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  • An in-universe example in Civilization II: you can bribe non-barbarian enemy units. Once you get filthy rich with Democracy, just buy off any incoming enemy armies. Pay the gold, then send them back to their home cities to go slaughter their friends and families under your banner.
  • The 2nd Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara game, Shadow Over Mystara features a cursed sword that turns into the Infinity +1 Sword once you use it enough. The sword drains your life every time you attack. Back when the game was in arcades, you would need to insert enough coins for two or three lives (depending on how well equipped your party's cleric was with healing spells) before the sword would transform.
  • Assassin's Creed: Rogue has as much focus on naval combat as Black Flag. The difference? You can scrounge and grind resources and money for the Morrigan's upgrades. Or you can just abuse the DLC time saver packs, which can be bought ad infinitum for around two bucks a pop, and have the Morrigan fully upgraded before the end of Sequence 3. Enjoy oneshotting those enemy ships early on.
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  • Tiny Tower has Tower Bux, which, although they can be obtained naturally during the course of a game, are few and far between. Bux can be used to buy money, speed up construction, and generally just make your life easier.
  • Forza has an In-Universe example, the Hired Driver in Motorsport 3 and Motorsport 4. For a mere 50% of your winnings (easily negated by disabling driver aids and increasing the AI's difficulty), he'll almost guarantee a win in any race on any difficulty; particularly useful on the hour-long endurance races. The Hired Driver basically drives like The Stig.
    • Forza Motorsport 3 has the Game-Breaker Porsche 550, which thoroughly dominates almost every leaderboard. It's part of one of the $5 DLC packages.
    • Real Life example; it's not exactly known what Turn 10 did to get Porsche back, but it's a general assumption they paid EA a huge sack of money.
  • Gwent: The Witcher Card Game: Cards are unlocked through kegs which can be purchased individually for in-game currency or in bundles for real money.
  • This trope, Allegedly Free Game, and Revenue-Enhancing Devices are the foundation for the business model of just about every free MMO game out there, particularly Korean MMORPGs.
    • It has also become the main method of may Allegedly Free Apps, also known as "Freemium" Apps for smart phones, where one can buy special in-game currency with real money that can perform special actions or unlock new items or characters. You are expected to bribe your way to victory in this case. The fact that many of these games target young children has brought the business model under legal scrutiny.
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    • Final Fantasy Record Keeper is an example of a microtransaction in a freemium game done right: while you can purchase gems with real-world money, these are only used to replace Mythril during the relic draws and when reviving the party. And with the game giving you at least one free piece of Mythril every day and when you complete a dungeon for the first time, plus the rare equipment giveaways during events such as Halloween, Christmas and New Year, means that the only reason you would want the gems is if you didn't have enough Mythril in the first place.
  • In Test Drive Unlimited 2, preordering the game from Walmart gives you the most powerful car in the game, the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, which blew all the other cars away in the majority of competitions until, eventually, some of the non-preorder cars were buffed to make them competitive.
  • Magic: The Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers and its subsequent xpacs each contain numerous decks and cards that can be unlocked through play. Each deck can be unlocked through playing the campaign, and each deck, including the starting decks, have between 15 and 25 additional cards that really must be unlocked in order for the deck to actually be competitive in online multiplayer play. Each win with each unlocked deck unlocks... one card. So, you either need you endlessly grind the campaign with each and every single deck, or you could pay a buck for a full deck unlock.
  • In the West, originally, Pokémon was marketed so that players were encouraged to make friends with each other and trade their Pokémon around to collect all 150 of them... Instead, this taught kids to buy multiple Game Boys and every single cartridge. ... Win? Of course, the older gens (pre-Gen IV, which introduced both the Global Trade Station and wireless trading) also pretty much served as an incentive to buy link cables for trading.
  • Madden NFL 10, at least for the PlayStation 3, went absolutely insane with it. It's bad enough that they expect you to shell out ten dollars to purchase an "AFC LEGACY PACK" that's just a few different costumes and stadiums that in all honesty should have just come with the game in retail (and technically did). But for the first time, inputting cheat codes for the single player games isn't a matter of using 'cards' awarded in game for good play, but rather purchasing the use of those cheat codes online in the PlayStation Store. Not to mention the new "Madden Ultimate Online" mode, which is like any other online mode, but with the added fun of shelling out $5 a pack for 11 cards, and needing a deck of 100 cards to play. Oh, and those cards you just paid real life money for? They disappear from your account forever after playing enough online games with them (usually around 6), forcing you to buy more packs.
    • Madden's college counterpart, NCAA 10, is slightly less insane about it. You can pay for dynasty accelerators, such as recruiting reports (they give you a leg up in recruiting new players) and a 'Toughest Places to Play' boost (it bumps your stadium higher on the list of toughest stadiums to play in, which rattles visiting teams). Quite a lot of people don't bother with the accelerators because they're unnecessary. There was a lot of controversy over players using the accelerators in Online Dynasty, which gave them an advantage over the other OD players.
  • Bloodline Champions allows you to obtain all the characters by paying real money for them.
  • Team Fortress 2 downplays this, even though it is (now) a Free-To-Play game supported by the Mann Co. Store.
    • Weapons randomly drop in the game, so if you really want a specific weapon you can pay for it, but if you don't want to you can just wait for it, craft the weapon yourself, or trade for it with other players.
    • There are very rare weapons that are available through promotions or events, but they're just reskins (different model, same functionality) of common weapons.
    • With two exceptions: the Pyro's default melee weapon has a direct upgrade in the "Third Degree" (a fire axe which also damages any Medics healing your target), and the Pyro's Rainblower has a unique Practical Taunt that does heavy damage to anyone near the Pyro after the animation, but otherwise works exactly like the stock Flamethrower; every other weapon in the game has at least one drawback that the stock weapons don't have. All weapons in the game aren't meant to be better or worse than other weapons, just different—so you can play fine with your stock weapons. Some are simply passive items or buffs that replace what would generally be a side weapon (for example, Demoknights). This keeps stock weapons very attractive, because they come without any drawbacks.
    • There are the crates, which can only be opened with keys bought with real money, but the items inside the crates don't affect gameplay, being only cosmetic accessories or weapons with counters, and you can trade the keys with other players.
    • In the Mann vs. Machine mode, there's the Mann Up mode, in which you buy tickets with money to play on special servers. The only major difference between the free mode and the paid mode is that in the paid mode, you get some exclusive items (which don't affect gameplay) at the end of a match.
    • The prior existing examples of this trope were a group of items with a Set Bonus – the problem being that these sets demanded that the player also have a rarely-dropped (or more readily purchased) hat included to get the effect. Some of these effects proved quite useful, such as immunity to death by headshot for the Sniper, or the ability to decloak with near perfect silence for the Spy. Other subsequent sets were included, but omitted the need to wear an associated hat as well as reduced the significance of the bonuses granted. Valve saw both the player backlash against the concept and the gameplay imbalances caused by the item sets, which finally resulted in all item sets having their gameplay bonuses removed in the July 2013 patch, either removing the effects entirely or placing less-powerful equivalents of the removed bonuses onto the individual items that originally made up the set.
  • In the free MUD Achaea, players can use credits to purchase skill bonuses and powerful magic items, or sell them for gold. Credits can be bought with the in-game currency, gold sovereigns, from people doing the latter, or (much more quickly and easily) with real money. The company that makes Achaea, Iron Realms Entertainment, is a major fan of this trope, having it put into place on all their MUDs as well as the MMORPG Earth Eternal. In fact, this is so powerful it's almost a game breaker — the different factions all have pretty standard rules on how high any particular guild skill can be while at any particular guild level, to stop people just buying complete mastery of every skill practically the moment they join a guild. You can also effectively convert credits into cold hard (in-game) cash, therefore making it quite easy to have a completely maxed-out character with nothing but the best equipment for practically zero effort and little expenditure.
  • The online golf game Pangya (formerly Albatross 18) has two kinds of stat-boosting items: Pang items, which you pay for using the in-game currency that you earn by playing golf, and Cookie items, which you pay for with real money. The incentive? The better Pang items frequently have limiters of the form "you must be over a certain rank to use this item", meaning that you have to have a lot of XP as well as Pang to get them.
  • Atlantica Online, like many other free to play MMO, makes its money by means of an Item Mall, where various items can be bought for real cash, such as the Blessing Potion (which makes the players group much stronger for a limited time), Mounts (faster movement and other boni) or certain valuable items that can also be gotten ingame. All these items can also be traded with other players, allowing customers to make ingame money for real money as well, provided they can find someone rich enough. Some items are also occasionally given away for free or can be found during seasonal events.
  • Burnout Paradise has a variety of downloadable content, the majority of which is new vehicles. One pair of cars, sold as the Boost Specials pack, have clear "you bought it, you win" traits. The Carson Extreme Hotrod is one of the fastest, if not THE fastest car in the game, and uses a special Locked Boost where you can boost any time after the gauge is half-full and not stop boosting until you brake, spin out or crash. The Montgomery Hawker Mech can switch between all three standard boost modes- Aggression (Takedowns extend the gauge, aggressive driving fills it up quicker), Speed (can only boost at full power, but using it all in one go causes a Burnout which refills it, and you can chain Burnouts to keep boosting), and Stunt (stunts and tricks fill up the gauge faster).
    • There's also the "Legendary Cars" pack, which includes homages to four classic movie/TV cars. The homage to KITT (the modern KITT, not the old one), called the Nighthawk GT, is among the fastest cars in the game, handles very well, and has a maxed strength rating. To top it off, however, when boosting, the car deploys a spoiler, making it handle better than it did before boosting.
      • It goes without saying that the Nighthawk GT and the Carson Extreme did indeed turn out to be the best cars, and of course they aren't in the same pack. The third car that was competitive with both, the last car in the regular game (a police interceptor edition of a F1 car) was, of course, nerfed too.
    • Played dead straight with the Timesaver pack, which will unlock every car in the game as soon as you download it.
  • In the first Dead Space, it's possible to download one of several DLC suits (some of which come with extra weapon skins). While most of them (the Elite and Obsidian) only provide marginal defense, ponying up $4 can either get you the Scorpion Suit (which includes three upgraded weapons that fire faster than their original variants) or the Advanced Unitology Suit (which has double the damage resistance of the Scorpion, making it the best protection in the game, plus three upgraded weapons that deal more damage). Disc-One Nuke and Game-Breaker doesn't begin to describe it.
    • In Dead Space 2, you can buy one of several DLC packs (including any one of nine different suits) that give you small bonuses (5-10% increases to either damage, reload or firing speed). Interestingly, the developers seemed to have learned their lesson from the previous game, because almost all of these suits only give you a small advantage compared to their DLC predecessors.
    • Dead Space 3 allows for some microtransactions when crafting weapons. Don't have enough scrap metal for that new gun? You can buy some using real world cash.
  • After Devil May Cry 5 was reported to include micro-transactions during Tokyo Game Show 2018, many knee-jerk reacions lambasted the decision to include it in a single-player game, some claiming that the moves were paylocked and forcing players to pay for Red Orbs, the in-game currency, in order to obtain the skills. The reality is that while the Deluxe Edition of the game includes 100,000 Red Orbs from the start, a similar system had already been implemented in Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition back in 2015, and the drops had been tweaked. Director Hideaki Itsuno had stated that it was giving players the option to save time instead of having to grind for Red Orbs, but players "should be able to play it the way [they] want to play. Producer Matt Walker had to clarify multiple times that the game will be balanced in terms of Red Orbs drop rate, and that players won't necessarily have to buy Red Orbs, assuaging some fears.
  • In the NCSoft MMORPG Dungeon Runners, the game itself is free to play. However, if you want item storage, stackable recovery items (potions), or indeed to be able to use any item above the green (2nd tier) quality level - then you have to pay for a subscription. Some items are also buyable with real money. Two of their later releases, Exteel and Aion, have similar systems.
  • Several official plug-ins available for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion add additional content. "Unfortunately", some of this content is heavily unbalanced and introduces some Game-Breaker capabilities to even the lowest of levels (including a dagger that has a chance to One-Hit Kill enemies, although it isn't as powerful as a custom weapon and/or spells a player can create in the game itself). Most of the material was later included in the Expansion Pack Knights of the Nine.
  • Similarly, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has the Creation Club, which hires community content creators to make official DLC. One of the creations available for purchase adds a chest containing very powerful spells for all levels that comes with a quest marker pointing to it right from the beginning of the game. Kill a handful of enemies and loot some twenty spells, ranging from variants on regular spells that deal three times damage for half the mana (even if the target is resistant or immune) to an area effect paralysis that costs less than the regular single target one. Additionally, buying the pack drops otherwise unobtainable powerful robes into your inventory. Because the game heavily subverts Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards, buying the pack is the only way to keep your mage competitive with some of the more optimized fighter builds around. While you can download a Game Mod to gain additional spells or improve magic for free or use the Creation Kit to make your own, doing so will disable achievements.
  • The Elder Scrolls Online tries hard to avert this trope, while still finding every other angle to get small purchases from players. Items bought with real money can't be traded, and nowhere can equipment be purchased with cash. However, the DLC has a massive impact on player abilities, including access to equipment, skills, and materials.
  • In eRepublik, there are national currencies, and there's Gold. You need Gold for everything good (but not basic needs). You can get it in-game in several ways, but you can also buy it for very real money. One eUS vice President spent approximately $9000 in the space of three months; this is more the exception rather than the rule. Quite a few players still pay real money, but nowhere near as much. However, you can only buy gold with cash once per week (and up to a certain amount).
  • Cyber Nations lets players get free tech levels, infrastructure, land, and in-game cash in exchange for donations, but limits players to one donation per month. It's not essential, but it can lead to a nice boost in tax collections if timed right.
  • Space MMORPG EVE Online quickly became tired of Real Money Trading. The solution? For 15 bucks, you can buy a Game Time Card and "sell" it for in-game money through a system EVE's developers put in themselves. Conversely, if one generates enough in-game currency then one can pay for their subscription entirely in-game without spending a single real-world penny.
    • This has been taken to its (il)logical extreme by an extremely wealthy player financing his entire alliance by buying GTCs and selling them for in-game currency.
    • It's perfectly acceptable to buy a character from another player using in-game currency. Either the buyer already earned it the hard way by grinding, or they don't have the metagame experience and will quickly get themselves blown up. Potentially losing thousands of dollars/euros/etc. in the process.
    • Because Eve Online's time cards (PLEXes) are 'real' items within the game, it's possible to lose them, or have them stolen, if you're not careful. Thus was the horror of a player who lost $1,295 worth of them - to a pirate who blew them up. For the Evulz, indeed.
