P2W and F2P are two of the most used terms in gaming, but what do they mean exactly? With the continued growth of freemium games and the ever-increasing popularity of microtransactions in games of all types, these terms have never been more relevant.
If you’ve ever wondered what they mean and how they differ, then it’s time to look a little deeper. Here’s what P2W and F2P mean and how they differ.
What does P2W mean?
When it comes to video games, P2W is a pretty simple acronym, coming from “pay-to-win.” Pay-to-win is essentially a term used to describe games that require or heavily involve paying real money in order to give players access to a significant advantage over other players.
For example, a P2W game might allow players to heal after kills or increase their damage numbers for a fee. In practice it is often a bit more complicated.
In most cases, P2W games offer equal access to the same content to players who are willing to pay and those who are not. The benefit given to players willing to pay is often in the form of time.
Many pay-to-win games implement waiting times or long cooldowns in many parts of their game loops. For example, building a structure in a city management game may take several hours or real time before it is complete.
All players experience these waiting times, but for those players who are willing to pay, these waiting times can be reduced or skipped entirely for money. However, whether this gives a player a distinct advantage over other players depends on the game itself.
It’s worth noting that just because a game includes ways to spend your money like microtransactions doesn’t necessarily make a game a P2W.
There are many different examples of gaming microtransactions, but unless the transaction directly affects your odds of winning, it doesn’t make the game a pay-to-win.
What does F2P mean?
F2P (or sometimes FtP) is another acronym that comes from the phrase “free-to-play”. The term is somewhat self-explanatory and denotes any game that doesn’t cost money to play the game.
This differs from many commercial products and games that you must purchase in order to play or use. It is worth noting that F2P games are often seen as different from freeware games since freeware games are completely free.
However, with free-to-play games there is often a cost included somewhere. In many popular free-to-play games like Fortnite, League of Legends, and CS:GO, these costs come in the form of microtransactions in exchange for in-game cosmetics.
Other F2P games, like many mobile games, do not contain in-game microtransactions, but instead integrate advertising directly into the game. It’s not uncommon for these games to offer the player the opportunity to see more advertisements in exchange for in-game rewards.
What is the difference between P2W and F2P?
When it comes to determining the difference between P2W and F2P, it is important to understand that the two terms are not mutually exclusive. A free-to-play game can easily be pay-to-win or not, and the same goes for games that require a commercial purchase.
That being said, there is a correlation between games that are F2P and P2W elements. Because developing F2P games costs money, and companies want to profit from it. As a result, F2P game developers implement measures to monetize their product.
For some free-to-play games, these measures take the form of cosmetic purchases that don’t affect the game itself, while for other free-to-play games, you skip grinding items in exchange for in-game purchases can.
Whether grinding is good or bad in video games is a tricky debate and can sometimes blur the line of whether a game is P2W or not. If all characters in a fighting game are balanced equally, but you can pay to unlock a character instantly, does it pay an advantage or not?
P2W and F2P are different
As you can see, pay-to-win and free-to-play are two different but closely related terms. While it may not be true that all F2P games are P2W, there is a definite correlation between the two.
But what exactly constitutes a P2W game can be a bit difficult to deduce, especially given the rise of microtransactions and other dubious actions in video games. It never hurts to learn more about the topic.