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Revenue-Enhancing Devices

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But let me emphasize as hard as I can that this shit has gotten completely fucking mental! The in-game store of Ghost Recon Break-even is bigger than my local Whole Foods. Guns, upgrades, hats, trousers, emotes, icons... ICONS?? Who on this good green Earth has ever glanced at someone else's custom multiplayer icon for more than a fucking nanosecond and said "Ooh, here's someone I need to take seriously"? And let's not forget you can buy what's termed "Time Savers". So first we buy your game, Ubisoft, and then you charge us more money to not have to play it. If I paid double price up front, would you just not give it to me at all? Take a step back, people, because this has all gotten way too fucking normalized. When you charge money for something you can produce infinitely at zero cost, like in-game currency, that's not a service. That is the fucking death of economics as a concept. How the fuck did we get here from basic principles of trade? It's like walking up to a dude in the stocks in the village square and saying "if you give me 3 turnips I'll spit in your face."

We would like to believe that game companies exist solely to provide us with fun, exciting games. Unfortunately, in the real world like any other company, game companies also have to make money.

It is for this reason that there so often seems to be design features in games, both computer games and board games, that seem solely designed to ensure increased profit for the manufacturer without technically, specifically, necessarily adding any gameplay value for the consumer.

Hoo hoo hwa ha ha!

Of course, most examples of this are controversial. For example, while many players may regret having to buy large quantities of booster packs in order to get the one card they want, others may consider the uncertainty of opening a booster pack just part of the excitement of the game.

This is particularly common in "Free" MMOs, which can be either truly free, with all content available to all players; or only partially free, with limited free content available, making them Allegedly Free Games. For the former, there are usually game-enhancing (possibly even game-breaking) equips and boosts, as well as a variety of cosmetic-only (usually fanservice-enhancing) items, available for real money in some form of in-game cash shop. Several studies have discovered that the presence of Revenue Enhancing Devices in "free" online games, even those that are strictly cosmetic, typically increase the amount of revenue generated per player by up to double that of subscription-only games.

During the late 2000s, Microtransactions became much more commonplace in video games, particularly in console and mobile games. With the ability to purchase non-physical goods becoming very convenient, companies and developers have created new ways to take more money from people than the game's price tag. One of the most popular methods of monetization are Loot Boxes, where players can open a mystery box that gives out a random assortment of items, while in many cases not providing a way to acquire a specific item directly. Video games that are focused around these mechanics as a means of progression are commonly referred to as Gacha Games, which are more prevalent in Asian markets. While players are still able to opt out of paying real money for these systems, they do not discourage players that are willing to spend hundreds of dollars to get what they want. In fact, these types of players, known as "whales", are the main source of income for these systems.

The term comes from the Reagan Administration, where Ronald Reagan had more-or-less promised smaller government, and found they had to raise taxes. Well, rather than say they were raising taxes, they mentioned a new way to obtain money: Revenue Enhancement, which people immediately saw that 'Revenue' in this case meant 'tax' and enhancement meant 'increase'.

Contrast Expansion Pack, where one man's Revenue Enhancement is another man's extra content. Compare Allegedly Free Game, Bribing Your Way to Victory, Freemium, Guide Dang It!, One Game for the Price of Two. May result in Crack is Cheaper.


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    Collectible Card Games 
  • In Collectible Card Games, the cards you get in a pack will be randomized, with certain cards more common than others — for instance, Magic: The Gathering packs have eleven commons, three uncommons, and a rare (with the possibility that the rare could be mythic, and one of the commons could be replaced by a foil card). Therefore, to get a specific card, you either have to keep buying packs until you chance upon it, trade with someone for it, or go buy it from the secondary market, while hoping the Standard tournament rules haven't rotated the cards out of play in the meantime.

