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Costs to Compete - Analyzing Pay to Win Aspects in Current Games

Author:Thomas Tregel, Miriam Claudia Schwab, Thanh Tung Linh Nguyen, Philipp Niklas Müller, Stefan Göbel
Date:October 2020
Kind:In proceedings - use for conference & workshop papers
Book title:Serious Games. JCSG 2020. Lecture Notes in Computer Science
Editor:M. Ma, B. Fletcher, S. Göbel, J. Baalsrud Hauge, T. Marsh
Pages:177 - 192
Keywords:Competitive games, Loot box, Pay-to-win
Research Area(s):Serious Games
Abstract:Microtransactions, in the form of loot boxes, are items in a digital game, bought with real money that contains semi-randomized content. They are a commonly used concept for monetarization in current games that are also often free to play. When purchasable items give players a decisive advantage in a game, people often call it pay-to-win: competitive advantages through real-money in-game purchases. In this study, we analyze and identify different aspects of current video games, to assess, whether a game has partial, or strong pay-to-win elements. Within a user study of 96 participants, these aspects are then rated individually and compared to the users’ subjective opinion whether a presented game has strong pay-to-win elements, differentiating between players that actively play a respective game and those who do not. We then analyze two popular games, regarding their expected costs, to stay in a highly competitive environment. Due to the virtual power gained by investing money into those games, players can feel obliged to invest to stay competitive and increase their chances of winning. Our results indicate that selected aspects are clear indicators to predict whether a game is perceived as being pay-to-win. Additionally, our main conclusion shows the threat of new players having to invest heavily in a loot box system already compared to gambling in multiple countries.

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