When is a game really PTW?

I guess my latest thought process would be from playing Call Of Duty: Warzone. In the game, you are able to get special weapons and for example, Ghillie suits + XP boosts through the battle pass. I find that in the PTW win category, having a ghillie suit would definitely give you an advantage, especially playing solo games. XP boost will give you faster upgrades and I guess that is somewhat ok as it is not that game-breaking. but unique weapons, that is definitely a bad thing.

That said, it is often very personal as to where the limits go and with different games and genres, there is often a grey line when it comes to this question. How do you feel about this? When do you feel, enough is enough?
It really depends on the setup. For me, P2W is when paying real money is the only way to get the best gear.

XP boosts are almost ubiquitous in F2P gaming and since they only lessen the length of the grind I don't feel they are P2W.

Even paying a flat fee to eliminate the grind isn't technically P2W in my book as those that don't pay can still get there eventually.

However, if they keep "moving the goal posts" (which does happen a bit) to where non-payers are always behind those who do pay then it is most certainly P2W in my book.

So, specifically, as long as non-paying players can reasonably achieve the same level of power that paying players do then I wouldn't consider it play to win as the advantages are only temporary.


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Jan 13, 2020
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when paying real money is the only way to get the best gear.

I agree. A good example of this would be War Thunder, where the "best" vehicles are locked behind a Premium model where you pay for playtime. Although, these vehicles are just as easily destroyed by someone with some skill and a regular tier vehicle. I'm sure as you climb through the eras, the disparity becomes a little larger. With free games, though, I don't see too much of a problem with the developers finding a way to drum up some cashflow.
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Depends on my mood and the type of game. Most F2P games are mostly P2W with boosters (that aren't cosmetic) and the better stuff are timed exclusives etc.

But if you catch me in a mean/vicious mood ANY game that gives an advantage (regardless how big or small) via reoccurring MTX monetization (so DLCs are generally out) is P2W. i'm talking about Fallout 76's repair kits, ultimate team players, SW BF2 planned original scheme, shadow of war, GTA V etc. Even the minor xp boosts are p2w especially if it means unlocking the better weapons, items or flexibility/options. Sure skill/luck are large factors but boiling it down to a straight up fight between 2 evenly matched player with similar game styles, the one with the better gear unlocked will certainly win out in most times.

Its made even more insidious when the whole thing is combined with lootboxes. Its all currently hidden under the phrases like "optional" or "to speed up progress for players who don't have time to play a game " which is frankly BS.
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Inspireless Llama

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To me P2W is simular to @I Will Haunt You . To me it is P2W if you can't win or can't reasonably continue at some point without paying.

An MMORPG isn't Pay to Win, unless you reach a point where you can't reasonably continue without having to pay real money for gear that lets you continue because they can't be grinded either.

Cosmetics, lootboxes or any bonusses aren't P2W imo. They're microtransactions and surely can be annoying as hell, but if you get a better gun by paying in COD:Warzone it wouldn't automatically let you win against people who don't pay for it I guess. There must be players who don't pay but are just better at the game and winning.

It will be P2W though if the advantages would get so big that a better (but not paying) player couldn't reasonably win against a player who did pay.

Also, a question based from @Johnway , can a single player game be P2W? I mean, I disagree that a single player game has microtransactions, but most (if not all) you are able to beat without paying for it. Like I will Haunt you said, it will cause you to grind more, but it's not undoable.
Also, a question based from @Johnway , can a single player game be P2W? I mean, I disagree that a single player game has microtransactions, but most (if not all) you are able to beat without paying for it. Like I will Haunt you said, it will cause you to grind more, but it's not undoable.

Honestly? yes. if it makes my life that little bit easier by paying cash, i'm paying more money to get an edge over the game to beat it. Especially if its Cheats, easy fatalities, more resources/boost, useful units/tech or to unlock stuff without long play (Resident evil 2 remake). Just because i'm not competing against real people and the odds are not insurmountable (its a game after all), doesn't make it any less of a fact that people are paying money to make it easier to win. A famous example would be shadow of war and its end game. But i see both sides of the argument, if you can beat the game without the stuff, its strictly not P2W but on the other hand (again depending on how vicious\cynical i am at the time) if i'm better off with the stuff then without then it has p2w mechanics in it. Afterall, if they gave you no benefit, why would you sell it to me in the first place eh?

