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Over the past years, many video games were developed using the hybrid model of traditional video games and games of money and chance. They are known as Free to play / pay to win: these games are free but offer opportunities of paying to increase one’s chances of progressing in the game or to simply enhance their experience. A winning strategy for the gaming industry, but with consequences sometimes disastrous for the player.
The Free to play / pay to win phenomena first became largely popular among mobile game applications where one could advance quicker thanks to micropayments of a few dollars. One of the better-known examples of this remains the mobile app, Candy Crush Saga, a puzzle game whose progress is widely favoured by micropayments. In some cases, a player will make a purchase with a specific goal: for example, to acquire a new skill or to unlock a level. But in others, they do not know what they are buying. Such is the case when the game offers the opportunity to purchase a loot box, without knowing its contents: it could contain new features to improve a character’s performance, skins or simple accessories. A concept very much resembling games of money and chance.
These new types of games are the subject of various studies, aiming mainly at evaluating the impact of this hybridization on the development of addiction. An article published in the magazine, Addiction(s): recherches et pratiques in December 2018 spoke precisely of this:
“By combining the graphic and entertaining aspects of video games with the monetary and randomness aspects of games of money and chance, these new forms of hybrid games, stimulating and addictive, create a context conducive to loss of control. Their immersive and time-consuming nature, raises concerns about possible consequences on the individual and on society.”
Money put into these “free” games may be a few dollars for some and thousands for others. Take Fortnite for example, one of the most popular online games in the world. Although it is possible to play for free, one can however, purchase accessories, skins or even dance steps for the character to do when they win a battle. These improvements, at first purely aesthetical, can end up playing a role in the game. They can intimidate the enemy, make you appear to be a skilled player, or simply make the game more entertaining. Peer pressure can also push beginners to make purchases, if for example, they wear skins provided for free by the game, they will then be identified as beginners by the rest of the group.
On Fortnite, as in other games, making purchases is facilitated using virtual in-game currency. For Fortnite, this is called V-Bucks. It is a method that requires the player to buy V-Bucks “bundles” for a certain amount of money, thus camouflaging the real purchase value and creating the illusion of not spending real money.
Even if the amount of each transaction made in the game remains low, it is the accumulation of these transactions that ends up causing severe consequences.
“With games of money and chance, we can gamble our house away in one night. With video games, we cannot end up in that situation. However, spending 3000$ 4000$ 5000$ on skins or objects in the game is very possible. We regularly see that, especially with adolescents who are less aware of conscious spending.” explains Mr. Miguel Therriault, Professional Services Coordinator at the adolescent treatment center Le Grand Chemin.
If your gaming/gambling habits, or those of a loved one worry you, you are not alone: call us at 1-800-461-0140 or chat with us, bottom right. We can provide support, personalized information and refer you to resources adapted to your situation. Our services are available 24/7.