  • Final Fantasy XI. The Fan Fest convention has always had in-game items handed out to players who paid the ticket price and attended (or a while back, just pay the ticket price, and get the item code mailed, but this was stopped since too many people bought tickets and never showed up), the server transfers for characters, and they have been selling real-life accessories with codes for in-game items. The usefulness of the items is nifty at best, since most of them can only be used every few days, and it's no Game-Breaker. Considering the SE Tax, however, you'd think it would be. Still, if you wanna have any moogle-themed gear...
    • Also, the equipment you can get at the end of the "add-on scenarios," which each cost $10 and provide "content" (mostly involving lazy fetch quests) you can beat in a matter of hours, can be augmented with a wide variety of customized stats, including some variations you physically cannot get any other way. The first gear released this way was blatantly overpowered (in some cases eclipsing gear it takes some players over a year to get), but it got increasingly toned down in the next two. Sadly, the add-on scenarios didn't get any more fun as a result of this.
  • Forum Warz has various "Illegal Game Enhancements" that give you a ton of forum visits, a lot of cash, or an insta-kill ability. However, this completely disables all the multiplayer functions unless you pay for another enhancement to remove it.
  • Games published by the Simutronics Corporation, its flagship game being the MUD GemStone IV, offer a "premium" membership for an extra $10 on top of the $15 a month membership fee. This membership offers access to a few otherwise off-limits areas, the ability to create several extra characters on the same account rather than just one, early access to in-game events, and the ability to type more than one line ahead (no, really). That last one, to the company's credit, isn't really an issue anymore, as the game normally registers commands so fast that you can't tell the difference.
    • They also offer a so-called "platinum" service which offers all that, plus the ability to play on a different server away from all the riff-raff for an extra $40 or so a month.
  • In the Xbox 360 version of The Godfather: The Game, players have the option of buying weapons and upgrades off of the Xbox Live Marketplace.
  • So you're a Guild Wars player and you want more character slots to experiment with? Buy them from the in-game store. Want to PvP without spending fruitless hours playing the PvE game to unlock various skills, weapons, and armour? Buy PvP unlock packs from the in-game store. It may not have been the first game on the market to do this, but it sure as hell made it a lot easier to do so.
    • Also, in Guild Wars, preordering the game or any of the expansions would give the player a special weapon. This weapon usually would be useful well into the middle of the game, and even afterward, could make a good backup. Seeing as how which bonus you'd get depended on where you preordered, this meant most players, if they had any, had one item. There wasn't anything stopping someone from going and getting a second preorder at another store, however, and thus massing more items. The preorder items could also be recalled at any time if they were trashed. The only downside was that they couldn't be traded, as they were customized.
  • Guild Wars 2 has the Gem Store which only sells items for the Gem currency which are purchased with money. While Gems can be purchased with in-game gold, the exchange rate compared to the cost of Gem Store items is abysmal. This exchange also works in reverse, so a new max-level character can simply buy Gems, trade for gold, and kit themselves out with the best gear that can be bought.
    • Aside from the variety of cosmetic items, the Gem Store itself has three different approaches to this.
      • Many permanent boosters are sold that affect the entire account, such as additional bank and bag slots; increased crafting material storage; licenses to have additional crafting profession on a single character; and material nodes located in your home instance.
      • Permanent items used for harvesting material nodes and salvaging gear are sold. These replace the consumable variants that must periodically be purchased from a vendor and have superior performance in getting rare materials.
      • Temporary boosters (for XP, gold, etc.) and consumables such as revive orbs are sold in package deals. Unlike the aforementioned items, these are also available in some reward chests that can be earned in-game.
  • Gunbound allowed its members to purchase exclusive weapons to be used in battles. Every last one of which was a blatant Game-Breaker. Mixed in with the fact that there was no way for the mod to stop them from being used, this is accepted as the reason for Gunbound's death.
  • The free web-based MMORPG Kingdom of Loathing rewards players who donate more than $10 USD at a time with Mr. Accessories. Although powerful equipment in their own right, they can also be traded at "Mr. Store" to get an Item Of The Month. While there is a "Hardcore mode" where one cannot access equipment bought this way, a familiar or a skill purchased can still be used. This has resulted in quite a bit of debate among players (as well as a meme, "X makes hardcore easier!"). These items, however, are fully tradeable, so they can be acquired without donating if . Furthermore, "Bad Moon" and certain challenge runs eliminate the familiar or skill advantage to varying degrees.
    • Mr. Store familiars have to be leveled up like any other to be worth using, which of course take time. On top of that, any item that's dropped by the familiar is dropped so often that it's easier for people with lower budgets to just buy the items from the mall. In the end, purchasable familiars that unlock content are really only there for making money and showing off.
    • Players making an honest attempt at a competitive Speed Run will sometimes donate $20 or $30 to gain a few copies of an item that dramatically improves item drops, though at this point there are enough better items out there which occupy the same slot that this strategy is generally considered obsolete.
    • You can also sell it at the Mall for several million meat, as well as trade it for custom avatars and titles.
    • Speedruns are becoming more and more reliant on purchased extras, so it's really bribing your way to a quicker victory. Because ascension play is a single-player experience, improved leaderboard competitiveness does nothing to enhance gameplay, and it could be argued it does the opposite: speedruns skip a vast portion of game content to repetitively pursue a narrowing list of chores that becomes so tedious and stale that most prefer to let scripts automate the 'gameplay'. Aren't we having fun now?
    • "Bucket items", which let players purchase skill points for special-class challenge paths, seem to exist solely for the competitive speedrunning community, and are labeled in Mr. Store with "Please do not buy this." and a lengthy footnote indicating that these paths are usually more fun if you earn your skill points through repeated ascensions. The dev team strongly prefers bribery items to be fun toys, in addition to making runs faster; bucket items get this treatment because they break this pattern.
  • Mabinogi, as is typical for a Korean MMORPG, has a good deal of this. Originally starting as an Allegedly Free Game by restricting storyline quests, Empathic Weapons, character rebirth (a vital game mechanic), and certain other content to paid subscribers only; the "Pioneers of Iria" expansion released all content to free players, including empathic weapons and free character rebirth. Despite this, there remain a considerable number of game-enhancing features that are only available in the premium cash shop, or to premium subscribers.
    • Prior to "Pioneers of Iria", free players were limited to a single character. With "Iria", they can have a total of 3 characters, one of each race (provided they create a Human character first, and obtain the other two through a simple in-game process). Additional characters are available via buying additional character-slot "cards". While this does not necessarily provide an advantage to game play as such; having additional characters, commonly known as "mules", available for storage is highly beneficial. Especially when working on crafting and other item-intensive "life skills".
    • Pets, only available as a premium purchase, are also a extremely useful. Not only do they provide multiple combat support functions, but all pets have some level of storage capacity. Many have other special features such as providing transportation (mounts); easier access to crafting items, which can be difficult or time-consuming to obtain via free sources; and acquisition of random, potentially valuable, items. There are even multiple combat techniques which rely entirely on the use of pets.
    • Many equips and crafting resources are available by buying "gachapons", random items selected from a particular pool. While some of the equips are only available this way, there are none that are superior to those obtainable in-game; and all crafting resources are obtainable in-game. However, most of these involve a considerable amount of effort and difficulty to obtain; so buying them via gachapons can greatly aid the player.
    • A number of other game-enhancing products are only available as paid premium. These include items which increase the rates of experience point gain and monster drops, various types of resurrection aids, temporary stat alteration, equipment protection, and more.
  • Puzzles in games, and especially Adventure Games, could be solved with a solution provided in a purchased hint book, or by listening to a 1-900 number hint line. The practice continues with hidden game features published in strategy guides, though their necessity is largely mitigated by The Internet.
  • In the long-since-defunct MUD MUDgik, players could earn "orrins" either by direct payment or by visiting a page full of banner ads and clicking them to generate ad revenue. Orrins were the only way to maximize stats while staying at level one, which was essential to maximize character growth when leveling up (and was the only way to be taken seriously as a player).
  • To unlock cars early in Need for Speed: Carbon, ProStreet or Undercover, buy them for real money on XBox Live or PSN store.
  • Purchasing the limited edition of Neverwinter Nights 2 scored you the "Blessed of Waukeen" feat, which gave all your saving throws +1, and gave you the ability to buy special weapons and armor from certain merchants. Eventually, a patch made this feat available in the regular game as well.
    • However, the special gear is somewhat on the same level as gear available from other vendors when it is possible to purchase it, in addition to the pricing being almost comparable to the prestige class-exclusive equipment (which could range from moderately expensive to almost two whole acts worth of gold).
    • Lampshaded in a roundabout way. Waukeen is the Forgotten Realms goddess of trade and wealth. You paid an extra $10 for this feat and it's calling you a rich bastard.
  • Project Torque, a free Massive Multiplayer Online Racing Game, revolves around racing with fantasy cars - unless the player purchases (or wins via community events) a certain number of AP (special in-game currency, the normal currency being RP, or "Reward Points"), which allows him to purchase exclusive extras like longer lasting nitros, double XP or double Reward Points alongside with real life cars. The kicker? Items that can actually help a player during a race and car upgrades can be purchased anyway without using AP, and the real life cars are not better in anyway than their "free" counterparts - in some case being worse, forcing the player to spend more hours grinding in order to get extra upgrades to match their "free" opponent.
  • Sven Co-op , a mod for Half-Life, allows people to "donate" money to its creators for permanent weapon enhancements — namely, their Uzis do double damage, and they can use armor to boost the damage on their melee weapon.
    • Cry of Fear, another Half-Life mod turned standalone game, has a much less blatant variation. If you donate to the developers, you get a new weapon, the B&T MP9 - which only deals about the same damage as a pistol, with even rarer ammunition, and heavy recoil when fired in full-auto.
  • A trend in online games such as AdventureQuest and Race War Kingdoms is to have some content that is accessible for free, but then to have power upgrades and additional content accessible only for a price.
  • But this practice is much older than MMORPGs. In the early nineties (i.e. before the proliferation of the innerwebs), shareware producers for the PC (in particular, Apogee) used to sell you the cheat codes for their games. While not necessarily called "cheat codes", anything that provides infinite lives or invulnerability... well...
  • Tetris Online Japan. You use TP to increase your stats, which affect how many piece previews you can see, how fast pieces move across the field when you hold left or right, the speed of the line clear animation, and so on. The higher the stat, the faster you can play. Of course, this can give quite an advantage. TP is earned by playing and winning games, at 10-34 TP per game depending on performance. It also takes a total of 9,700 TP to max out each stat of the 5 stats. But for 105 yen each, you can buy a "Point Scratch" that gives a random amount from 500-10,000 TP when used. "Premium" version subscribers paying 315 yen a month get another 300 TP per month.
    • And it just got even worse. They nerfed the TP gains for non-subscribers to 1-11 TP per game. Meanwhile, premium subscribers get 1,000 TP a month. The official message explaining this said it was for "balance" purposes. The only balancing going on there is in their checkbooks.
    • And now the US version, Tetris Friends, has a similar deal. The "Tuning Style" (i.e. non-cosmetic) upgrades can be bought with Tokens (earned from playing, like TP) or Rubies (bought with cash, or through TrialPay). For an idea of the amount of grind needed, fully upgrading everything requires 210,000 Tokens, when it's rare to see 100 Tokens awarded for a single game. Or you can pay for about 7 bucks worth of Rubies.
    • Tetris Friends then proceeded to add items which allow players to artificially inflate their Arena skill rating points. For about a dollar per day, you can double your increase in rating points for wins, or you can buy "Armor" to absorb your rating points losses for about $2.50 per 1,000 points (with the scale going from 0 to 19,999). And you can have both active simultaneously. As a result, the entire Top 100 leaderboard is tied for first place at the rating cap of 19,999. Arpad Elo must be rolling in his grave.
  • Probably the single biggest example would be Zhengtu Online, a Chinese MMORPG deliberately designed from the ground up for gold buyers. The game physically blocks you from advancing without buying experience and items for real world money. See this article for how blatantly the game nickels and dimes its players. Oh, and it's the single most popular game in China by a long shot...
  • Zig-zagged throughout the long life of Combat Arms:
    • Earlier in the game's history, the cash-only items were either purely cosmetic or very slightly better than the weapons rentable with game currency.
    • However, the power disparity between cash-only items and game-currency items slowly grew over time. As time passed, there were almost three cash-only items to every one item that could be purchased with game currency in the shop. Particularly infuriating was the requirement to unlock the ability to rent game-currency items by rank while far superior cash-only items could be rented at any rank.
    • At the game's peak, the game encroached into Allegedly Free Game territory, with paying players wielding cash-only gear that allowed them to move significantly faster, cash-only automatic weapons with near-zero recoil, even cash-only sniper rifles that were extremely light and zoomed in twice as fast while packing even more damage. Epitomising the problem were a pair of two cash items - first, the Satellite Scanner, requiring a cash-only character to use, that gave a temporary wall hack; second, the Elite Moderator, that allowed the room host to freely, and at his sole discretion, kick anyone from the room. While the latter was supposed to be protected against abuse by having the remaining players vote on whether the kick as "good" or "bad", a failure to vote counted as an automatic "good" vote!.
    • However, after a major overhaul known as Combat Arms: Reloaded, the scales were tipped back in favour of the non-paying player - an overall rebalance, most formerly cash-purchasable (non-loot crate) weapons made available in the shop, reasonable 30-day rental prices for in-game currency, and the ability to buy permanent shop weapons and loot crates with game currency. Furthermore, a failure to vote on an Elite Moderator's kick now counted as half a "no" vote. However, some of the most powerful loot crate-only weapons from the earlier era were not available in the new loot crates, so those who spent real money in earlier years retained their advantages.
    • After Reloaded was launched, players complained how the new version felt different from the original game that they had known and come to love. Several months after Nexon handed over service of the game to another company, Valofe, the new management launched Combat Arms: The Classic in parallel - a version of the game based on its state in 2015 before Reloaded, still featuring the bias in favour of those who paid up. However, the management forced everyone to start new characters on Classic (their old characters were forced to stay on Reloaded), and as a welcome package, handed every existing player who tried Classic a fair amount of formerly cash-only items for permanent duration, unintentionally re-balancing the game!
    • However, about a year into the life of Reloaded, skinned weapon sets started appearing, with each crate providing a chance to obtain 1 out of 3 skinned weapons. Sometimes, all three cash weapons would even be available for permanent duration as a rather expensive "cash package". However, each set of skinned weapons would only be cash exclusive for about 2 weeks; next, they would become temporarily available for rental using in-game currency for another 2 weeks; finally, they would be added to the regular weapon crates purchasable with in-game currency. These weapons were a mixed bag, ranging from "slightly stronger than their regular counterpart" to "outright broken".
