Presented by GameMine

Five ways to identify a pay-to-win game

 ·30 Jan 2020
Gamemine Video Game

Within more recent years, gaming has seen a new genre rise in popularity.

Thanks in no small part to the advent of mobile devices and overall increases to the convenience of making entirely digital payments, ‘Pay-To-Win’ games, sometimes called ‘Freemium’ games, have skyrocketed into the mainstream, with millions of players engaging on a daily basis.

It can be difficult to distinguish such games from their traditional counterparts.

Mobile game publisher GameMine has a guide comprised of five key elements that are unique to pay-to-win and freemium games, in order to help keep players informed.


According to GameMine, every game has intentional design choices, going far beyond simple lines of code to invoke particular thoughts and emotions.

In the case of Pay-To-Win games, they are almost universally designed to have a greater edge to them in terms of how difficult they are.

If you’ve ever played one, you will likely notice right away that it is easier to lose, with the odds seemingly stacked up against you in a way that seems as though something is missing to help you succeed.

This is where payment comes in, as it is designed to make the game become easier, whether it is through making the player more powerful and capable, or removing obstacles in their way.


A Freemium game might even go so far as to limit how often you can play, requiring you to either wait or pay in order to keep playing after you’ve exhausted all of your play-time.

This is another way that the genre distinguishes itself, as it is virtually the only type of game to limit players in this way.

Limitations on time aren’t the only way that Free-To-Play games influence how much time players spend playing them, either: In many cases, processes such as levelling up or building assets take far longer at a free level than they would if payments were made.

For many players, the game is a relatively small part of their day, and they simply don’t wish to wait any longer than they have to, so they decide to make the payments.


Traditionally, games were a one-time payment made upfront, and then never again. They were treated as simple consumer products, being purchased off the shelf in the same manner as anything else bought in a commercial setting.

Nowadays, however, Pay-To-Wins have drastically shifted this experience into something else entirely. Today it is closer to resembling a subscription, with recurring payments and renewable memberships becoming the norm.

Simply put, the players’ needs are changed by the design to require payment. Whether it’s enabling them to succeed where they previously have failed, or providing them with a level of status previously unattainable, these things are provided in exchange for payment, and more often than not they need to be replenished, which means payment becomes recurring.


GameMine states that what is important to consider within a Freemium game is the direct impact the player can have on their experience by choosing whether or not they would like to spend money.

Whether it’s making a certain challenge easier or saving significant amounts of time, the players who are able to spend money on a Pay-To-Win game become an upper class of sorts, with the players who cannot or simply choose not to pay being at an inherent disadvantage.

Whenever a freemium game has multiplayer components, this class system can be the determinant factor for who wins and who loses.


One of the signature elements of the Freemium game is right in the title: It is free to download and start playing.

Payment is optional, and the vast majority of new players enter a stage where they choose not to pay until they’ve made a decision about whether or not it is right for them

What this means is that developers need a way to generate revenue in this early stage, and it often comes in the form of advertising.

Advertisements are both a way to generate this revenue as well as incentivize players to go premium, with the promise of a reduction or outright removal of advertisements to go along with their other rewards.

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