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Let’s talk about Pay to Win and it’s various layers and meanings.

As time moves on and more and more MMORPGs release that have different amounts of services/items you can buy from an in-game store, I think it's worth discussing all the various types of "Pay to Win" labels. Everyone seems to have different threshold levels of when something is unforgivably pay to win, and as such I think it's worth discussion on what these "levels" consist of. I'll start with all the levels/layers I can think of, and ask for others to help add in others I may have missed.

Let's start with what consists of a game with zero pay to win mechanics and move up from there.

  • Games with no in-game store nor means of paying for anything with real money except for a subscription.

  • Games with ONLY "meta" features for sale such as name changes, server transfers, character redesigns.

  • Games with cosmetic purchases (and/or above listed features) only. This can be subdivided further but for the specifics of this list this refers to things that have NO gameplay affect and are only for looks. (Mounts that are mechanically the same as all other mounts in the game but look unique below here.)

Now's when things start getting a bit trickier to separate and hence why I feel a discussion is needed. I will try and split things to how I see it potentially being split "fairly" but this could be subjective.

  • Games with Pay for Time Convenience. This layer is pretty vague but specifically refers to purchases that essentially trade real life time commitment for cash. Examples include Level Boosts, Exp Boosts, Dungeon tickets, Teleport Tickets, Extra Storage, etc. For the purposes of keeping things from getting too complicated I will also include paying cash for in-game currency under this layer.

  • Games with Pay for Luck Convenience. This specifically refers to games that sell items that boost your "luck" for getting upgrades/augments to your weapons. I'm also including "drop rate" increasing items in this section. This specific layer of pay to win can get ESPECIALLY egregious if the game makes it incredibly unlikely for someone not paying for luck to achieve the same level of gear as someone who pays for it.

  • Games with Pay for Power. This is probably the highest you can go in terms of Pay 2 Win. This refers to when someone who pays money specifically gets access to power that is otherwise unavailable to someone who doesn't pay extra for it. This could mean paying for higher stats, buffs, armor, weapons, mounts, or anything else that specifically makes them "stronger" than someone who doesn't pay.

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In the case of most MMORPGs currently released on the market, you will find that they often pick and choose from the above three layers of pay to win and so the line gets very blurry most of the time. Sometimes a game will allow you to pay cash to get currency but not any of the other methods, but due to in-game means you still effectively achieve the same result. (For example in Albion Online you can buy an in-game item that gives you gear experience from the marketplace. This means that someone with unlimited cash can trade it for as much gold as they need to then buy as many exp boosting items in game as they need to achieve the same result.) However even this small difference in how the developers handle things can cause some people to claim it is not pay to win while others say it clearly is pay to win. All in all, the main purpose of this thread is to discuss the the idea that "p2w" is becoming more and more useless as a tag due to the various levels you can achieve depending on your game.

Can you think of any other forms of "Pay to Win" that I forgot to include or you feel doesn't fit appropriately in the above?

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