Free to play games aren’t really free


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The free to play games model often includes many paywalls.

Alisha Katel, Staff Writer

Video game developers may have embraced the idea of free-to-play games, but nothing in today’s world is really free.

Video games like Genshin Impact and Valorant have exploded in popularity. Their free-to-play model makes them accessible to millions of players across the globe. Unfortunately, many developers have started taking advantage of this, advertising their games as free to play when they aren’t. 

Riot Games’ first-person shooter Valorant offers skins to players, giving them different skills based on what the player chooses. Skins are bought with Valorant Points, obtained through purchases or giveaways. Players have accused Valorant of creating pay-to-win skins, giving them an unfair advantage in gameplay. Riot Games has denied this accusation, saying that skins are only cosmetic.

Action RPG Genshin Impact offers two primary purchases: their in-game currency, called primogems, and wishes. Genshin Impact has a loot-box-style system; the player wishes and has the chance of getting a character or weapon. Many players spend thousands of dollars a month, hoping to obtain a five-star character. Within its first year, Genshin Impact made $406.31 million in profit.

The famous mobile strategy game Clash of Clans features the option to buy gems to speed up assembling buildings. However, these purchases soon become compulsory unless the player is willing to wait days or even weeks to progress. It makes it impossible for the player to continue playing unless they’re okay with spending hundreds of dollars each year.

Despite appearing to be free, MMORPG MapleStory has a terrible paywall. Despite being primarily free at the start of its creation, the game started adopting a pay-to-win mindset as the company began losing money. Boss drops can go for as much as $400, quickly draining players’ bank accounts.

The issue here is that companies are continually misleading their fanbases, exploiting them for corporate gain. If a company advertises its game as free-to-play, it should be enjoyable without spending money. 

So, how can a company run a free game while still bringing in money? League of Legends is a perfect example of what a free-to-play video game should be. While it does have in-game purchases, they are not necessary and purely cosmetic. Still, LOL managed to bring $1.75 billion in revenue during 2020.