I'm very much in the Jim sterling belief when it comes to MTX and AAA these days. When it comes to single player its not the cheating that irrates me, i don't care if you cheated to beat a single player game, its how developers are changing/tweaking/impacting the game experience negatively. Make the game more a grind fest/search fest then it needs to be instead of making actually compelling content, adding artificial/fake barriers in some pretense of progression and challenge. Holding back content so that developers can make a quick buck all under the guise of "its optional extras" adding an exp boost for those who "don't have time to play hours to make progress". Its bloody stupid. Like 99% I'm not rich/desperate enough to splash cash to make progress in a game but i have to suffer through it because the minority that do have the cash/desperation to do are being baited and companies are doing everything they can to increase the number of people to the MTX. But this a different topic and better people can explain it better then i ever could.
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@Johnway Very good point about the artificial/fake barriers. I remember Sterling talking about this issue within Assassin's Creed Odyssey. I recently started playing the game (lvl 11) and I do hope it is not too much of an issue. I love to grind in a game, but not if it is grindy because of greedy barriers.

Inspireless Llama

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@Johnway I don't agree with games trying to annoy you so much with grinding that you feel like you have to pay DLC or microtransactions to continue, but my questino more was: Can you "win" a single player game? I was thinking more literally in "pay to win":p

Games like League of Legends, COD or any game where you play against other players, P2W is pretty straight forward. If you win because you pay, it's Pay to Win. In a single player game where you can't "win" I wouldn't call it P2W. Unless it's a game like FIFA where you have to buy extra items in order to beat the AI. Which would be stupid as hell.
What about PvE games where you are really only competing against yourself. I'd rank Path of Exile right up there. Forget about the cosmetics. The things like Stash Tabs I think are almost essential if you are into trading or Mapping.
Pay 2 Win has 2 Main Categories in my opinion.

1. Functional Items locked behind a paywall. For example EVE Online has Alpha and Omega classes - Alpha is F2P and Omega is Pay 2 Play. Alpha you have access to only the lowest tier skills and techs while Omega you have access to everything.

Good examples would likely be Fighter Games where you have to "buy Fighters" where a new Fighter released that is OverPowered.

2. Grey Area Pay 2 Win - This is far more common but these generally fall under the category of nearly impossible to do in the main game ( while possible ) without paying. I think the game was Vindictus could be wrong it was some F2P play game where end game gear unless you paid had a degradation rate, and the material to even craft them were extremely rare. So players had to keep constantly grinding to keep their end game weapons while if you paid you did not have weapons degrade. Another good example is the original Star Wars Battlefront Lootboxes.

XP Boosters \ Loot Boosters also fall into a Grey area based on how much of a buff it provides and what those buffs entail.

I personally think Warframe Straddles the Grey area the best. While it does provide functional purchases with premium currency. It also allows players to obtain it from the game and trade premium currency at the same time.
What about PvE games where you are really only competing against yourself. I'd rank Path of Exile right up there. Forget about the cosmetics. The things like Stash Tabs I think are almost essential if you are into trading or Mapping.

The only game I have used money on to get virtual items. The upgraded stash tabs became essential after some time, as all the micromanagement became pretty tedious with just a few tabs. Is it PTW? Well, it depends on what you are doing in the game. If you are working your way up the different ladders, then I would definitely say so. If you are purely running around minding your own business and with no thought of competition, then not so much.

Still, it is a store, and the gameplay as I see it has definitely been molded around the thought of people paying for getting stash upgrades. Cosmetics I see of course no problem with and it is a nice way to help the studio in releasing new content.

@Probably_Human Grrrrrrrr, Star Wars Battlefront Lootboxes!! I was so angry when those started showing up. Lootboxes are a plague in video games and should forever be banished. It is greed, greed, and nothing but greed.
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When it comes to PoE it really depends. I won't deny the currency and map tabs are very, very damn useful. The amount of space just taken by that stuff is shocking. But are they p2w? Not sure tbh, i get along just fine with the standard tabs. Trading wise i buy instead of sell and when it comes to Mapping i can do 90% of it with no problems, i recycle my old maps and buy more using chaos orbs. I don't have much luck when it comes to the rarer unique maps though.

Crafting wise, yes extra tabs will help, but i don't map so not much use to me. Granted people collect loot so that they can get chaos orbs but thats time consuming and i just don't do it.

But what stops me from buying tabs ? the price its its around £6 when on offer. Firstly thats a lot. secondly, i have to buy £10 of currency to do it! what can i do with the other stuff? i could buy a less tab or fork out more money for other tabs. Its kinda annoying tbh. the cosmetics themselves are overpriced to hell. No way i'm spending £20 to look pretty. The league cosmetics and free boxes every so often goes a long way i guess.
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May 31, 2020
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For me any in-game advantage is pay to win. Even if it theoretically can be earned in game. I've (shamefully :p ) paid to win before (buying weapons I could've grinded for in Planetside 2). Felt empty "winning" with them. Found the micro-transactions insidious too because each weapon was only a small amount of money. You don't realise how much you've spent until you sit down and work it all out.

Good learning experience though, just avoid micro-transactions altogether now and avoid free-to-play games generally because they always start fun then get grindy or expensive.
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