Pay to Win

A player can spend real money to purchase something that gives them an advantage in the game.

Many games have a system where you can purchase items by using in-game currency. This currency can be earned by performing certain actions, such as grinding and sometimes it can be purchased with real money, which makes it a premium currency. If earning the in-game currency through gameplay is so slow that it's almost impossible to realistically earn enough to buy the necessary items, then spending real money becomes necessary. The players who spend the most will have the biggest advantage and a free-to-play (F2P) player will be at a significant disadvantage.

If you can spend real money to give yourself an advantage over other players, then a game is exhibiting the "Pay to Win" dark pattern. In addition to accelerating the normal earning of in-game currency, you may also be able to purchase a "cheat" or unlock some otherwise unobtainable item that gives you an advantage.

Sometimes games give large incentives to be in the top ranks, but make it impossible to get into the top ranks unless you constantly spend money to purchase the latest items or upgrades. This dark pattern is sometimes called "Monetized Rivalries", and when its combined with another dark pattern, called depreciation, it can setup a player to be constantly needing to spend money to stay ahead of other players.


Examples

PewDiePie's Pixelings PewDiePie's Pixelings
"Loot boxes contain rare pixellings, but nothing is purely-gated, you can still eventually get the best ones by luck."

MARVEL Strike Force MARVEL Strike Force
"New characters are locked behind a pay wall for about a week until these characters are released to everyone. So if you brought the ‘deals’ before the release then you have the advantage."

Candy Crush Soda Saga Candy Crush Soda Saga
"You can pay for boosters which make hard levels easier to pass."

Gems of War - Match 3 RPG Gems of War - Match 3 RPG
"PvP is very optional in this game, which provides less pressure for casual players. That being said, the PvP circuit will be heavily influenced by acquiring stronger teams."

Mortal Kombat Mortal Kombat
"Special offers allow players to purchase new or specific characters using in-game currency."

World of Tanks Blitz MMO World of Tanks Blitz MMO
"You can buy premium currency to buy currency for tanks, better equipment etc ..., premuim time that gives you more currency and experience per battle, can be exchanged for experience to unlock new vehicles faster, vehicles that sometimes are OP etc..."

Walking Dead: Road to Survival Walking Dead: Road to Survival
"It’s pay to compete. Pay more to win."

Roblox Roblox
"As Rōblox is a platform of games (rather than a single game in itself), developers are allowed to implement 'pay-to'win'."

Archero Archero
"Better gear."

Hearthstone Hearthstone
"whole concept of collectible card game is this."