    • A new twist came in the form of the November 2018 patch, which introduced the game to the Steam platform. "Pure Combat Mode" was introduced, with a limited subset of weapons available. All items usable in "Pure Combat mode" became absolutely free for all players to obtain and use - thus reducing the gap between free and paying users again!
    • However, in late 2018 and early 2019, the "pay-to-win" level of Reloaded increased rapidly and substantially:
      • First, most new and revived loot crates were made purchasable with cash currency only, even where said crates had previously been purchasable with both cash and in-game currencies. Sales for loot crates would be announced - but only the cash currency price would be discounted (and not the in-game currency prices), a point not even mentioned in the announcements. New, loot crate-only gear sets and characters were introduced, all of which made the Specialist characters, previously the epitome of overpowered characters, look weak. However, most infuriating was the VIP Pass, a cash-only item that boosted in-game currency earnings, improved daily login and quest rewards... and allowed infinite instant respawns in all PvP modes with respawns enabled - even in "Pure Combat Mode". For context, all other players get five instant respawns per day. This proved to be extremely powerful in free-for-all modes (killing the user does nothing to stop him from continuing to rack up kills) and Capture the Flag (instantly respawn to protect the flag). To top things off, this would cause free-for-all matches to end significantly faster (whether by the VIP Pass user's continuous killing sprees or repeated deaths), hurting everyone else's in-game currency gains (which are strongly tied to game length). The outcry about this was so bad that the developers were eventually forced to disable the infinite respawn capability in Pure Combat Mode in a amid-February 2019 patch.
      • Next, the end-January patch introduced even more blatant monetisation strategies. First, the daily quest rewards were modified to give "rare metal" and "epic metal" (in place of the original in-game currency rewards), which could be traded in to rent (or even permanently obtain) selected items of the same rarity in a special "exchange shop". VIP Pass users earn such resources at a significantly higher rate per quest completed, even getting them as login rewards. The same patch also included a new cash item, the Premium Pass... which basically acts as a $20/month or $200/year subscription service allowing the user to freely use a selection of rare and epic items as long the subscription is active.
      • Furthermore, as of June 2019, virtually every patch has been primarily a release of cash items or the sale of cash-only packages of 5 or even 10 loot boxes at discounts - some with the guarantee of a permanent high-grade item. Skinned cash items also ceased to be available for rental with GP after a short period of cash-only availability; they would just go straight into the regular loot boxes after that, and even then, some of the better ones seem to be missing from the loot tables of the loot boxes.
    • In spite of all the above, some respite came in April 2019, when the daily log-in reward system was made significantly more generous. For context, it is a cumulative system, where logging in for N days within a month, consecutive or not, gets you the Nth reward on the table. While previous months gave players 1-day commons and the occassional rare at best, along with a mid-tier loot crate for logging in every single day of the month, the new table gives players generous tasters of rares in the 2nd week and epics in the 3rd and 4th weeks, gives boxes that guarantee 30-day rare-grade weapons (with a small chance of permanent duration) as early as day 7, and even rewards those who log in every day with a generous heap of loot crates as the last few rewards - including one that guarantees a permanent rare-grade weapon.
  • Older Than They Think: The arcade version of Double Dragon 3 featured item shops where you could purchase power-ups literally (i.e. by inserting more credits into the cabinet). Each power-up costs at least one credit each, the same price you would usually pay to continue after a Game Over (depending on the game's settings). The available items include other playable characters that replaces your current fighter after he dies, two extra techniques (a cyclone spin kick and an overhead attack), a max health extension, weapons, and an increase in attack speed. As if that wasn't enough, your backup fighters can only inherit the extra moves from previous characters, since they start off with the default max health and attack speed, and only the Lee brothers (the default fighters) can use weapons. And if all your backup fighters die and you decide to continue, you will lose your extra techniques as well.
  • In the arcade version of Gauntlet, you can buy extra health by inserting more tokens. A test in MAME revealed that if you had enough tokens, you could buy over 100,000 health, even though your health counter only shows the last five digits. However, if you tried this your score would be divided by the number of credits, so this didn't actually let you do better in the game as far as score was concerned, and could even hurt.
  • The 'real time tactics simulation' game Navy Field can be played for free. However paying for a 'gold' account gives you double experience points from battles and you can buy special (aka game breaking) ships and weapons using real money. Ironically this doesn't always help as certain groups of free players will specifically target premium ships.
    • The disparity in terms of playability between those who pay and those who do not is so great, that this may even belong under "Allegedly Free Game." As if more evidence was needed, I suppose you could argue that non-paying players are limited in the amount of the game they are allowed to see, since they are generally denied their rights. In disputes, the mods and GMs are INFAMOUS for almost always siding with the player that pays more. Hell, it's called $DE for a reason.
  • Battle Stations allows the player to buy rare items, which usually require a lot of luck-based exploring or questing to acquire. There are, however, three items for sale which cannot be found via exploration. These items can be traded on the ingame auction, though, so a wealthy character could try and get them there instead.
    • Also in the cash shop are Action Point packages, allowing the player to gain more Ap than the regular Ap regeneration provides.
  • The free, browser-based Star Pirates (and Spy Battle from same Creators) lets you subscribe to recharge stats and progress half again as fast, buy points that let you take certain actions again, and buy items that let you train abilities quicker. Both Points and items needed for quicker training can be found by playing normally
  • Gaia Online features two currencies: Gold (generated in game), and Cash (purchased with real money). Three stores (La Victoire, Back Alley Bargains, and Phin Phang) only accept Cash. La Victoire sells exclusive items with spectacular poses, Back Alley Bargains sells powerups for use in zOMG, and Phin Phang sells fish for your aquarium. With the exception of the zOMG Powerups (which can still rarely be obtained through gameplay, and aren't needed to begin with) all items can be purchased with gold. Buying and selling items from La Victoire, which are inherently more valuable than anything that can be bought with Gold, is one of the best ways to make gold. Not as bad as people seem to think, since you can earn Gaia Cash by doing sponsor activities, such as watching videos or taking quizzes, which can quickly add up allowing you to buy anything from cash exclusive shops you want.
    • For that matter, almost since Gaia started there have been monthly donations which yielded, for a while, incredibly rare items such as the Halo, of which only a few dozen exist. Eventually people wised up and started mass donations, bringing the rarity and price of newer items very low.
    • Most, if not all of the fish for the Gaia Aquarium could only be acquired with Cash and "died" after a certain amount of time. As a result, most fish were very expensive on the Market Place. After a few years, Gaia gave in to user request and made several fish in Phin Phang available for gold, at low prices, to boot. Some fish are still cash-only in the store, and must be bought on the MP if one wishes to buy it with gold.
    • Want real evidence that Gaia's in it for the Money, Dear Boy? The MTV sponsor shop has three items being sold Cash-Only. That's right, kids, you're paying real money for an advertisement.
    • After they started the Cash Shop (La Victoire), 90% of the new items were released in said store, with the regular stores (where you used gold to buy stuff) hardly being updated anymore and the only way to get a decent item is to spend ungodly amounts of gold on the user-run marketplace (if you dont want to pay cash for it). They also only keep certain items on the Cash Shop for a certain amount time, at which point, the only way to get it is to buy it on the marketplace. See that shiny new sword you think would look great? Well its $50.99 at La Victoire but 1.9 quintillion gold on the marketplace. Good luck.
    • There are the RIGs (Random Item Generators), which are cash items that give you a random item, usually through some kind of cute minigame. Many of the top drops from those are just recolors of past popular items, and although there are often unique items among the (often extremely difficult to achieve) victory rewards, there's a MUCH greater chance of failing. The fail-drops are usually so worthless in the MP that it's better to just sell the item back to Gaia for half of its imaginary "store cost", usually less than 10% of what it costs to buy the RIG from the marketplace.
    • 2013 saw the addition of a new Gaia Cash-only shop, Club Verge, that regularly sells popular cash shop items that are no longer available for ridiculous prices (anywhere from $35 to OVER $100 for just one item!), in addition to requiring a user to buy $100 worth of Gaia Cash in one year in order to even access the store!
    • Ever since the Cash Shop came out, Gaia has made at least one update to the gold shops every month. Around the end of 2013, Gaia started to emphasize the creation of Cash Shop items over almost everything else on the site; since the CS items are being churned out in exponentially larger numbers every month, the sheer number of them in circulation has dwarfed the number of the cheaper, gold shop items in existence.
    • The advent of Gold Generators, Cash Shop RIGs that spit out large quantities of Gaia Gold, has caused all items on the Marketplace to inflate to astronomical levels, which vastly reduced the worth of Gaia Gold in the process. Gaia likes to frequently release new Gold Generators, each one having a larger payout than the last, making traditional methods of earning gold (namely, by playing Gaia's games) fairly obsolete. It's very daunting for newcomers, who will either have to settle for the limited options in the Gold Shops or obtain Cash to afford most of the items on the Marketplace.
  • Playfish games also have separate coins (generated in-game) and cash (real money) counters. One of their games, Pet Society, is now an Allegedly Free Game. Another Playfish game, Restaurant City, had its players up in arms over a set of limited edition recipes. Players could unlock a karaoke bar and upgrades for it by mastering these recipes within a certain number of days before they became lost. However, they came in a certain order, and you weren't allowed to start leveling up a recipe until you had mastered the ones that came before it. To make things worse, several of them required large quantities of some of the rarest ingredients in the game. It was incredibly difficult to obtain these ingredients without buying them with Playfish Cash, something that the players have been very bitter about.
  • The arcade version of Shadow Dancer encourages the player to continue by offering them an extra power-up.
  • In OGame, buying Dark Matter allows you to purchase a merchant which you can use to commerce with your resources, as well as minor benefits called Officers. Although these purchases are the game's primary source of income, there are legions of players who viciously hate such offers and deliberately target other players who buy them.
    • To provide context, during much of the original game's history, money-driven upgrades didn't exist (at most there was a "Commander", but it served only as a help for management as well as for certain tasks — for example, making it possible to send recycler ships to a debris field faster). Gameforge stuck in the new purchases almost the second they bought OGame, leading to an exodus of players and much rage.
    • The release of 4.0 added a huge array of Dark Matter-purchased items including resource boosters, flat research and build time reducers, the ability to sell ships and defenses back to the game for up to 75% of their base resource cost, and the ability to pay large amounts of dark matter to instantly halve the time of research and production queues; paying this twice instantly completes it, which is a big deal to high-ranking players as research times can become months long. Someone willing to sink massive amounts of cash into the game can now get +40% to the production of every mine they own and instantly complete research projects and build queues. This led to a fairly infamous incident where one player in Universe 35 gained almost 30 million research points the day after 4.0 was published by recycling one of his fleets and pouring the resources into research, which he completed with dark matter. To put that in perspective, the previous #1 researcher only had 16.6 million points in research, and a rank 200 of 5000 account averages about 30 million points total.
      • OGame's Tenth Anniversary celebration has added Dark Matter-only items that increase the number of building fields on a planet. While you can already do this with Terraformers, the energy cost quickly gets prohibitively high, especially on space-starved homeworlds. The best one, which adds 15 fields to one planet and a near-necessity to have a productive homeworld at high ranks? $30.
      • Players can acquire the new version 4.0 items (but not officers or commander) through paying with in-game resources. However, this is limited to one per day and the item you get is randomly selected (paying Dark Matter allows you to try up to two new rolls). Also, Dark Matter as well as a merchant can be obtained sending ships in expedition missions. However, you get small quantities of the former, and both appear rarely at random.
  • The otherwise free online game FarmVille (a Facebook application) allows players to spend real cash on game cash, which comes in the form of both coins and bills. Most items, such as certain buildings, trees or decorations, and nearly all of the animals, can only be purchased with the game's bills, which accumulate very slowly unless you pay real money to get them. Mafia Wars and indeed all the Zynga games also work like this.
    • How bad can it get with FarmVille? Read and weep.
    • This is increasingly common in Facebook games. The game Superhero City offers Merit points which can buy instant recharges to complete tasks, the ability to fight again immediately, loads of in game cash, and at least a few items and powers that can only be bought this way. None of it is necessary, but particularly the exclusive items and powers give you an edge on characters that don't have them. Merit points can be earned by recruiting and completing online surveys but the sheer volume of such activities you must do to get enough Merit Points is a bit prohibitive.
    • Likewise the highly enjoyable MouseHunt offers special cheese called Super Brie+ in return for donations. SB+ can be used as a special mouse attractant or be smashed into its component Magic Essence to craft special items/more items per attempt. Some of the better traps require SB+ for their construction. SB+ can be sold and bought on the markeplace for fluctuating amounts of in-game currency depending on supply and demand, and can also be won from the game, albeit very rarely.
      • After an update, players receive 3 Super Brie+ every five days. Although not much, it's more than enough for the player to craft traps and items by the time it's needed if they don't waste it on inferior uses.
    • Zynga's Words with Friends, a Scrabble knockoff, allows you to pay one dollar (or monetary equivalent) for the computer to automatically generate the highest-scoring play. Note that this is not as big of a Game-Breaker as it may seem, as high-scoring plays are likely to open up high-scoring plays for opponents too. It is still a ridiculous and controversial advantage though.
  • Granblue Fantasy operates a gacha lottery system for acquiring new characters and items, which you can purchase using either an in-game currency (Crystals) or real money.
    • If you have enough cash to draw 300 times from the same pool, the game throws you a bone and allows you to choose what item you get, albeit from a limited selection. And if you really have money to burn, you can exchange 150 Gold Moons (which can be obtained by drawing 150 duplicate SSR characters or buying them at a rate of one Gold Moon per month) for any item or summon in the entire game.
    • More direct samples include special tickets that can only be purchased with real money: such as the "Start Dash" that gives you a ticket to instantly obtain any character or summon you could pull at account creation; and the "Surprise Ticket", which lets you pull from almost any currently available character or summon. However, many of the top summon monsters in the game (such as Lucifer, Bahamut, Shiva or Grand Order) explicitly cannot be obtained using these special tickets.
  • The Asian-themed martial arts game 9Dragons follows a "mostly free" model. The game can be played for free and items earned off the world, but paying money can grant you access to paid-for buffs from special vendors, as well as give you very powerful items and boosts to experience.
    • Paying is also the only way to get rid of the seizure-inducing, security risk-laden, inappropriate Flash banner ads on top of the game screen. A lot of people quit over that one.
  • Trinity Universe is a odd one: while it is a standard console jRPG, the player can buy item packs for real money. Those packs consist of skills, weapons, armor, accessories and stat raising items that either aren't obtainable normally or are available only at the end of the game and even then take ludicrous amounts of time to obtain since the materials for the necessary Item Crafting recipes are exceedingly rare. Being available from the start of the game also brings them to effectively Game-Breaker ranks.
