How the Way We Pay for Games Has Evolved


There was once a time when the gaming marketplace was much more straightforward. Consoles and games were available for a fixed price, with the newest machines and titles commanding the highest amounts, which then dropped with time.

That model endures to this day in many respects, with the latest generation of consoles by Microsoft and Sony following the tried and tested format of selling hardware and games for a fixed price. But the marketplace in which the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 will compete is far more complex than in years past.

In this article, we will examine how the way we pay for games has changed in recent years, including the strategies used by game and platform developers.


Many of the world’s most popular gaming titles of the last decade have not cost players a single penny to obtain and play. Multi-million-dollar mobile games like Angry Birds, and console titles like Fortnite, are free to download and enjoy. But how can this be true?

The way these games make their money is through advertising and in-game purchases, with mobile games in particular using a combination of the two techniques to create a lucrative financial model. This model can support the growth of the business while keeping the game accessible to all players.

Players of the top free mobile titles will be displayed adverts throughout their experience – and the advertising itself has also evolved; from simple images that link to a product through to interactive experiences where the gamer can actually try the promoted title out without downloading.

Some games allow players to purchase a ‘premium’ version that disables advertising completely, although a large number of developers prefer players to continue to enjoy the product for free while viewing commercials from their partners.

In-game purchases

In-game purchases further boost the earning potential of a title that is free to play. Console games like Fortnite let players purchase aesthetic elements like outfits and accessories, although the majority of console and mobile games offer players the chance to progress more quickly by making a purchase.

This is a divisive issue for gamers, with many criticizing models that don’t permit players to properly ‘beat’ the game without purchasing some kind of power-up. Equally, many resent being out-flanked by rivals who have simply invested more money in the game, with actual skill becoming secondary in some scenarios.

Other games that are free to play offer free trials to new players, which is a tactic that has long been employed in other entertainment sectors. For example, many leading casino platforms offer new customers the chance to play for free – or serve up a generous welcome offer. Indeed, such is the success of the concept that websites like allow players to track down the best bonuses available, so it’s no surprise to see traditional console and mobile gaming also utilizing this strategy.

As you can see, alongside subscription gaming services like Google Stadia, where players pay monthly to access a library of titles, the way we pay for games, across mobile and console, has changed significantly. And though the traditional console marketplace has not yet disappeared, it will be fascinating to see how the landscape changes further in the years and decades ahead.

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