to-win: the ability to buy in-game items with real money that give a player an advantage over other players who do not buy the items.

However, some discussions on the internet try to redefine pay-to-win to fit their ethics. This may be because they do not want to admit that they have embraced pay-to-win mechanics. Let’s look at some examples to further explore this concept.

Lost Ark

Lost Ark, a new MMORPG released in February 2022, is free to play with an optional subscription. The subscription gives players quality of life benefits, such as reducing costs and cooldowns, and allows pets to sell or repair items. There are also cosmetic items, stronghold decorations, and character slot unlocks available for purchase.

A player can buy items to speed up their progression, and there is no limit on how much they can spend. However, a player can still reach the same goals without spending money, although it may take longer. Based on the definition provided, Lost Ark is a pay-to-win game.

Path of Exile

Path of Exile (PoE) is a free-to-play game that many players do not consider pay-to-win. PoE’s store offers cosmetics and quality-of-life items for purchase. While the game needs to make money, it is still pay-to-win based on the definition provided. For example, PoE allows players to buy tabs that increase inventory space. These cannot be earned in-game, which gives players who buy them an advantage in terms of wealth and character flexibility. The game is almost unplayable without some additional inventory space, as there are so many items in the game. Therefore, buying tabs indirectly gives players an advantage.


Warframe is another free-to-play game that many players do not consider pay-to-win. Instead, they refer to it as pay-to-progress, which is still pay-to-win according to the definition provided.

Warframe has an in-game currency called Platinum, which players can buy with real money or trade for in-game. Platinum can be used to speed up tasks and access Warframes and Prime Warframes. Prime Access gives players immediate access to Platinum, select Prime Warframes, weapons, and skins.

Therefore, based on the definition provided, Warframe is a pay-to-win game.

Most Online and Single Players Games Are Pay to Win

I am trying to think of an online game that is not pay-to-win, but I cannot think of one off the top of my head. I have played games such as World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy 14, Guild Wars 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Elder Scrolls Online, and they all have elements of pay-to-win, such as character boosts and the ability to buy in-game items with real money. For example, League of Legends allows players to buy champions, and Smite offers a “Ultimate God Pack” that gives players access to all gods for life. Even though I haven’t played Smite in years, I still have access to all gods because I bought the pack in the past.

Many gamers consider it “okay” to pay to progress in a game. In response, game developers have started adding pay-to-win elements to their games. They create games with a grind and offer players the option to reduce it by spending money. In the past, games were more respectful of players’ time, but this is not the case today.

Pay-to-win elements can also be found in single-player games. For example, many games offer powerful weapons or armor as a pre-order bonus, or access to resources for a limited time. Total War: War Hammer III is one such game, where players who pre-order or buy the game within the first week get the Orge Kingdom expansion for free. After that week, players have to pay for the expansion. This means that players who miss the deal are at a disadvantage compared to those who took advantage of it.

Now What?

Once we accept that most games have pay-to-win mechanics, the conversation can shift from “Is it pay-to-win?” to “Has the company gone too far?” A more important question to ask is whether “whales” (players with a lot of money) have too much of an advantage. The fact that pay-to-win mechanics are included in a game makes it pay-to-win, regardless of whether a player chooses to use them.

It would be nice to play a game, especially if you paid for it, that respects your time and doesn’t include unnecessary grinds that you feel compelled to pay to skip. The goal should be to find a balance between the gaming company making money and players feeling like they are not being ripped off.

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