  • All of the Disgaea games have an in-universe variant and Lampshade it. You can bribe members of the dark assembly with items in your bag to rule in your favor making bill passing easier. Of course if that doesn't work you can just force them through battle.
    • Dimension 2 went one step further: if a bill fails even after bribing the assembly, you can outright pay HL to get the bill to pass, and you will get a reading as to how much HL is needed to pass the bill this way.
  • BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger lets you pay a small fee to unlock the "Unlimited" forms of some characters, instead of playing for them.
    • BlazBlue: Continuum Shift is even more blatant about it. There are now 15 Unlimited characters to unlock instead of 4, and unlocking them normally now requires clearing the absurdly hard Score Attack mode instead of the difficulty-selectable Arcade Mode.
  • Dofus is an allegedly free game, allowing you access to a limited area and one dungeon of the game without paying (though you can wander around much of the world, you just can't do much outside of certain areas). Subscriptions, however, also come with prizes. The most interesting of these include special pets (pets are essentially another piece of equipment) that function differently than normal pets, and are slightly better than regularly accesible pets, and two pieces of equipment that allow you to hide what equipment you are wearing (Useful for PvP, as your opponent doesn't know what to expect). The longer subscription you buy, the better your reward, and there is nothing preventing you from buying two-year-long subscriptions at once to get two pets or equipment modifiers. However, the game does include a 3-month waiting period on trading these rewards. Combined with the free to play "version" being little more than a trial account, most people are subscribed and thus most people have at least the two popular subscription pets, and it rarely presents a huge problem.
  • Busou Shinki: Battle Rondo is already a competitive online game based around a toy line, so naturally, the more figures from the line you have, the better your selection of characters and equipment is. However, Konami decided to be even more greedy about it and use an online cash shop to deal in extremely powerful weapons and equipment that cannot be obtained in any other way. Combine this with the average (Japanese) player's Elite Tweak mentality, and it means only someone who knows EXACTLY what they're doing can use figure-only stuff to win.
  • League of Legends, although not as obviously. In-game money can be used to buy runes (in-game stats) and champions, and real money can be used to buy champions, cosmetics, and in-game money boosts. This actually results in two ways to convert real money into stats: the obvious, of buying a rather small boost to in-game money so you can get more runes, and the more subtle way of buying champions with real money, leaving you with more IP available to buy runes. And if you want to play Ranked, you need to get at least 16 champions one way or another. Additionally, Rune Pages can also be purchased with both forms of money, giving you more options in how to allocate runes before a match.
  • The online Mahjong game JanRyuMon gives players a time limit of 5 seconds per turn (which in practice is more like 3 due to the horribly laggy client), but on each turn, players can use a Choukou Ticket to give themselves 15 seconds for that one turn. Choukou Tickets cost 20 yen each (15 or 10 yen if bought in bulk).
  • A less observable phenomenon throughout the LittleBigPlanet series that does not apply literally. However, it is worth noting that about the same weeks that notable Downloadable Content packs come out (eg Metal Gear Solid, Pirates of the Caribbean, DC Comics etc.), a lot of levels simply containing the new content begin to surface, sucking up all the ratings and fame that they can get before the said content becomes ordinary. Probably the biggest example of this was when the Pirates of the Caribbean DLC came out, resulting in thousands of people spamming levels consisting of nothing but water with the occasional rocket-powered boat.
  • Bejeweled Blitz started out with a free one-minute version on Facebook, where you competed against your friends to get the most points. Fine. Then, it added the ability to purchase various power-ups with in-game currency... in practice, the only way to get a relatively decent score is with these power-ups, but everyone gained in-game coins at pretty much the same rate. Fine. Then, they changed the game to let you purchase coins with Facebook credits. There we go.
    • Then they added rare gems, which cost an exorbitant amount of coins. The cheapest is Moonstone, which only costs 10,000 but isn't that helpful. Better gems cost far more, up to 85,000 coins a pop. Still, there are ways to earn more coins such as the Free Spin and Keystone Challenges. There are also ways to earn free rare gems.
  • Bejeweled Stars downplays it. While you can buy coins that provide you additional turns should you fail the level or replenishing your lives, the powerups are actually crafted through gameplay mechanic, the ingredients for which you collect by playing the game. You can speed up the crafting by coins, but if you are patient to wait, you can get the same exact boosts. Moreover, the game is really generous with special events accessible to everyone that give you bonuses as temporary unlimited lives, and power-ups or their pieces and even coins themselves (which are also awarded for completing stellar constellations), and there is even a kind of daily roulette and special daily challenge for those.
  • Wurm Online tries valiantly to avert this, being built almost entirely around Item Crafting and economics. You start off with all the kit you need to begin the process of acquiring weapons, armour, proper tools and even your own house... The incredibly long process of skill grinding in order to make stuff that you can use or turn a profit on, or else working on someone's massive construction project for wages. (Yes, this game faithfully simulates grueling manual labour.) If you haven't got the patience for this then you may be playing the wrong game, but there's an option to convert real-world money to game currency. On the other hand, the free-trial area lets you level up quite a long way and build up as much cash as you like before taking the plunge into the game proper.
  • Lord of Ultima plays this as straight as can be. Free to play, but one can purchase "diamonds" that in turn allow for the purchase of artifacts that give resources, build-time increases, etc. The game limits how frequently you can use them, though.
  • Even iPhone games are not exempt! The Tower Defense game Tower Madness has the flamethrower tower, pretty much an Infinity +1 Sword and a Game-Breaker, as it can do more damage per second than the second best weapon, the nuke. The problem? If you want to unlock the usage of the flamethrower, you gotta buy it with real money first!
    • Tower Madness is far from the only one in the iPhone App store, and in some ways is a mild case. Others urge you to get more apps from a list, few of which are free, to get game currency. Then there a number that move well into Allegedly Free Game territory.
    • Com2uS's games, such as Queen's Crown, have an especially exasperating form of bribe. For at least some items, you're required to place a five-star review on the iTunes Store. Yes, you read that correctly—in order to acquire some items, not only do you need to utilize actual cash, you need to help advertise them!
    • Galaxy Defense on the Android. It starts off innocently enough, but the difficulty curve climbs so fast that soon you're faced with a choice: either give up, or shell out real cash for in-game currency so that you can buy enough upgrades to stand a chance.
  • The Mighty Eagle in Angry Birds. Send in the eagle to kill every pig instantly! Fortunately, there is a one hour cool down to moderate use.
    • The Mighty Eagle also unlocks a separate mode of play. You get no points for beating a level with the Might Eagle; instead you get an eagle feather for scoring 100% destruction of the level.
  • In Angry Birds 2, the crystals you earn as bonuses can be used to "buy" extra chances to continue a level, extra spells, or entries in the arena.
  • Luna Online follows this trope. The game world is pretty big, making walking painfully slow, but hey! You can buy a time-limited warp scroll at the cash shop! Grinding going a little slowly? Just buy an experience multiplier scroll! Granted, it's completely possible to reach the max level without buying any gPotatoes (the currency you buy with real cash). In fact, a character in June 2010 was featured on the game's website for having done just that (although they did trade in-game gold for the gPs and special items).
    • Flyff, another game hosted by gPotato, is similar. This is a game that is often described as "Free to play, pay to win." Not only can you get pets, faster flying equipment than what you'd get from the NPC, teleportation scrolls, and Exp. multiplier scrolls from the cash shop, among many other things, you also need CS items to keep your gear from breaking if an attempt to upgrade it past +3 fails. Fortunately, it is possible for players to farm dungeons or box drop events (when there's one running) to make penya (in-game currency), which you can trade for CS items or gpots like in Luna.
  • Point Blank - Not to be confused with the Namco game, but this Korean MMOFPS is very successful in Indonesia. And you either need in-game point grinding (since the point reward often painfully small) to buy Cool Guns, or rent (yes, it limited from 3 to 30 days of "purchase") with real cash for instant (or even more) Cool Guns.
  • S4 League is completely free to play... but, those who are willing to shell out real money get slightly more effective weapons, flashier clothes, and will gain levels faster. They also don't have to worry about buying their weapons with in-game currency which is fairly difficult to acquire. On the other hand, the advantage supplied by the paid-for weapons is fairly minimal, and none of them are unique; they're just optionally reskinned versions of the stuff everyone gets. Likewise, the paid-for clothes just look good, they don't offer any concrete tactical advantages.
  • Dragon Age: Origins has the Feastday gifts and pranks, paid DLC that lets you bypass the entire approval system by setting them as high or low as you like. Additionally, completing each of the standalone DLCs (The Darkspawn Chronicles, Liliana's Song, The Golems of Amgarrak, and Witch Hunt) unlocks powerful items that new characters will automatically start the game with. With all four DLCs, you'll start with an inventory full of weapons that are better than anything available in the core game.
  • Mass Effect 2 has the "Firepower Pack" DLC, which consists of: a Sniper Pistol, an assault rifle which fires sniper-rifle rounds, and a Pure Energy shotgun with a Charged Attack. All are stronger shot-for-shot than any of their non-DLC counterparts. Shoot the heads off a dozen light mechs in a row, splatter mercs with relativistic sledgehammers, and blow away assault mechs with a Mega Buster. Buff up any game, even at the start, for the low low price of 160 Microsoft/Bioware Points!
    • But wait, there's more! The "Aegis Pack" adds an awesome suit of armor and a sniper rifle that is horribly bugged and makes your squadmates almost invincible! Again, for the low low price of 160 Microsoft/Bioware Points!
  • Mass Effect 3 does this in both the single-player and multiplayer modes:
    • Anyone who bought the Collector's Edition of the game (or paid $10 separately) can get the From Ashes DLC, which allows players to obtain the Particle Rifle, a Prothean weapon that gets more powerful as the trigger is held down, and can be modded to eat through shields and health on even Insanity difficulty. It can be acquired near the beginning of the game, half your possible squaddies can equip it, and you'll never have to worry about ammo.
    • There's also the Firefight and Ground Resistance Packs, which let single-player characters use a bunch of multiplayer / pre-order weapons and a few brand new ones, including several guns that are dramatically more powerful than most other available weapons of their type.
    • Finally, for single player, there's the Alternate Appearance Pack 1, which gives the Cerberus Ajax Armor. While it doesn't provide a superior bonus to any single stat than the armor that's already available in the game, it provides a greater total bonus (+80% total) compared to the various other armors (which only provide a +60% total bonus). The Citadel DLC provides access to three other suits of armor that also provide +80% in total bonuses.
      • War assets aquired from Leviathan and Omega DLCs can also easily make up for war assets lost in the main game due to bad choices in both here or previous entries.
    • The "Galaxy at War" mode uses a "free-to-play" model, in that you can play any of the maps in the base game or DLC content, but if you want to get an edge on everyone else, you'll either have to grind for credits or spend Microsoft Points on Veteran / Spectre Packs, which give rare weapons, equipment and characters.
      • Whether you pay real world money or in-game credits, your chances with these packs are still the same.
  • The "Hunt For The Decepticons" sub-series of Transformers toys is accompanied by a series of online flash games. Technically, you only need three codes (one code in each toy) to unlock the battle with Megatron. However, you can use as many as seven codes to unlock harder minigames to give bonuses during the final battle with Megatron.
  • All Artix Entertainment games (AdventureQuest, DragonFable, MechQuest, WarpForce, EpicDuel, and AdventureQuest Worlds) have the basic storyline and most equipment available for free, but the best weapons, armor, Titan quests and battles (best for farming!), and so on are only available to upgraded players and (in the case of equipment) often only for special currency that must be purchased with real-world money (although small amounts can be gotten rarely in AQ, DF, and MQ). The worst for it is probably AQ; MQ is probably the best, but DF and AQW both have an awful lot of content available for free players. note 
    • In 2009, Artix Entertainment acquired the game EpicDuel, which had been an independently designed game, and pretty closely fits this trope. It's a PvP game, and upgraded equipment (more stats, more damage, etc) make this quite literally a case of bribing your way to victory.
  • Miss Bimbo is a 'sandbox' game, where buying 'Bimbo Dollars' will only get you more money to get cute clothes and spend on furniture, pet stuff, and various other items that you don't need.
    • Poupeegirl is the same thing, but real money gets you 'jewels' where you can ONLY buy cute clothes are sold in the special shops (some 'celebrity' shops with Japanese fashion icons).
    • To level up in Miss Bimbo, you sometimes do need to buy clothes (sometimes specific - and expensive - outfits, sometime you just need a certain number of items in your wardrobe). Other times you need to have a certain amount of money on hand, a certain amount of "Bimbo Attitude" (which can be increased by things like buying a new hairstyle or paying a therapist), the best available (i.e., most expensive) home, or various other conditions which can definitely be met without paying a cent in real money through your character's in-game job, but can be met much, much, much faster if you're not waiting for your character's paycheck minus expenses to add up.
  • Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 is a fanservice game where you spend time watching cute girls frolic around in a variety of bikinis and other clothing/accessories, all of which you can buy in-game with in-game money. The game has absolutely no online function, but these items are nonetheless purchasable with real-world money - in separate packages for each girl, mind you. Sadly, if you choose to reset the game to play through it again, your unlockable items will be lost, to be acquired again, whether you paid real or virtual money for them.
    • However, purchasing the swimsuits with real money will result in you not unlocking the achievement of having collected the full swimsuit set, taking away any right to brag by unlocking all achievements.
  • Used as an Anti-Frustration Measure in Shin Megami Tensei IV: should you meet with an untimely demise, Charon, the ferryman of the River Styx and a Beleaguered Bureaucrat, will offer to return you to the land of the living (thus saving him any more paperwork) in exchange for a rather large sum of Macca or 3DS Play Coins.
  • Persona 5: The game's paid DLC include accessories that boost your EXP or cash after battles, and overpowered Personas with end game stats and elemental protections that you can summon once for free, even in the very first dungeon.
  • Wajas is a breeding/adoptable game, in which you can buy currency called CWP with real money. Several items and features need to be paid for with CWP, and the most expensive stuff can cost as much as $60 USD. Most of what you can buy are either accessories, or custom Wajas, which mostly just sit there and look pretty. It's possible (and encouraged) to buy and sell CWP with in-game currency, but purchasing it this way is a ridiculously expensive and time-consuming method. Especially since the fastest way to earn in-game currency is to... sell the offspring of two custom Wajas.
  • VDex Project is another Pokémon site that relies on donations. For a relatively small fee, you can buy donation items and Pokémon. The Pokémon are usually based on the game's NPCs, while the items tend to be either cosmetic or offer small gameplay enhancements. Nearly everything can be sold to other players, and unlike many examples it doesn't cost too much in-game money to buy one of these things from someone else.
  • Echo Bazaar allows you to buy Fate with real money. Fate is obtainable in game on very rare occasions, and can be used for mundane functions like restoring your opportunities deck to unlocking new and complex story inlets.
