I think we can all agree that whilst Poker and Roulette are both classed as gambling, they are very different games. Now that we have established that, let’s look at Pay2Win vs Pay2Play. Pay2Play is not that radical a concept to many gamers. You pay to take part in a game, just as you would with Poker or Roulette. You spend some money to fund a pot to win more money. With gaming, instead of gambling, that can translate to in-game items or currency.
Taking a quick — but important — diversion, I think we can also agree that Batman is more powerful than just about all of his opponents. He has a gadget to take down any foe, protection against the strongest of attacks or a way to escape his enemies before he becomes overwhelmed. Batman buys what he needs to be this powerful though; he’s not innately ‘super’.
With those 2 giant leaps of faith taken, let’s turn our attention to Pay2Win. It’s a fairly unsavoury practice in gaming where you can effectively buy your way to a victory over other players. You don’t need to be as good as other players because you can “Batman” yourself to a win — hence Pay2Win. If your pockets are deep enough you can buy every upgrade, every health boost or the most powerful weapons. Just like Batman — where your superpower is…a no limit credit card!
The thing is though, you’re not really Batman. You’re just someone who has bought themselves a skill level over and above other players. It doesn’t take practice or any ability to get good; you’re good the second you stroll into the game, but only thanks to all those purchases. Ability is now secondary to upgrades. Why go through all that unnecessary grinding for hours and hours that the plebs have to endure when you can quickly hit the “buy” button, skip the work and be instantly better than all the other players?
A great recent — and probably the most well known example — is EA’s Starwars Battlefront 2. They had a card system, Star Cards, that you could equip to your player. They ran through levels 1 to 4. Here’s where it got really bad; you were limited to which cards you could attach based on your class rank. Class rank is determined by the number of cards you have for that class. The more cards you have, the higher your rank and the better equipment you can have. The option was either to spend countless hours grinding futilely in-game against players who had purchased the upgrades OR just pay a bit more to advance your character with a predatory lootbox gambling system. If you didn’t have the money, you encountered a noticeable glass ceiling quickly.
EA faced an early backlash from players, influencers and critics alike. It got worse still as more discoveries were made about the Star Cards. The ONLY way to effectively be any good at the game was to purchase additional upgrades, hidden behind a paywall of lootboxes and gambling mechanics. Star Wars is a huge IP. It attracts players of all ages and backgrounds who bought the full price 60 dollar game only to find all of the required add-ons that were essential to be competitive.
Make no mistake, Battlefront 2 wasn’t even a good game at launch. The graphics weren’t great, the gameplay wasn’t very solid; it hid iconic characters from the series behind monetisation ‘options’ and came with a host of bugs. It was made virtually unplayable for many because of the lootbox system that hid all of the best perks and upgrades behind a metered economy.
A few wealthy players were able to ‘Batman’ their way to success in-game. They’re known in the gaming industry as “whales”. Those that spend huge amounts of money on a game that they like. The rest of the Battlefront 2 player base were left grinding helplessly against those who were able to afford the lootboxes to advance their characters. The whales had an experience vastly removed from others as they strolled from map to map with the highest kill counts and lowest death rates. Skill no wasn’t a factor; upgrades were what made you good.
Pay2Win games, quite reasonably, are not popular among players. When you remove the skill levels, you have unfair competition with 1 or 2 players dominating every match. That can make for a miserable experience for the other players. There’s no longevity in these games as the majority of the player base soon leave, unhappy with the repetitive grinding or exploitative nature to level up.
Here’s where Pay2Play enters our story. It’s not a vastly different way to join a game and one that most people are used to outside of gaming too. Just as you would do with Poker, you pay to fund the prize pool along with your fellow players. Nobody has any financial advantage over and above anyone else. The rewards system and the economy are still there but it allows for fair competition. Players KNOW what they’re getting into from the outset, unlike many of the more predatory Pay2Win models found in gaming.
That understanding from the outset is something Tanks are very keen to make players aware of. Our in-game economy is one of the lynchpins to our success. We work on fair gameplay with no exploits. There’s no reason to give a few players with the deepest pockets an unfair advantage. Pay2Play can and does work. There’s been many examples where it’s very easy to point the finger at those who haven’t executed this successfully. Indeed, it’s a great clickbait piece for many news outlets to highlight yet another failed game because of it’s implementation of economies.
For Pay2Play to work, players need to have fun in the game. That’s what so many companies forget in their mad dash for instant profits. You push players away if you implement needless micro-transactions. Players are on board with digital and real world economies when they’re done right. When they feel their purchases hold no value or are a requirement to be competitive is when they lose interest and investment in a game.
It can be a lot of fun to be an in-game Batman. The only thing is, it’s not much fun to play AGAINST Batman for everyone else.