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The Curse of Tippecanoe
The Curse of Tippecanoe
February 15, 2024

How Free Video Games Make Money

How+Free+Video+Games+Make+Money

A Game is a Business Venture
Video games are often more attractive if they are free; anyone can download it and play it. But the game makers still need to be paid – often a large team of skilled developers and testers are working on a hit game. Such game developers must make a player part ways with their money in order to pay every employee. The war over your wallet is their lifeline, and the creators of your favorite game might just have a few battle tactics.
­­­Ads are a common deal made to spread messages and earn revenue, but it stops a game in its tracks. In the middle of a game, it’s simply not fun to have disruptions that ruin the experience. Sometimes, though, when the alternative is paying real money, you might consider watching the ad.
Crossy Road, an arcade-style mobile game, uses ads. Its iconic gameplay consists of a chicken dodging different obstacles to endlessly advance across the terrain, and once you finish a run, you’re often not working towards any goal in the game. Since you’re not trying to rack up currencies to buy a cool new piece of armor and won’t object as much to watching a short ad, even if it still bugs you that you have to.
A less disruptive alternative is a premium experience, which people like more because they can refuse the bonus, whereas ads are shoved in your face over and over. Often this grants you better gear or a cool skin when you complete the same tasks a free player does. Although this gives paying players an advantage, it is up to developers as to how much of an advantage this gives. Too little of an incentive might cause people to just play free, while too much of an advantage causes popularity to decline, as hard work in-game is rendered useless by a credit card. You might know this as pay-to-win, the most despicable ailment ever to hit a video game.

The Fortnite store, filled with microtransactions.
The most important money-making method, despite being the subject of many Internet memes and subtle complaints, is none other than microtransaction. Microtransactions let you use a small amount of money to gain a small advantage, an hour to weeks of saved time, and the amount of time saved is proportional to how much you spend.
For example, you can buy 100 Pokecoins in Pokémon GO for 99 cents, while you can also buy 550 for $4.99. It slightly encourages you to buy in bulk, so it is your choice as to the satisfaction value of the options. (Fun Fact: When the game launched, 550 Pokecoins was actually $7.99, making it cheaper to buy 100 Pokecoins 6 times. I’d assume this was based on the assumption that it was more of a hassle to do it the latter way.)
Gacha Mechanics: Is This the Jackpot?
The extraordinarily popular Genshin Impact, developed by Chinese company Hoyoverse, deploys the most powerful tool ever conceived when it comes to emptying wallets. Gacha mechanics in video games, named after the real-life casino game, offer a slim chance of obtaining a very powerful unit every time you “pull”, or exchange virtual currency for an in-game item of varying power. This
The best weapons in terms of raw damage are the 5-stars in Genshin Impact, which on average deal 500-600 damage at their maximum level. Their less powerful counterparts are 4-star and 3-star weapons, deal 300-400 and 200-300 damage at max level. That’s all fine…until you realize that 5-star weapons have a 0.6 percent chance to be given per pull! 4-stars have a measly 5.1 percent drop rate, so that means you’ll be getting a weapon with half the power and much fewer capabilities in an overwhelmingly large amount of time.
(If you’re wondering why I didn’t point out the rarity of the characters here, that’s because they all have additional effects and a meta. Characters start from 4-star, and so are pretty rare by default, but 5-stars often still have more utility.)
Rarity might just be part of the charm of Genshin Impact’s rare items, but the price of pulling once is often an hour’s work, possibly a day’s. If a person had just too few “Primogems”, the in-game currency required to pull, for the amount of pulls needed at the most to get a 5-star character (90 pulls), leaving your credit card where it is takes some fortitude for a die-hard fan.
This is exacerbated by “limited banners”, which are opportunities to pull for a character that may not appear on the banner for years. This creates a sense of urgency among players, whether the character is good in combat or you just want to catch ‘em all, to use their money to get them. Who knows how long they’ll be gone?
Hold on to your money, kids.

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