  • Fable III has a potion that can be purchased for 80 msp ($1) on Xbox Live, that maxes out your dog's fighting and item-finding skills.
  • Grand Chase has all characters you don't have at the beginning of the game, surprisingly, possible to obtain without paying, but it can be anything from very tedious to just plain difficult. Buying them allows you to unlock them by just giving up one gem. Job upgrades work like this as well, except it simply asks you to do the same thing, but for a fraction of what you're originally supposed to get (For example, for your 2nd job, you need to get a whopping 300 fragments and 10 hard to obtain Gaikoz seals. Buying it means you only have to get 10 and 1, respectively). Specific weapons, accessories, pets, and skills, on the other hand, have to be purchased.
    • Nowadays is played straight. Since Season V came, new account chose some characters to start but all the other can only be obtained with real cash or VERY RARE in-game events. Also, they invented new systems with "skins with properties", they don't take your equipment slots since they are skins but they are completely broken since they can steal the enemy hp/mp and hit with extra unblockable damage! And the worst part, the pets from those sets have the unique hability to completely immobilize anything it hits, neither players or monsters can escape it. Despite that, most players hate it and don't play PvP with pets.
  • Dawn of War II: Retribution has a DLC pack for each race with equipment to turn your main character into a Disc-One Nuke, all for the low, low cost of 1$/1€/1£ per pack. Similar packs exist for the multiplayer Last Stand mode, but fortunately none of these modes are against the computer.
  • Battlefield: Bad Company 2 lets you pay $20 to unlock every single weapon in the game. There are also the cheaper SPECACT packages, which allow you to unlock camouflaged versions of a class's final weapon unlock. Though note that there was a time when free codes to unlock the SPECACT packages came with the game, making it less "buy the last gun cheap and dominate the battlefield" and more "thank you for buying the game a year after release, see if this were CoD they'd have stopped giving a crap about the game by now and we're better than them".
  • Battlefield Heroes and Battlefield Play4Free are also egregious offenders. Ironic, too, as EA specifically promised this sort of thing wouldn't happen for Heroes, but now you effectively have to shell out for the paid guns to compete in either game.
  • Battlefield 3 continues this practice. Now, for the low, low price of $40, you too can buy your way to the top. Why actually work for your unlocks when you can just bribe your way to victory?
    • A lesser example is the "Multiplayer Headstart Kit", that immediately gives a new player the first three unlocks for every class. Or you can buy the same unlock-everything-in-a-class packs as in Bad Company 2.
  • Tales of Vesperia has this, although most of the stuff is rather easy to get later on in the game and none of it is required for 100% completion, and some of it is free to boot.
    • Technically, all the items and clothes can be obtained freely, but you can still buy a +5 level up package (up to four times). So if you are having any problem you can just give yourself 20 levels anytime.
    • This is averted in the Definitive Edition as the Adventurer's Starter Pack DLC which contains these items are completely free this time around.
  • Alien Adoption Agency used to be completely free; the only way to get ahead was being smarter than others. Over time, it became "free to play, but pointless if you want to be the best", as now it's possible to start an account, spend some cash, and have a top-flight account w/o even learning how to play. And the more you spend, the more the one-man owner/coder lets you get away with. Yep, spend enough and it's not only pay2win, you can cheat2win too.
  • In Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, if you want to get the best helmet in the game, Queen of Hearts, you have to play through Hard Mode with a level cap (Lvl 1 or Lvl 50 are your initial options). If you want to unlock the ability to set the level cap to 255, you have to play though Hard Mode with level cap set at 1... or you can just buy (or rent) Castlevania: Judgment for the Wii and sync the two games together to get both rewards before even starting Normal Mode.
  • In Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, DLC character Getsu Fuma comes equipped with the Samurai Plate, a piece of (male only) armor that normally can't be found until halfway through Hard Mode. DLC Chapters 7-11 are also available immediately, rather than having to be unlocked sequentially like Chapters 2-6. And since you keep any treasures you find even if you die, it's possible to go into one of the DLC levels and make a mad dash to the first few chests before you're killed, scoring some excellent gear before even playing Chapter 1.
  • Travian is this Up to Eleven.
  • The Fury expansion pack for Wipeout HD unlocks everything you would normally have to unlock through the Campaign.
  • From Total War: Shogun 2
    • The Ikko-Ikki expansion pack DLC for gives you a free monk hero unit and access to powerful warrior nuns and monk cavalry units right off the bat in multiplayer. They tend to be vastly superior to the light cavalry and ashigaru you have access to at that point, although their in-game purchase price (the monk hero costs as much to add to your army as 4 units of ashigaru bowmen alone) reflect this.
    • The Sengoku unit pack further adds unique, clan-exclusive units, and adds a free veteran version of each to your roster in multiplayer. Most of these units are slightly superior, slightly more expensive versions of base units, but some (like the Tokugawa mounted gunners) are truly unique and are really useful for a starting player.
  • In the Web Game Adventure Kingdom, Gems can be purchased from the store which can be then be utilized for multiple purposes. Namely, buying more stamina, better equipment, and of course, some of the skills.
  • World of Tanks features gold consumables which can boost your performance a bit more than regular ones or fix multiple crew/modules at once. It also features gold ammo, which can turn an otherwise unwinnable matchup into a curbstomp battle. Usually though, they just increase armor penetration and make otherwise mediocre gun strong. You can also purchase premium tanks, but they are (mostly) equivalent or slightly worse than a top specced regular tank of the same tier, their advantage being dirt cheap running costs.
    • A Patch allowed gold ammunition to be purchasable for in-game currency, at very high prices. This has had the effect of making some guns massively overpowered, particularly most 105mm howitzers, which can fire HEAT ammo that has massive penetration and huge damage. On tier 5 tanks it's now possible to one-shot most tanks your tier or less, and make an absolute mockery of heavy tanks. This has caused the T95 tank destroyer, formerly The Dreaded due to having the heaviest frontal armor of any vehicle in the game, stop provoking the reaction of "it's a T95, Screw This, I'm Out of Here!" and instead get "it's a T95, quick, switch to gold ammo because it will allow even some vehicles that are lower tier than it to easily penetrate its frontal armor and kill it quickly."
    • Most notably, the Konisch gun. It's standard ammo has good armor penetration but abysmal damage. Gold ammo, however, allows it to hit harder than a gun it's size with armor penetration that isn't matched for another two tiers, and combined with the high rate of fire, excellent accuracy and aim time... it's a complete gamebreaker hampered only by the obscene expense of gold in this game.
      • The recent patch fixed this issue by boosting the damage of the normal shells.
    • Another Game-Breaker is the premium Hotchkiss light tank. Not unbeatable... unless you're one of the new players that encounter it in the starting matches and thus haven't learned it's few weak points, or are mounting a 20mm gun that many early tanks use which can't damage it at all. (Unless, of course, you use gold ammo. That'll go right through it.) One player fought 400 matches using only the Tier 2 Hotchkiss... and then bought an end-of-line Tier 9 Panther II thanks to all the xp they gained.
    • Gold can also be spent to transfer XP points between tanks (so you can use overpowered tanks to grind XP instead of underpowered ones), increase match rewards and quick training of the tank crew. Or you can just buy a pile of silver with gold instead of grinding it.
  • Sryth has Adventurer Tokens (ATs for short). There’s a very limited number of ATs in the game and some of those need to be spent on certain must-have items such as a Quickstone, a grand residence, access to the Battlegrounds, and Varkyn's Ring of Motley Wonder (each of those expenses is absolutely necessary). That leaves you with a limited supply of ATs and they are the only currency accepted at Tallys' Trading Post. But you can get more by donating. In fact, this is the only way to get the best of Tallys' stuff. Some players are known to have donated over a 1000 US dollars (estimates based on the AT cost of their gear). But even without the best stuff your character can be like a god early in the game, for example if you buy all the Dragongem armor pieces: The cost is 1324 ATs and the bonuses are +45 MR and +109 SP (and that’s without taking into account the weapon and shield equipped). For comparison, your character can start with (at most) 32 MR and at most 36 SP. Fortunately you don’t need to donate – the negative side of not buying any of Tallys’ items is that your character will likely never have stats as high as those of the people who donated large amounts. In other words:
    • Some fights will be challenging, so you’ll need to think a bit, mostly about which items to use and in what order
    • You’ll likely never hold the top spot on the Battlegrounds challenges, and even if you do get a top spot you’re unlikely to keep it for long. Fortunately the top spots give nothing but bragging rights
  • The Web Game Khan Wars has Coins (you can get 95 coins for free, and have to buy the rest) and A LOT of things you can use them for. In theory: The paid options of the game are made in a way so that they don't disturb the balance in the game. They are designed to help save time of the players who decided to use them. In reality things are different. Here’s a list of what you can do with coins:
    • An overview of most options can be found here
    • Veteran upgrades – you can pay for them with resources or with coins. If you pay with resources the time for completing the upgrade is 12 times longer than if you pay with coins. For example, in one of the game’s worlds the veteran upgrades take 5 five hours if you pay 200 coins, or 60 (!) hours if you pay with resources (so if you use coins you can complete 12 upgrades while another player completes 1 such upgrade for the same time)
    • There are some things that “encourage” players to buy and use coins, such as: the fact that some of the Achievements that got added in version 3.1 require you to use some of the paid options a certain number of times (“Buy resources 3 days in a row”); the Loyal Customers Programme (details here); and the semi-regular various promotions
    • Promotions – there have been various promotions (and there will be many more in the future, no doubt). Some give extra coins, for example 30% extra, so you get 130 coins at the cost of 100 coins. Others allow you to use the options listed above a lot more frequently, such as: buying resources once every 12 hours instead of every 24; completing buildings once every 12 hours instead of every 24; using rituals once every 12 hours instead of every 24… Each promotion lasts several days, so it is possible to have 2 promotions active at the same time.
  • Diablo III got into the act as well, though they did things a bit differently. The in-game auction house let you buy an item for either in-game gold or real-world money, depending on what the seller listed it for. Unlike most of the examples however, Blizzard said they wouldn't list items on the AH themselves, so all transactions were strictly run by the players. It was also possible to sell items for "real-world" money and then use the profits to buy stuff for yourself, and never actually spend your own money.
    • It's worth noting that sales were completely anonymous. Regardless of what they said, Blizzard could have made and sold items themselves for a more classic example and people would never have known. They did, however, take a cut of every sale (and a further cut if the seller withdrew the profits instead of using it to buy other items), so they were making money even without selling items themselves.
    • In the end, both the Auction House and the Real Money Auction House were shut down by Blizzard upon the release of Reaper of Souls. Both auction houses garnered a lot of resentment among players for thoroughly unbalancing the looting aspect of the game and attracting the kind of gold spammers that regularly plague World of Warcraft and other MMORPGs.
  • Played with in Gears of War 3. Roughly half the DLC in the game is simple cosmetic weapon skins, a few of which are packed in with each major DLC release. The Horde Command Pack is an odd use of this trope, as it unlocks new levels of fortification for everything but walls in Horde (including rockets for the Silverback, an armored version of the top-level turret, and the ability to turn a decoy into an Onyx Guard with a shotgun), as well as the new Command Center fortification (starts as a sniper attack, upgrades eventually make it an on-command multishot from the Hammer of Dawn). Somewhat obnoxiously, players with and without the Command Pack will be organized into the same games, and the entire team will fare better if there's at least one team member with the Command Pack. So you essentially Bribe You and Your Team's Way to Victory.
  • Cosmic Break must be one of the worst offenders in history with ultra rare limited edition robots you must roll for in a lotto style random generator that costs $5 per roll. There are videos on Nico Nico Douga and Youtube of players spending in excess of $1000 for a single robot. It's so awful that even if you pay cash money for robots in the standard shop not one of them can compete with the literal game breakers such as Ivis, Toybox Girl, Aquila Girl, or Vanguard Fencer. Add to that the parts on garapon robots are all 3 slotted, 2 slotted on most shop (non random) robots and 1 slot on the free robots and that slot protectors (there is a 50% chance or more any upgrade will fail) are $3 each and you quickly realize that a non cash paying player has no chance whatsoever to compete.
  • In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the AUD (Automatic Unlocking Device) that allows the player to completely bypass one hacking minigame of any skill level is available only to the owners of Augmented and Collector's Editions. It's the only bonus item that can be bought normally in the in-game shops. Also, you start the game 10,000 credits richer.
    • Using an AUD does, however, prevent you from gaining any XP you might earn from completing the hack and discovering any XP and credit bonuses within the hacked system. Not a big deal for the really low level stuff, but you can miss out on a lot of XP and a tidy sum of extra income if you rely on them too much. The 10,000 credits are a bigger deal, since you can buy two Praxis Kits (5,000 each!) from the clinic and unlock extra implants right away.
    • AUDs are also relatively rare (in comparison to vast numbers of locks) and harder the security may be easily bypassed by collected viruses. Two Praxis kits give some edge but, truth be told, are by no means a gamebreaker. Furthermore, the game is single-player only and Augmented Edition comes with an additional side mission, so it isn't a simple 'power pack'.
    • Honestly, unless you've been doing a non-lethal Stealth Run, using an AUD is going to rob you of XP you'd need otherwise. On the other hand, if you've specialized mostly in stealth or combat rather than hacking, the AUDs are a godsend when you run into a level 5 door, and are Too Awesome to Use otherwise. Without an AUD, either you don't get through that door, you figure out the password, or if possible you blow the door up. Some of the other DLC definitely falls into this category, though. The grenade launcher you get from that additional side mission turns the next bossfight into a Single-Stroke Battle, although that's probably all you'll use it for, because there are about three rounds in the entire game besides the ones the weapon itself comes with. The silenced sniper rifle is good if you're going for a non-lethal stealth run. The remaining items are less practical - satchel charges that are relatively hard to find and are mostly situational weapons, and a double-barreled shotgun that sets records for inaccuracy (although it does take up relatively little space).
  • BioShock has a bizarre in-universe example. Thanks to the hyper capitalist nature of Rapture, you can literally buy the security systems that are supposed to be keeping you out and use them on enemies instead.
  • World of Warcraft added this with the ability to buy a tradable in game pet for $10 which typically goes for 5000G - 7000G depending on your server. The highest level gear you can buy from other players typically costs between 5000G - 25000G, and the very rare in game pet goes for around 12000G. For the rich, you can get the ability to transform into a dragon for around 30000G (most of that is money spent on NPC bought items). Turning into a dragon is mostly for show as it has the same effect as riding a dragon, flying carper, helicopter, or various large birds, except you can carry someone on your back. Blizzard states they did this to reduce illicit real money trading.
    • The blizzard store has defied this in regards to paying real money to win. Their unshakeable stance is that they'll never make the players pay for something that will increase the quality of the gameplay drastically.