    To make things worse, there tend to be as many or more different rare cards than commons or uncommons in each set. Add to the the fact that most games have a hard limit to the number of copies of any card that can be in a deck. In order to get a full playset of rares by booster packs, the player will likely have 10 or more FULL SETS of the commons, of which only one set can be used in a deck.
    • Wizards of the Coast have addressed some of this problem in recent years by reducing the size of their sets. In an article around about the time of Shards of Alara, it was admitted that not only do larger sets make it harder to get certain cards, but the economy problems of the last few years certainly haven't helped either, and they were bowing to the reality of said problems making it particularly bad for players to attempt to get much of a collection at all.
  • The World of Warcraft spinoff trading card game has special "Loot Cards" which have codes on them that can get you vanity items for your ingame character. Anything from a rideable turtle to a pet gorilla, but nothing that will give your character an actual combat advantage. Pretty much the sole reason for these loot cards is to sell more booster packs.
  • Some Collectible Card Games are Revenue Enhancing Devices. The fourth Star Wars game didn't even try to hide the fact that you were going to lose if you weren't willing to shell out enough money to get cards like Anakin, Count Dooku and other Episode II stars.
  • The American and European versions of the Pokémon Trading Card Game take the original Japanese version and increase the rarity of a lot of cards in each set in more ways than one: Not only are many cards bumped up a rarity level or two, especially if they are shown to be good to use in a deck, but the packs contain both fewer rare cards and fewer cards overall too. For instance, all Japanese booster packs contain a Rare-Holo card, but the non-Japanese packs restrict it to one every three packs. Generation V, however, has the most standout example: Pokémon Catcher is listed as Uncommon, but because this card was essential to any tournament-viable deck, it was printed in fewer quantities than the other Uncommon cards.
  • D&D Miniatures has a similar deal with booster packs. Additionally, miniatures are divided into four "alignments", and all your creatures have to be from one alignment. This significantly increases the number of booster packs you have to buy to make a playable army. Note also that this randomization is considered annoying by those who buy the miniatures so that they can be used to represent combat in D&D.
  • Hero Clix uses the booster pack model. A booster will have two commons, two uncommons, and one rare. One in (about) every four packs will instead have two commons, one uncommon, one rare, and one super-rare. Given that they encourage you to buy new sets in packs of 12 (you get a free figure if you do), not bad. So, of course, that's not the end of the story. Some sets have chase figures, which have varities varying from 1 in every 50 boosters to 1 in every 100. If you want one, you've got two choices: get extremely lucky, or get over to eBay.

