Jul 18 2012

I’ve seen a lot of games recently, on iOS and otherwise, that implement some form of pay-to-win system. For those who haven’t heard of this model before, UrbanDictionary has this definition:

Games that let you buy better gear or allow you to make better items than everyone else at a faster rate, and then makes the game largely unbalanced even for people who have skill in the game without paying.


This is the best definition I could find, and the reason why I’m strongly opposed to the model. If I had taken the effort to implement some form of competitive system (such as a highscore list), then I’d sure as hell want it to represent the most skilled players in my game, as opposed to who has the deepest pockets (even if it did make us more money).   

The problem that a lot of PC & iOS games developers are having at the moment, is that a lot of players who have experienced this system have done so after playing a F2P (Free to play) game, correctly realize that the highest scores/characters in the game are from players who constantly throw money at developers, and then incorrectly assume that the F2P and play to win models are synonymous.

As an iOS developer who prefers the F2P with in app purchase model, this poses a problem. Do players who have had bad experiences with free games, automatically assume that a free game will ask them to cough up money later in order to be considered ‘good’ at it?

Maybe it’s not too much of a problem for mobile games after all, seeing as though the market for them is largely casual gamers who aren’t typically competitive. But many games are great examples of how to add replenishable in app purchases without directly affecting the competitive system they’ve created. Jetpack Joyride is a prime example of this, allowing the player to buy in-game currency to unlock cosmetic-only upgrades.

In short, any game which allows the player to buy more lives and continue their score (of which there are quite a few) is in my opinion, crap.

What are everyone’s thoughts on this?

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Sean Lloyd-Booth


Talented, and remarkably dashing



Quite good at whistling