    • But with the Warlords of Draenor expansion, you can now buy a boost to maximum level for real money, and game-time tokens that can be sold for gold.
  • In the iOS Mega Man X1 port you can buy all the weapons and health upgrades in the game with real money from the very beginning.
  • The iOS remake of Contra has this in spades. Lost all your lives? You better have a buck or twenty on hand to buy some "diamonds" from the cash shop, or else it's back to the start with you. Since this is Contra, this adds up very quickly.
  • Battlestar Galactica Online: Many high-end items, including big starships and all the way to literal experience-buying, need cubits for purchase. You can spend days grinding for the things by doing assignments and hoping the Random Number God gives you the right drops... or you can just fork up the real-world cash.
  • Star Trek Online generally averts this when it comes to starships — while non-endgame C-Store ships are definitely upgrades over ships of that level, the player will inevitably outlevel them, though with luck and skill one can take them further than that. Moreover, all C-Store ship purchases become account-wide unlocks for any character of that faction at that level which (along with any exclusive equipment) may be claimed as many times as the player wants, and it may be carried over onto any other ship that is qualified to use that equipment. Finally, the endgame C-Store ships are mostly sidegrades that have at least one disadvantage compared to the free endgame ships and only mild advantages... though anyone going up against an Odyssey or a Bortasqu' may disagree.
    • Both these ships were first offered as a free prize for any player who completed a temporary (and ridiculously easy) mission.
    • A new game mechanic in STO are so-called locked boxes dropped as loot. Each of these contains a prize ranging from low-level items to exclusive starships. The catch? While the boxes are free, the keys to unlock them need to be purchased with real-life money. Players weren't happy.
      • On the flipside, a lot of money grinding can easily net you those exclusive starships and many duplicates are found in the Exchange. However, even that's a double-edged blade: so far, the cheapest of the exclusive starships are the Mirror Universe ships (which usually go for as low as 15-20K Energy Credits, depending on which one is active at the time) while the really good stuff, like the Tholian, Ferengi and Jem'Hadar ships shoot into the tens of millions.
      • As well, players don't have to actively spend a red dime on the game as they have a system that allows players to trade in refined dilithium (which is used to purchase some of the really good items) for a certain amount of Zen (the currency used by Perfect World, who host the game). As the trading payment is anywhere between 25-500 dilithium per Zen and a player can only refine up 8000 dilithium a day a character, this means a player can walk away with anywhere from 320 Zen to 80 Zen a day per character just by simple grinding.
    • Many veteran players will tell you that there is only two things you absolutely must purchase - the Account Bank (which allows you to trade items across your characters) and the EC Cap raise (which allows you to go from holding 10 million EC to 1 billion).
  • RuneScape has a mini-game called 'Treasure Hunter', whose prizes include things like XP, rare items, raw materials, and in-game money. Players are give three free keys each day to unlock the chests containing these prizes, but can buy more for a greater chance at winning the one they want.
  • Played with in the iOS port of DoDonPachi Blissful Death. Version 1.0.2 added "Custom Edit" options to make the game easier, such as starting with more lives, and most of these can only be unlocked by buying them with real money. But playing with any of these options turned on disqualifies you for the high score rankings. So about the only thing they're good for is letting unskilled players experience the True Final Boss.
  • Also from CAVE, Smartphone Mode in Deathsmiles has powerful DLC equipment, although unlike most other games, the DLC is at best a Disc-One Nuke, none of the items are consumable (and they can all be restored if you lose your save data), and the best equipment in the game can't be bought. The exception is the Lucky Charm, which plays this trope painfully straight - it's the single most expensive DLC item in the game at $4note  and triples the item drop rate when equipped.
  • The Facebook version of You Don't Know Jack has "Performance Enhancers", which increase your score by up to 50%. This being YDKJ, the icons for them are steroid syringes. Lampshaded with the "Buy this Achievement Achievement", which can only be acquired by buying it for 20 cents and does absolutely nothing useful. It's even listed in the shop under the category of "Stupid".
  • Fantasy Online has the golden lockpickaxe, an Omnitool that does the job thrice as fast for half the storage. The slime box (worth $1 usd) has a 1% chance of unleashing one of these. "Mass Panic" did indeed ensue.
  • New Super Mario Bros. 2 has a metagame goal to collect 1,000,000 coins. You will normally only collect about 10,000 coins on a playthrough, so the rest need to be earned either by replaying levels or by playing the Coin Rush mode, which throws in bonus multipliers you can earn at the end of each level. However, one of the DLC packs you can buy consists of three very easy levels filled with thousands of coins... (Such a pack was temporarily offered for free to celebrate a coin milestone, softening the blow a little bit.)
  • Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam has its Character Cards, which allow you to scan a compatible Amiibo figure (Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Yoshi, or Bowser) to create a reusable card that can be used in-battle for a special effect. The only restrictions that you need to find/buy blank cards to make them (Which aren't terribly expensive) and you can only use one card from each of the six characters per battle. Some of the effects are extremely useful, such as guaranteed item drops from enemies, a full HP/BP restore, or temporarily preventing the enemy from acting (Which works on bosses). To top it all off, they don't even have a cost like the standard Battle Cards do.
  • DJMAX Ray has all sorts of items which can make the game easier, even loosening the timing windows. Obviously, all the most powerful ones cost real money. And then there's the 10x EXP and 10x MAX boosters, which cost US$1 per 10 uses. This goes deep into Fridge Logic territory when you consider the fact that a major point of the Rhythm Game genre is playing for score/grade as an indicator of skill, which these items render moot.
  • Marvel: Avengers Alliance has Gold, which can be used to get SHIELD Points for leveling heroes and buying weapons (which otherwise you need to have allies to gift them to you), Command Points for recruiting heroes and buying new skins for the heroes you already have (otherwise obtainable only through boss reward roulettes and 5-starring missions), energy for battles (otherwise a 6 minute wait for each unit of energy), and more powerful weapons, uniforms, gadgets, and consumables than can be bought with the normal currency. You do get Gold for leveling up and 4-starring missions, but its in-game amount is very limited and it's much faster to use real money to get it. The kicker is that many of the things you can buy with gold are far more powerful than the ones you can obtain normally, and grinding for Command Points takes a godawfully long time. So it's not rare to find yourself on PvP against a player who can curbstomp you just because he bought swankier gear, and you didn't/couldn't.
    • Then there's the Unstable ISO-8 necessary for playing through Special Operations, which are basically side stories that bring new characters into the game every other month. You always start with 400, and spend 10 for each battle (20 for boss battles, 40 for Research needed to advance in hero unlocking), therefore making it really quick to burn through them as you go about completing the goals needed to unlock your hero (and you may need to go back and redo a mission if a goal asks you to get X stars when you don't have them yet, ensuring a faster burnout). While you can get refills from random enemy drops, gifting your friends with it (since they will return it) and visiting, all of these only give you one at a time (filling up your Unstable ISO-8 used to be faster with the neighbor visit system, but Playdom rewrote that so they give out much less). There's a x20 UISO-8 slot from the Daily/Boss Roulette too, but it is quite rare to come out (there is also the x100 UISO-8 slot, which is even rarer, and the x1000 slot, which is so rare, it almost looks like a carrot on a stick). So, which is the only sure-fire way to complete the goals needed? That's right, buy Gold, trade it in for Unstable ISO-8 and keep playing (and, occasionally, complete that one goal you're unable to get through).
  • Halo 4 has a bonus EXP boost for players who are willing to spend extra on some bottles of Mountain Dew.
    • Also, players who bought the $100 Limited Edition can choose from any of the eight "Specializations", each of which confers a unique perk to the player once completed, when they reach a rank of 50. Those who bought the regular $60 edition can only choose from two initially, with 343I rolling out other specializations for them at later dates.
  • Candy Crush Saga: You need a powerup to help you through an impossible level? You have to pay money. You need extra lives and you can't wait for 30 minutes for a refill? You have to pay money. You want to go play more levels? Guess what? It's been described as one of the "greatest" (for certain definitions of the word) monetized games ever.
    • Thankfully the "Daily Booster Wheel" averts this trope a bit ... as you can get a random booster per day.
  • See also Pokémon Shuffle, which works on a similar formula to Candy Crush Saga. Even Nintendo isn't above this.
  • Pokemon Rumble World has Poke Diamonds which can be used to purchase certain upgrades and vanity items, as well as to buy Mega Stones, clean up Rusty Pokemon, refuel your Balloons, and slow the roulette to land on the space you want. While they can be acquired through completing quests, they can also be gotten from StreetPass encounters on a rare basis. They're also available for sale with real money... to a point. You are only ever allowed to buy 3000 Poke Diamonds period, after which you get a Diamond Digger to stock you with a number of Poke Diamonds once daily.
  • Tales of Maj'Eyal 4 unlocks unlimited lives mode and twinking for donators.
  • Fire Emblem Awakening has DLC called the "Golden Pack". For six bucks, you unlock missions that you can repeat over and over again, one which gives you massive amounts of experience points, another which gives you incredible piles of gold, and a third which gives you infinite high-rank weapons. There is the risk of losing your characters to unlucky counterattacks, but the enemies in the gold and experience missions don't actually initiate attacks so you can easily calculate when you'll risk losing a character and attack accordingly. Hilariously, the dialogue doesn't even try to hide that you're bribing your way, leading to flimsy excuse plots and Chrom acting as the Only Sane Man.
  • Chris Roberts has stated that the real money shop in Star Citizen will not carry any items that cannot also be obtained by grinding, and that there will be a monthly cap on how much real money players can spend.
  • PAYDAY 2, sequel to PAYDAY The Heist, has several perks that were given to players who pre ordered the game on Steam. People who pre ordered would get a laser sight mod for rifles and a bundle of in game money to spend on items. For $10 more, you could pre order the Criminal Edition that contained the previous bonuses and other perks like discounts on all in game items. However, the perks are only open to those that pre ordered, so those that did not were out of luck. The perks are also minor since they do nothing but slightly speed up the process one has to go through to grind for money in game.
    • The introduction of gun skins obtained via loot box (or "safes" in the game's terms) were met with mixed reception. You could either play the game and hope you get a drill needed to open a safe or pay $2.50 to buy a drill. What set the fan base alight was the more rare gun skins had small stat boosts on them to give their guns better performance. Because the gun skins could be sold on Steam's community market, the rare gun skins made the game pay-to-win for many. The developers eventually listened to the feedback and abolished the requirement of drills for new safes (the old generation safes still need drills to open) as well as removing the stat bonuses on the rare gun skins.
  • iOS games Sonic Jump and Sonic Dash both sell power-ups. But Sonic Dash has a rich reward system. If you get four puzzle pieces by finishing certain rounds over the course of a day (each day begins at 0000 UTC), you can win a power-up. Play every day, and the power-ups get quite rich. You can even win the other playable characters in this fashion.
  • Sonic Forces breaks series tradition in a particularly irritating way. In just about every other Sonic game there is, Super Sonic is obtained by either collecting all of the Chaos Emeralds or completing the game once. How do you get Super Sonic in Forces? Buy the ability for $1.99! Fan backlash was so intense the ability was made free.
  • In just about every game in the With Friends line, you can purchase upgrades and bonuses with either in-game currencies or real money. With some of the games, you have to buy the in-game currency with real money in order to spend the in-game currency on stuff.
  • In Doritos Crash Course 2, you can pay money to unlock levels and get power-ups and rewinds. However, apart from a few cosmetic effects, you can earn everything by just playing the game.
  • The browser-based World Of Dungeons has a lot of options for this. Want to play alternative classes beside the basic three? Shell out some dough and you'll get eleven more. You botched the character and wants to do it over as another character or type? You can wipe the character without losing exp and in-game money for a fee. Your armor is one mere point from breaking? You can repair it for a fee.
    • However, all level and item contents are available to characters of appropriate level. You get your first reset free for a character. Also, gears drop at a fairly good rate, making item shortages somewhat rare (though dealing can be quite a cutthroat). All in all, you can still have lots of fun and adventure with a well-coordinated all-free party; premiums make life a lot easier, but you can still live fairly well without paying.
  • DC Universe Online has an interesting system. The game is free to play, but you don't have access to the DLC missions, the amount of money you can hold is quite low (about $1500) and your vault can only hold a few items. When you purchase about 5 dollars worth of items (which can be any of the premium cosmetic armor sets or even a DLC pack), you gain "premium" status which ups your money holdings slightly (to about $2500) and your vault holds slightly more items. You have to get the subscription to really max it out and get the DLC missions for free and if you don't keep up said subscription, you're bumped back down to "premium". Oops.
  • Aeria Games has become incredibly infamous for this. It is not unheard of for constant complaints about this to go...well, unheard of. When it gets really bad, it's usually a sign that the game is about to be shut down.
  • Plants vs. Zombies 2 does this with some of the extra plants you can buy. It's not as bad as other examples, since, other than one, all of the plants return from the first game and, in the context of this game, are pure Game Breakers (the game is quite easily winnable without them). The sole new purchasable plant is so situational (and, with the other plants, wholly unnecessary) that you'd be a fool to buy it anyway, especially considering its steep price tag.
  • After EA's purchase of Popcap, the Android version of Plants vs. Zombies was modified to include microtransactions. In the original game you could purchase extra items with in-game money that would become necessary to help you through the game. It wasn't a problem because in-game money was easy to come by. But when the microtransactions were added so you could now purchase in-game money with real money they slowed the in-game money drop to a crawl, making unlocking stuff a frustrating grind. The kicker? This was done to all versions of the app, so even if you purchased the paid version before EA had it modified you'll still be stuck with an inferior game, and one that you cannot get a refund for.
  • In-game example in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots: The Stealth Camouflage (Invisibility) and the Bandana (Infinite ammo) are unlocked by beating the game with no alerts or not killing a single enemy, respectively. Or you can beat the game once and shell out an ungodly 5,000,000 points for each of them. It basically boils down to either proving you don't need the item to get it, or farming dropped weapons for about 80 hours. The only upshot is that they're affected by sales the same as the other items, so you can reduce the price to "only" 4,000,000 points by playing on a Wednesday or Sunday, or 2,500,000 by playing back up to Act 5.
  • MechWarrior series:
    • Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries has what would be (if the game had been released after microtransactions had become a feature of video games) a parody: the computer bribes you. One series of missions has you hired by a faction to help them fight a rebellion. On the final mission of that set, as you approach the rebel base you receive the message "Attention mercenary. Whatever the Snakes are paying you, we'll double it. Just turn around and go back to your ship." You'll lose any chance at salvaging their mechs, but you will get twice the pay for that mission, should you accept. The news clip you get after the mission reports that the rebellion was successful in taking control of the planet (if you fight them and win, it reports that they were all killed or captured).