    Downloadable Content 
  • Alert gamers have noticed that some purchasable Xbox Live DLC is nothing more than a code which unlocks content that is already on the disc you paid for; Namco and EA are particularly known for this, as is the PSN DLC (any DLC with a stated size of 100kb is just an unlock key), and Square-Enix's WiiWare releases have begun to follow suit.
  • Bethesda:
    • The Elder Scrolls:
      • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion:
      • The "Trope Codifier" probably would be the "Horse Armor" DLC. This was an armor that you could equip on your horse. It was nearly-useless (usually doubling the low health a horse had, but capping it at 750 if it would be higher) and more or less just for looks. If anyone refers to excessive DLC, especially if it's just skins that don't have any effects, as horse armor, they are referring to this. Bethesda is credited as the first third-party publisher to implement DLC microtransactions.
      • Bethesda took this one in stride. One year for April Fool's Day they announced a 50% sale on their Oblivion expansion pack Shivering Isles - but noted that due to the money lost from this sale they would have to double the price of horse armor.
      • Bethesda pulled this off once again with Skyrim in the form of their Creation Club system. During its announcement, Bethesda insisted that the Creation Club's content was not going to be "paid mods", but "Mini DLC's". When the Creation Club beta was released, it indeed turned out that its content was composed of items and skins very similar to those that could easily be obtained as free mods, which in many cases, proved to be superior in quality to the "official" paid content that the Creation Club provided. To add insult to the injury, one of the items featured in the Creation Club was a Joke Item poking fun of Bethesda's earlier marketing mistakes with the Oblivion's Horse Armor DLC, that you had to pay real money for to obtain.
    • Fallout:
      • Fallout 3 is an odd example. The DLC actually adds a fair bit of content into the game, but the only way to carry on playing after the storyline finishes is to buy the Broken Steel DLC. In most games, "playing after the story finishes" would be seen as a bonus, but Fallout 3 is ostensibly an open-world sandbox game (like Oblivion) and the original ending is incredibly contrived; at least one of your companions in Broken Steel actively lampshades how stupid the original ending was. Fallout 3 and Oblivion are also particularly odd as they were made with the expectation that they would gather a large mod community, meaning that any DLC released has to include a relatively significant amount of content in order to be worthwhile. After all, why buy horse armour DLC when the mod community can do an even better job for free?
      • Fallout 4: The Creation Club system.
  • A special mention should go out to how Square Enix has been releasing DLC for their WiiWare releases. Oftentimes, they will release the base game at a nominal fee (around $10, give or take), and then additional content will be $2-$3 each. Final Fantasy IV: The After Years is $37 in its complete form, while Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a Darklord takes the proverbial cake at $67 if you purchase all of its DLC!
    • They're continuing the trend with Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, the first 3DS game to have paid DLC, with downloadable music tracks for $0.99 each. They have announced that there will be at least 50 purchasable songs in this format; buy them all and you'll have spent more on that than on the game itself! The iOS version takes this into Allegedly Free Game territory: just as much DLC, but comes with only two songs. The sequel, Curtain Call, includes all the songs from the first game + DLC, but also has its own DLC songs (and characters).
    • The current tally? 100 DLC songs at $0.99 each, and 6 DLC characters! Over $100 in DLC. And that's just the first and second 'performances' (releases of DLC). Who knows if there will be more?
  • Capcom did the same thing with Resident Evil 5. You have to pay 400 Microsoft Points (US $5.00) to play Versus Mode.
  • The most blatant example of this is the Xbox 360 version of The Godfather: The Game... several already-present in-game merchants won't deal with you until you've 'unlocked' them with real-life moolah. This includes all of the most powerful weapon-upgrades and the strongest henchman. You could also just buy packets of in-game cash. There's certainly an irony to a game about the mafia demanding extra money for special favors.
  • Rock Band
    • Rock Band has over 3,000 songs available for download at roughly $2 each. Of course, this attracts a fair share of criticism from certain nay-sayers, who would prefer Harmonix to sell them the music on-disc (at a more effective value) instead of selling it as overpriced DLC; however, several track packs and albums are offered at a discount compared to buying each song individually.note  This is particularly prevalent for The Beatles: Rock Band, whose tracklist included a minimal 45 songs for a full-priced game, with a selection of other songs from the band's catalogue (specifically the missing songs from Rubber Soul, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road) sold separately. And that's not even getting to the instrument peripherals...
    • A few achievements/trophies in Rock Band 3 flat out require you to buy certain DLC songs in order to get them:
      • "Mercurial Vocalist", which requires the purchase of at least 3 DLC songs by Queen.
      • "Dave Grohl Band", which requires at least 5 songs which Dave Grohl performed in (Although some non-DLC songs count towards the achievement, but not enough to unlock it without DLC).note 
      • "The Perfect Drug", which requires you to have purchased the song of the same name.
  • Guitar Hero has taken down all its DLC, but used to qualify with its large amounts of DLC (although nowhere neat the extent of Rock Band):
    • World Tour averted this with the guitar duels versus Ted Nugent and Zakk Wylde, which appeared at first glance to be shameless money grabs. They must be "purchased" through the online music store to be played in quickplay, even though they are clearly on the disk as they appear in the career mode, however they are actually free and simply must be downloaded free of charge from the music store. Otherwise, the Guitar Hero series played this straight.
    • In Warriors of Rock, unlocking things is done by earning stars in Quickplay+ mode. There are only so many songs on-disc, which limits the amount of stars you can get total, and DLC songs count towards your star total, so buying lots of DLC makes it easier to unlock everything. Fortunately, you can also unlock everything instantly by getting 100% Completion in Quest Mode.
    • The 2015 revival, Guitar Hero Live, subverts this. There is no DLC anymore; any songs that aren't on-disc are streamed through MTV-style channels or on-demand through the GHTV mode. However, you can only play songs on-demand with "tokens"; along with levelling up and coins earned by playing songs, you can purchase play tokens (or a "party pass" that gives you unrestricted access for a period of time) with "Hero Cash". One can only infer how one obtains Hero Cash.
  • The Xbox 360 avatar system is a surprisingly effective cash cow. For various amounts of Microsoft Points (with a real cost equivalent of 50 cents to 5 dollars) you can purchase clothing items or props for your avatar. These items have no gameplay purpose at all, and only make your avatar look slightly different in the few games that use your avatar, or when you appear in other people's friend lists.

