Pay-to-Win Cringe: Not Just in Games
Pay-to-win has become synonymous with the gaming industry. In order for companies to profit from people playing mobile games or video games they have driven the need to include specific features of the game which can either only be bought like custom skins, weapons, etc or can be achieved only by investing an incredible amount of time into the game.
Most of the pay-to-win features occur most commonly in mobile games. When a game is on your cellphone it is extremely easy to pay for a game and it’s features when half the work is already done. Your credit card most likely is already set up to your Apple store or Google play account. This, by default, removes the excuse of having to expend energy to go and get your wallet or purse to pull out the credit card and put your information in like the card number or any billing information for example.
It can be up for debate whether this is a large barrier for people today but this used to be a large barrier for people when they had to buy games in brick and mortar stores. When buying games in the past, it was a large barrier to convince someone to buy something purely for entertainment which had little to no room to give you skills to support yourself. As time went on, the games in stores needed to have displays which allowed you or your children to play the games and see how it was before deciding to purchase. Today, however, buying online in almost all cases does not allow you to test console games for free.
This is where pay-to-win shines. This is because when mobile gaming came out with games which were free to download it gave room for in-app purchases. Once those companies realized “ya, people are decently okay with ads and purchases in game” it can only escalate from there.
Millions of downloads means that you can find a variety of people with different styles of playing the game, but most dangerous of all is if a player wants to play to completion. In a mobile game, patches and updates can be added continually as long as people still have interest in the game. Thus, the developers simply have to add events and content to the game to continue making money from it even if only slightly. For example if a new character is launched, simply add items specific to that character and make it difficult to acquire those items by using the gacha system an example I take from Genshin Impact. This example however is quite common across many games however and is not a unique idea.
The idea of pay-to-win is not new however. It connects to how businesses particularly new businesses operate and grab attention. Today if a new business wants to start-up online, other than the need for proper content creation or inventory of goods, there will be a smart marketing strategy to be successful. The strategy is almost always pay-to-win.
Winning for a business means popular, high revenue, low customer acquisition and of course status in the business world. So how does one pay to become successful? It only applies to the marketing portion of a business typically but there can be other areas where it applies. The marketing means going to various creators and reviewers and paying them to promote their business through sponsorship or asking an honest reviewer to review their product/service in hopes that it will be positive.
The other avenue is to pay for their website link to be on the first page of a google search. However, the classic route of pay-to-win is running ads on TV. This has now expanded to paying to have ads run on the internet in particular on Youtube, Facebook and Instagram. Other areas can be on streaming sites like Twitch, Facebook gaming, etc but the idea is clear. Paying to force people to sit through your ad. This lets those people to remember your company name and then when they have a need or know someone with a need for your product/service, you can benefit.
The most recent example I can think of is Vinted. They had ads run of Youtube constantly and even expanded those exact same ads to cable TV. It’s not that they have a new idea either, they simply offer the same service of buying and selling used clothes that people already do on Facebook marketplace, Poshmark and I’m sure many other places.
IT would be funny if ended saying this article was sponsored by Vinted but it is not. I just wanted to point out that even though people cringe at the thought of pay-to-win games, since they remove a great amount of skill building and dedication to the game, it is nothing new and stems directly to how businesses struggle on the daily to start-up and survive. Games are just used as a big way to take advantage of families and pay-to-win shouldn’t be used as much as it is in games. Hopefully, games will go back to just being something fun to do without turning people an kids into tools to reach into wallets.