    • Mechwarrior Online, a free-to-play game, is frequently accused of this. Without spending money, players can only purchase 4 mechs, a cripplingly low number - though one can slowly gain more through in-game events. When new mechs are added, they can only be purchased at $20 for a few months (with preordering opening several months prior), premium purchased in-game money for about a month, before finally being opened up to regular in-game monopoly money. Many players snark that the last stage is when the developers discover "hitbox bugs", or "over-performance" and nerf the mech into the dirt. Hero mechs are exclusive to premium money or real cash, and have unique hardpoints for weapons that no other variant can use; some are total garbage, while others are top-tier. Amusingly, on one of the game's main subreddits, new mech announcement threads cause Reddit's algorithm to pick a credit card from the preorder button as the thumbnail.
  • Tetris Blitz for iOs embraces this with a vengeance, constantly nagging you to buy power ups for real money. You can buy a few of these with coins, but all the best ones are cash only. It also borders on Allegedly Free Game territory: powerups heavily influence your score, so forget about competing on the ladder unless you fork over money. To further twist the knife, you can also pay a separate fee to remove banner ads... except many power-ups are sponsored and will also flash (unremovable) ads when you activate them. (See the Penny Arcade entry on the main page for more irony on this subject.)
  • Warframe: Many weapons and Warframes can be bought in completed form for Platinum with a coveted Orokin Reactor or Catalyst pre-installed whereas players would otherwise have to craft all these items over intervals of real time after farming the required materials. The materials themselves can also be bought and the build times circumvented using Platinum and the cash shop also contains mod packs with guaranteed rare mods. All players have access to all items that actually affect gameplay (barring only Warframe and Weapon slots) with only cosmetics being cash shop exclusive but DE certainly sells a high level of convenience.
    • They've been pushing this harder lately by making recent Frames more and more inconvenient to craft. In the early days of the game you simply had to get all 3 component blueprint drops from the boss that drops them, craft the components, buy the Frame blueprint from the market for credits, then spend 3 days crafting the frame. Now for a lot of frames it's much, much harder to even get the components.
    • Equinox probably takes the cake; it's actually crafted from two half-Frames (her Light and Dark halves) which have to be ground, components and blueprint and all, from the boss Tyl Regor- that's eight different Random Drops rather than the usual 3, meaning you're gonna get a LOT more duplicates before you reach a full set. Then you have to craft the 6 components for the 2 half-Frames, that's 12 hours minimum if you do them all at once. Then you have to craft the Light Frame and the Dark Frame; that's another 72 hours, the time it takes to craft a complete Warframe. And then you have to craft the Light and Dark ones together into Equinox; another 72 hours, for a minimum of 156 hours spent purely on crafting, not even counting the farming time. Put it that way and just buying it with Platinum to skip the entire process and get a Reactor-enhanced Equinox instantly doesn't seem like such a bad deal...
    • Second is Chroma, where the required component to craft it requires parts that are dropped from various bosses. One of them is an endgame boss that must be specifically challenged to fight by the players themselves.
    • Third is Nidus, where to craft it, you are required to play the Glast Gambit, which is arguably the worst, if not tedious, sidequest in the game. To wit, that quest has you participate in a tournament that involves high stakes betting, the opponents having rules that makes them easier against you, and instances where The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard are invoked, with the opponent blatantly cheat, at one point you have to lose a bet, and then you after dealing with the cheating, you have to rematch.
      • That was just to get the main blueprint. Want the Components? You have to play the Infested Salvage mission on Eris, where you need to use Vaporizer Units to remove the Infestation from several computers to decrypt a shipping Manifest. You need to complete at least four rounds in a single sitting to get one Component Blueprint to drop, and you may end up having duplicates before you finally get what you need.
    • There's also the deal with War/Broken War. At the end of one of the story quests, you get Broken War, one of the game's best one-handed sword. It's also possibly to get a blueprint for the unbroken version, War (the game's best two-handed sword at the time), to drop from the Shadow Stalker. Problem is, you have to give up your Broken War as a component to craft War. You can find a blueprint for another Broken War, but again, it requires you to give up War to recraft it. There was no way to get another whole Broken War, so apparently you can only have one or the other... or you can buy the 'Hunhow's Gift' bundle from the shop for over 500 Platinum and get a bunch of ornamental gear and a shiny new War, complete with weapon slot and Orokin Catalyst. It is now possible to collect parts to create a new Broken War, but the drop rate is low and it comes from uncommon enemies.
    • The Hema is another case where the community fears the devs were invoking this. While easy to craft once you have a blueprint, clan research to enable that blueprint's production costs a massive amount of an uncommon resource. This caused massive outrage when it first emerged, subsiding somewhat as clans actually finished the research, but it's still a sore spot in the community.
  • Bravely Default has its Sleep Points system. As the name implies, leaving the game on while your 3DS is in Sleep Mode for 8 hours will cause you to gain 1 SP with a maximum of 3, which can be used to freeze time at any point, even in the middle of an enemy attack, and gain additional turns in-game for healing, attacks, and the like. Of course, you could drop a couple of dollars on the eShop to buy some SP drinks that instantly max out your SP and bypass all that "waiting" mess... optional, of course, but still.
  • Angry Birds Go!: Double Coins to up your coin account (so you can upgrade your carts faster), jewels to refill your exhausting counter, and of course getting special carts. Which you can, at the time of the game's release, get physically via the tie in toy Telepods.
  • The Simpsons: Tapped Out is a true paragon of this. Most of the game consists of waiting in real-time for characters to complete tasks. However, donuts, which you can buy with real money, can be used to instantly complete any task, as well as buy in-game money. A person who hands over thousands of dollars to EA could possibly ascend to the maximum level in one day. Without spending money, it takes years.
  • Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff, piggybacking off the success of Tapped Out as it is, copies its formula to a tee. It uses golden clam shells instead of donuts, but otherwise uses them for exactly the same purpose.
  • In Clash of Clans, an optional form of currency is Gems, which are used to speed up construction, buy resources and buy more Worker Units. You can get free gems from clearing out your land or completing achievements, but it's quicker to buy them with real money.
    • Some of Clash's (many) Follow the Leader clones, such as Castle Clash, have added on additional layers of currency. In both games there are Gold and Mana, and then Gems; but in Castle there's also "Shards" and "Merits," which are won through playing certain single-player modes. Neither Shards nor Merits can be bought with Gems, and the things they are redeemed for are also not purchaseable with Gems (mostly ). And, of course, Shards and Merits give you the best rewards. The result is gold old-fashioned Money Grinding, which Gems can only expedite so much. Trading Bribing Your Way to Victory with grinding is not necessarily a step forward, but it at least reduces the impact of In-App Purchase.
  • In Office Jerk:
    • Some items have to be purchased. The games also allow you to earn coins (in the original Jerk), cash (the Summer Games version) and eyeballs (in Zombie) for completing certain objectives which can be used to obtain items.
    • Played with in the Summer Games version. You can throw a wad of money at the Jerk; if he catches it, he'll give you a 25-point boost to your score.
  • Ingress allows you to input special passcodes to redeem items and XM. While some passcodes are obtained from events for free, you can also get them by simply buying bottles of Hint Water, which have passcodes on the insides of the caps. Don't live near a store that sells it? No problem, you can buy it off the official Hint website.
  • Evony is one of the worst; unless you buy a bunch of coins, you'll spend your time as a bitch for those who do. In the first five minutes after a new server opens, a bunch of players WILL have coined their way to the top rank, which allows them to have ten cities at once, used their coins to insta-build huge armies, and bought a whole bunch of other goodies that give them advantages in battle. There exists a $1,000 package. Yeah.
  • Beginning in early 2014, Konami has started requiring players to pay more in order to enjoy most of their arcade games' content. Due to various economic issues, the price of a standard credit per game has increased from 100 yen to 120 yen. However, a problem remains: Japanese arcades typically use 100-yen coins, and the only way to pay in non-increments of 100 yen is through Konami's PASELI electronic currency system. Solution: You can still use coins to pay 100 yen to play, but you will receive only a subset of features. Want to get the most out of the game? Pay the 20 extra yen. Some consequences of paying only 100 yen from the BEMANI series:
  • The newer beatmania IIDX arcade installments also allow you to purchase a DJ VIP Pass Gold (usually set to around 60 yen per game at most arcades) which acts as song failing insurance, allowing you to fail your first two songs and continue playing with no penalty. Additionally, the hardest songs normally aren't available on your first two stages, but you can purchase a DJ VIP Pass Platinum (usually 80 yen) which also lifts this restriction, giving you carte blance to attempt the toughest songs in the game without fear of losing your turn and credit if you fail.
  • Mario Golf World Tour: Buy all the DLC courses and get Gold Mario, who basically gives you free coins when you play as him. Besides that, he's simply a Palette Swap of Mario and even the official art is phoned in.
  • Kings Isle Entertainment's games have second chance chests in most major bosses (though sadly not W101's Hades the Unseen) which cost a small sum of Crowns (Crowns are a currency purchased with real money) for a second chance at the boss' loot and gear purchasable from the Crowns Shop. Specifics:
    • On Wizard 101 there's a lot of Crowns gear. Some good, some bad, some used to be good but turned bad, some used to be bad but turned good (because the metagame shifts wildly whenever there's a content update). None if it is really needed for the regular game, the first half of the game is pretty easy and the second half is harder but Crowns gear doesn't help as much as teammates. In PvP, though, is where this starts to matter. Usually people just grind for Hades and Morganthe's gear (who also has a chest in which you can spend some Crowns on for a second shot at loot) but a Fandom Berserk Button in the PvP community are the Crowns wands, because there really is nothing better than the Islander Hoard Pack wands.
    • Pirate 101 does a much better job at balancing dropped items and Crowns items, but still falls trap to this. Once again, none of this is needed in the main game as long as you have help for certain specific fights and dungeons. In terms of gear, for the first year of the game most of the Crowns gear was very bad when compared to dropped gear in MooShu, Marleybone and Aquila, but then came the new Crowns weapons, two of them being THE de facto weapon for their respective classes. They've since been replaced by Moo Manchu's weapons for the most part, though. In terms of Companions (the units you control in battle alongside your pirate), most of the best companions like Bonnie Anne, Ratbeard and El Toro are free for all classes, but some class specific companions that are desirable to other classes (like Witchdoctor's Kan Po for everyone else) are all available in the Crowns Shop under a reskin and a different name (save for the class specific companions from the Spring Update which are intended only for their respective classes), though they really aren't game breaking, they just add variety and allow the class that gets the original a chance to get a palette swapped clone. Nausica, though, is considered one of (if not THE) best companions in the game and she's only available from the Empire Bundle, a $39 bundle that comes with mostly cosmetic stuff and a set of gear that is an alright alternative to dropped stuff (though not as versatile) and the aforementioned demonic she-horse— err, Nausica.
  • Notoriously, the smartphone remake of Dungeon Keeper is awful about this. To get essentially anywhere in competitive play requires the player to spend "gems", the game's premium currency. Don't want to wait out the ridiculous 12-hour timer to dig out a single square of map (even worse before this was halved from 24)? Spend some gems. Want more gold without having to mine it out of the walls and potentially wait for one of the aforementioned timers to run out? Spend some gems. Want any of the really effective traps or buildings? ...You get the idea.
    • In fact, the game is bad enough that the British Advertising Standards Authority ruled that calling it free-to-play violates truth-in-advertising laws.
  • My Muppets Show is another game based on the same principle as Simpsons Tapped Out. You can get a certain amount of diamonds (the premium currency) for free, but not in the quantities needed to actually do much with them.
  • Poker Night 2 has an in-game version. You can buy your opponents drinks with the Inventory Tokens you've amassed from previous games. Doing this will make their tells easier to spot, but you still need to be able to interpret them properly to truly take advantage of it.
  • The smartphone versions of Groove Coaster:
    • There are three expendable assist items: Follow (converts up to 10 Misses to Goods, which add on to score and won't break combo or decrease Groove Gauge unlike Misses), Flick Change (converts Flick targets to regular tap targets), and Visible (makes the invisible Ad-Lib targets visible). They can be obtained either as level-up gifts, through daily login bonuses, or by buying 10-packs for 1 USD each. Applying any of these three items makes it much easier to get S ranks, high scores, No Misses, and Full Chains. No indicator is shown on the result screen if you use such items, so the only way to verify that a player's score was obtained with or without such items is to watch the replay of that particular score.
    • Inverted with "challenge" items that can be purchased the same way: Just (every hit below a Great becomes a Miss), Hidden (targets vanish right before you have to hit them), Sudden (targets only appear right before you have to hit them), No Way (hides the track that your Avatar moves on), and Stealth (targets are completely invisible).
    • There are three special Avatars you can purchase for 1 USD each, with two of them falling under this trope: Bird triples your EXP gain and Human reduces the required Groove Gauge for a clear to 40%.
  • Several games use amiibo to this end.
    • Kirby and the Rainbow Curse gives free Star Dashes for scanning Kirby, increased attack power for scanning Meta Knight, and increased max health for scanning Dedede.
    • Xenoblade 3D gives three free tokens for scanning Shulk daily. Granted, all these tokens do is allow you to unlock songs in the soundtrack or character models , so they have no real impact on gameplay at least.
    • In Hyrule Warriors, you can scan up to five amiibo per day. Zelda characters give 3-5 star equipment. Other characters give 0-3 star equipment, rupees, or enemy materials.
    • Pokkén Tournament allows you to scan five amiibo a day, all of which allow you to unlock avatar items much faster. They don't have much effect in-game, but if you want the Pokémon trainer in the bottom left to look cool...
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is fairly notorious for this, with most Zelda amiibo having a chance to unlock items or features you otherwise can never get (Epona, Wolf Link, many armor sets and unique items) as well as powerful regular equipment. There is a restriction on what you can receive before you complete the Great Plateau but after that you can just scan all your amiibo (once per day) to have a literal pile of loot with no effort. In particular, getting Guardian weapons and Ancient Arrows from scanning that amiibo breaks the early game wide open by itself.
    • In Super Mario Odyssey, scanning a Wedding character amiibo gets you bonuses such as temporary invincibility, a display of the regional coins you haven't found yet on the map, or free Life-Up Hearts.
  • In the iOS/Android game Summoners War: Sky Arena, spending money can get you some of those hyper-rare scrolls to summon better, rarer monsters, up to the elusive Dark or Light Olympus Mons. Summoning such a mon is totally up to Random Number God; cases abound where low level players who never spent a single money have 2 or more such mons, while paying players who've spent hundreds of dollars had gotten none.
  • Rusty's Real Deal Baseball has a rather bizarre example: the game itself is free to download, but to progress through the story you have to pay real money for new levels and mini-games. You can even haggle with Rusty to reduce the prices.
  • A strategy in Red Alert 3. To wit, you just grab a pile of Spies, disguise them as something, run them into the enemy army, then bribe the army to turn around. This costs a fair chunk of ore to use, and extra for each unit, but is half the unit's actual cost, and allies get a economic advantage anyway.
  • Many arcade redemption ticket games have a feature where you use one coin to start a special jackpot mode in a similar vein to pinball Wizard Modes, then use successive coins to obtain the jackpot itself, with the jackpot usually being a Progressive Jackpot.
    • In Smokin' Token if you get a coin into the Bonus slot, then get another coin into a Bonus Slot again, you'll be rewarded with such a jackpot.
    • Treasure Falls requires you hit at least 2 or 3 (depending on operator settings) of the statue's four teeth, and you can only hit one tooth per coin unless you get very, very lucky. After doing so, the statue then drops the coins that fell into its jaw, allowing the built-up coins to trigger targets for tickets en masse.
  • The Leland Arcade Games Ivan "Ironman" Stewart's Super Off-Road and Danny Sullivan's Indy Heat both have a feature where players can insert extra coins for $200,000 each in upgrade money.
  • Call of Duty has been using DLC for years with its 'Map Pack' add-ons, giving players more content for their real world cash. Starting in Black Ops II, they released tons of DLC add-ons like camos, calling cards and reticules for dirt cheap; but they also released the very first DLC gun of the franchise - the Peacemaker. Ghosts followed suit, with DLC ranging from custom guard dog skins, celebrity combat announcers, 2 DLC guns and masses of camos. Not to be outdone, Advanced Warfare went a step further with its Supply Drops, purchased boxes that each contain 3 items from a list of thousands, with a guarantee of at least one weapon and at least one 'Professional or higher' grade item. With the slew of DLC camos, guns and maps, as well as the loot boxes, it wasn't rare to see someone shell out hundreds to get 200 or more crates at a time. And did I mention the best items in the game are the rarest? Which require you to grind for days to prestige high enough or pray to the RNG for a drop; or you can buy 300 or so crates, get 900 pieces of loot, exchange junk and duplicates for xp, bypassing any need to play the game AND have the uber 'Elite' gear?
    • Black Ops III has it even worse. Though it's Black Market system originally did not allow for spending money, nor did it offer game-changing items, Activision eventually decided to implement a premium currency in the form of COD Points, which could be used to buy Supply Drops from the Black Market as an alternative to Cryptokeys, which are earned through gameplay (albeit at a somewhat slow rate). Then, they added Supply Drop-exclusive melee weapons that all function identically to the standard knife, and then they added ranged weapons, such as the NX Shadowclaw, Marshal 16 and HG-40. What makes this a problem is that the drop rates for these weapons are terrible - Activision confirmed that the odds of recieving a weapon from the Supply Drops were a measly 0.8% chance, and that includes the worthless melee weapons mentioned earlier. The system is clearly designed to squeeze as much money as possible out of the player, which is made more apparent by the frequency of duplicate items and the lack of any way of unlocking those weapons other than through the Black Market.
    • Depending on who you ask, Infinite Warfare is either better or worse about this, thanks to it offering all of the DLC weapons as a bonus for purchasing the Season Pass. Do you sink time, Cryptokeys and COD Points into the Quartermaster to unlock these weapons, or do you cough up the $40 for the Season Pass to unlock them that way? Regardless, you're probably going to find yourself paying for them rather than wasting time grinding for Cryptokeys. However, one key improvement is the implementation of Salvage. When a duplicate item is obtained, instead of receiving compensation in Cryptokeys, you earn Salvage, which can be spent to directly purchase weapon variants and other items from the Quartermaster.
    • Even the remake of Modern Warfare has these through the Depot - the difference here being that each weapon and weapon kit needs to be unlocked by obtaining a certain set of cosmetic items from the Depot (player skins, melee weapons etc.). These items can either be obtained through the Supply Drops, or purchased using Parts - which function identically to Salvage in Infinite Warfare.
  • Fallout Shelter: Lunchboxes contain a selection of random goodies. You can get them for free by completing in-game challenges, or just buy them from the Apple App Store.
    • More specifically, there are 4 things you can buy with real money - Lunch Boxes, Pet Carriers, Mr. Handies, and Nuka Cola Quantum. Lunch Boxes and Pet Carriers can be gotten for free in the game, and hold 1 random pet (usually very useful) and 5 random things (caps, weapons, resources, people, etc.) respectively. Mr. Handies are pay-for only, but are really just for convenience in collecting your resources. Lastly, Nuka Cola Quantum is gotten easily through quests and just speeds play up. In all, this game ends up being micro-transactions done right - at the very least, you can't directly buy Caps (the currency of the game) with money.
  • Kritika sells Karats, a special unit of currency that can be purchased using real money, and are used to upgrade high level gears, or purchase Avatar items, etc. However, these karats can actually be obtained throughout the gameplay and/or from log-in rewards, although it would be much more time-consuming to collect than if one were to pay for it.
  • Some of Bally/Midway's early 1980s video games like Gorf, Wizard of Wor, and Solar Fox let you buy more lives to play a single game by inserting an additional quarter into the machine. Many other arcade games used/use a similar strategy, for example Konami's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles beat-'em-ups.
  • Path of Exile:
    • Downplayed. You can spend money to get more stash tabs, gain more character slots, found guilds, expand your guild slots, and stash tab improvements, but there are no items you can buy with real cash that will get you a combat advantage. Anything you can buy that affects your character's appearance is strictly cosmetic. The main point of spending money is to support development of the game, since it's otherwise free to download and play.
    • Parodied the concept of Pay-to-Win with their 2014 April Fool's Gag, in which they decide to "nickel and dime" the players for victory. In other words, a consumbable item that can be bought for 15 cent that causes celebratory fireworks to fire around your character to symbolize your "victory".
    • In-universe the Emperor Izaro, determined to find a worthy heir to his empire, unearthed an ancient tradition and constructed the Labyrinth. An enormous deathtrap, in theory only the cleverest, fittest, and most worthy could complete it. In practice, the wealthy Perandus family seized the opportunity to bribe architects and servants for the schematics and sneak provisions inside, assassinate competitors, and had the resources to support someone to train constantly to prepare for it. When Chitus Perandus became emperor he had Izaro imprisoned inside the Labyrinth.
  • Love Live! School Idol Festival already bears a major staple of typical Japanese mobage: using special rare currency that can be bought with real money or obtained in-game through special conditions to instantly recharge your stamina meter (rather than having to wait hours to refill it for free), continue in a failed stage, and gacha pulls for rare cards. However, this trope really kicks in during events: players try to build up event points by competing against other players in real-time (Score Matches) or grinding tokens to play a special event song that yields a lot of event points when played. There are set event point milestones at which you are rewarded prizes, from common rewards like Love Gems and G, to rare ones like the special event-exclusive card...except this card is non-Idolized. To get a second one of that card so you can Idolize it, you need to finish the event with a high enough ranking percentile. The best way to keep your rank up? Spend money on Love Gems to continuously refill your stamina for more chances to play for event points!
  • Stardew Valley has a rare in-game example of this. You can choose to buy a JoJa Corp membership, which will see the old Community Centre sold to the company and the bundles system removed: instead of offering items to the resident nature spirits to install improvements around town, you instead make payments in cash to the local JoJa Corp representative so they build the community. While this is nice for players who like Min-Maxing, going this route will lock you out of many potential rewards, and it's thematically discouraged as JoJa Corp are the closest thing the game has to a Big Bad.
    • Even if you do decide to help save the Community Center, there's an example of this in the Vault bundle: you make payments of cash to help fill the town's coffers and fund repairs for the bus to Calico Desert.
  • This is all too common in games like League of Angels and Wartune. They may do this in two ways, one being that quests start to require levels that take tons of grinding to achieve without payment, or either a Difficulty Spike that makes enemies too hard to beat without grinding or payment or That One Boss appearing. Sometimes, especially if you manage to get later than said point in the game, it becomes a combination of both.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links, you can purchase gems and other items with real-world money, though you don't have to.
  • In Snapimals, you can purchase jewels, which are used in-game to either purchase other resources, or instantly finish upgrading a building. Although jewels can be earned in-game (such as by completing certain achievements), you'll usually only get one or two.
  • Animal Crossing New Leaf: Welcome amiibo, as well as the earlier Doubutsu no Mori e+, takes a variant of this. You can use amiibo cards (in the former case) or e-reader cards (in the latter case) to coax villagers to move into your town. If you have a bunch of favorite villagers, you can wait for them to move in naturally (which will probably never happen outside of participating in "villager trading" and gaming the system), or you blow some cash on cards of your favorite villagers and use them to call the villagers to visit, then proceed to convince them to move in as normal. These cards also have the side effect of acting like the ultimate insurance, that if a villager does leave again, you can just simply use it to beckon the villager back.
  • World of Warcraft, which had long suffered under a gold-farming epidemic, eventually decided to kill off illegal RMT once and for all by cornering the market. Players can use real money to purchase tokens, which can be redeemed at auction houses for large amounts of in-game currency.
  • Present in Eternal Card Game, since it is a Collectible Card Game with a premium currency. Somewhat downplayed by the large amounts of cards and packs received just by playing the game normally.
  • Crush Crush lets players purchase gifts, dates, speed boosts, and extra time blocks with diamonds. You get one diamond for each girl's relationship level you unlock and three if you get her all the way up to Lover level but to get any more diamonds you need to open your wallet. This borders on Allegedly Free Game too as you have a cap on how much reset bonuses you can accumulate for free (reset bonuses speed up your progress bars) and leveling up any girls past the first twelve ones hence takes such an absurdly long time that you need to spend diamonds on speed boosts to complete the game in a halfway reasonable amount of time.
    • This was later mitigated by the addition of a daily reward system that let players get a free diamond (or occasionally a time block or three diamonds) every day for logging in, so patient players can now collect enough diamonds to purchase speed boosts (although it's still tedious). Some weekly events also unlock girls' outfits (that can normally be unlocked only by paying 10 diamonds for each outfit) for free if players log into the game for all days of that event.
  • Final Fantasy XIV has two items that can be bought with real money to either level up a job to 60 or skipping the main scenario to the start of the story in an expansion pack. The book that lets a player level a job instantly gives the player a set of gear to set them on their way and 300,000 gil to use in game. The book that skips the A Realm Reborn story will place the player at the start of the Heavensward story if they have that expansion pack and another book that lets the player skip both A Realm Reborn and Heavensward to start the Stormblood story if they own that expansion pack. While this may scream pay to win, the developers took steps to prevent abuse of the items; both the job level boost and the story skip can only be used once per character and the job level boost can only be used once per account. Since the level cap is 70, the job level boost only places the player at level 60 so that they have to do some level grinding. The cost of buying the items are $25 to instantly level a job, $18 to skip A Realm Reborn and $25 to skip both A Realm Reborn and Heavensward. The restrictions and costs were designed to have the player decide if they really want to fork over a small fortune to level up and skip everything instantly to reach the endgame with their friends or just tough it out and progress normally without the boosts. A later patch would lift the restrictions and allow people to buy as many of the items as they want.
  • LittleBigPlanet:
    • This is a less observable phenomenon throughout the series that does not apply literally. However, it is worth noting that about the same weeks that notable DLC packs come out (eg Metal Gear Solid, Pirates of the Caribbean, DC Comics etc.), a lot of levels simply containing the new content begin to surface, sucking up all the ratings and fame that they can get before the said content becomes ordinary. Probably the biggest example of this was when the Pirates of the Caribbean DLC came out, resulting in thousands of people spamming levels consisting of nothing but water with the occasional rocket-powered boat.
    • A more literal example is in the Endless Running Game Spin-Off Run Sackboy! Run!. One can buy Bubbles, the currency of the game, using real money. There are also baskets of boosters that can be bought, in addition to Save-Me Hearts and other bonuses like one free auto-shield per run or double bubbles forever.
  • The micro-transactions in Star Wars Battlefront II (2017) were so egregious in providing boosts to player power that the community backlash resulted in EA opting to disable micro-transactions entirely (they then had to go back and vastly increase the rate at which players earned in-game currency since it was originally balanced around people spending real money). What made this so egregious is that it involved Loot Boxes, which have subsequently been investigated and deemed to be a form of gambling by several jurisdictions thanks to EA rocking the boat so blatantly - so basically, not only were you paying for useful in-game items, it was a crapshoot as to whether or not you got the item you wanted.
  • Pokémon GO has many important items that can only be purchased with Pokécoins. You can earn coins for free ingame, but at a maximum rate of 50 per day; with the highest bulk-discount you can buy them at a rate of 145 coins per 1 U.S. dollar, so paying players have a massive advantage. Coins can be traded for Lucky Eggs that double your experience gains for 30 minutes, Incubators that let you hatch up to 9 eggs simultaneously instead of just one (or Super Incubators that additionally cut off 1/3rd of the required walking distance), and Raid Passes that let you do as many raid-battles in a day as you're willing to pay for. That last one is the biggest offender, because the game only gives you one free raid pass per day, and desirable raid bosses only appear for a limited time. You can also buy Pokéballs, revives, and potions, instead of walking to Pokéstops to get them—poorly-calibrated drop rates often make it difficult to keep your fighters healthy without buying healing items.
  • The Nintendo Switch port of Bayonetta 2 lets you scan up to 32 amiibo per day to get items, alternate costumes, and halos. If you regularly scan your amiibo, you'll have a steady source of halos to buy out the shop's entire stock with.
  • Originally in Arcaea, the only things you could buy with Memories — in-game currency that itself requires buying real-world cash — was DLC tracks, which in addition to obviously widening your track library also gives you more tracks to raise your Potential rating on. However, the 1.5 update introduces World mode, where you spend stamina to play songs and progress through paths of unlocks; stamina can be restored by waiting a while, spending Fragments (another in-game currency, which is earned by playing tracks), or spending Memories. Thus, Memories can be used to not only purchase songs but also speed up World mode progress.
  • The online mode for Grand Theft Auto V has lots of items and customizations you can purchase with in game money, but the prices are set ridiculously high and earning money in game have somewhat low yields. The shark cards give you tons of in game cash in exchange for real life money, so those that have money to burn can easily buy all the cool toys and upgrades right away to troll other players with.
  • Downplayed with certain video game Speedruns. While getting anywhere near the top usually requires a good amount of skill, getting the very best times can sometimes require specific editions of games and/or hardware, which can be rare or from a different region than your own, making them somewhat difficult or expensive to obtain.
  • The Resident Evil 2 (remake) has a $5 DLC that lets you instantly unlock everything in the game without having to beat the game on the higher difficulties in minimal time.

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