  • Free MMO distributor Nexon is notorious for their use of this trope with their free-to-play games; with many offering potentially game-breaking gear in their shop, and a few offering cosmetic items that really ratchet up the Fanservice levels. All shop items are purchased with "NX", an intermediary electronic currency, which itself can only be purchased with real money — either via game cards (available from many real-life shops), mobile phone charges, credit card, or PayPal. NX currency is not available through any in-game mechanism. Examples below:
    • Mabinogi, has an item shop that offers numerious game-enhancing items including 'gachapons' (items that turn into random gear), items which temporarily enhance or reduce stats, items which increase experience gain, extra characters (beyond your one free one of each race), and in-game pets.
    • MapleStory, another Nexon game, is even more notorious for this; with many cash shop items being well into the Game-Breaker side of the trope. To the point where many players consider the game effectively unplayable without spending considerable amounts of real money, due to the exhorbitant amount of grinding needed otherwise.
    • Vindictus started out with very few game-enhancing items available in their cash shop; but lots of high-priced cosmetic offerings, most of which existed to up the Fanservice levels. Many more of both have been added with subsequent expansions (with the cost of cosmetic items considerably reduced). While none of them make it to Game-Breaker status; many really ratchet up the fanservice levels.
    • Dragon Nest offers a wide variety of items in the Dragon Vault which make different aspects of the game easier (or practically doable) and more convenient. There's an additional convenience: Almost all of these special goods can be sold in the Trading House for gold, so paying players can effectively buy large amounts of gold with real money. Fortunately for non-paying players there's a steady enough supply of the common cash items that they are affordable at higher levels.
  • Earth Eternal does something similar, except that it also has a Credit Swap wherein players can buy the "credits" from each other with in-game gold. EE shop items include temporary and permanent versions of items which increase movement speed, increase experience gain, expand inventory capacity and supply bottomless spell reagents.
  • City of Heroes released $10 'Super Booster' packs which contain extra costume pieces (with no effect on gameplay), special emotes (with no effect on gameplay), and a bonus power of some sort (which range from Awesome, but Impractical to rather handy but little effect on actual combat). According to the developers, one of the first packs was so popular that the profits got the next free update out the door much faster.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • Has a ton of these, from the aforementioned Collectible Card Game to standard WoW-themed merchandise to a Pet Store where you can spend cash for in-game vanity pets and mounts. The upshot is that this is all purely cosmetic stuff and is in no way necessary to access or complete far. The most egregious example thus far in World of Warcraft: the Celestial Steed, a mount which provides no concrete in-game benefit, aside from looking cool. The sheer number of orders resulted in a queue on the online store for days. Players realized too late that a mount like that is no longer cool if EVERYBODY gets it. TotalBiscuit parodied that by calling the item "That Retarded Horse," or TRH for short.
    • While store-bought mounts no longer offer any benefits (all mounts adjust to your riding skill and can reach the fastest speed your current training allows nowadays), the indroduction of Pet Battles has brought another possible (though still very minor) advantage for buying from the Blizzard Store: pets bought from the store, while not any stronger than "ordinary" pets, are always Rare quality, meaning that you don't have to search for the perfect pet or the appropriate Battle Stone in-game, a process that can potentially take hours depending on your luck.
    • World of Warcraft also sells "boosts", which you can use to take a character from level 1 to the beginning of whatever expansion pack is current. Prior to Shadowlands (which instituted a "level squish") this could advance your character up to 110 levels, allowing you to jump right into current content, rather than level up through older content.
    • This continues into Blizzard's massive crossover game, Heroes of the Storm. A modest fee will unlock any number of snazzy-looking mounts which, of course, offer no gameplay benefit over the default mounts.
  • EverQuest 2 also has "station store" where you can spend real money to buy purely cosmetic outfits, mounts, and home furniture. You can also buy extra character slots for your account. (Back in the really old days, you could have up to 8 characters per server - now it's 7 per account).
  • RuneScape has a special flag that you get for buying a £75 ticket to the Runefest convention in real life. A lot of people bought a ticket just for the flag without actually going to the event.
  • Rift: One advantage to the digital collectors edition (a $10 extra) is a free mount obtainable by all characters in your account at any level. It doesn't help that walking there is pretty damn slow.
  • EVE Online, with its Summer 2011 expansion Incarna, has introduced the Noble Exchange, where you can buy "premium" clothing and accessories for your (new in this expansion) avatar, using a new currency called "Aurum" which is only available through Real Money Trade. Unfortunately, the prices in the Noble Exchange are set extremely high, often charging as much for avatar clothing as one might spend for real-life clothing. Furthermore, leaked information from CCP that they might sell ships, ammunition, and even faction standings on the Noble Exchange in the future left many players in an uproar...but the uproar was large enough (and mirrored in canceled subscriptions) that CCP backpedaled furiously (and many other consequences too lengthy to detail here).
  • Age of Conan, an Allegedly Free Game, includes a lot of optional game-enhancing and cosmetic gear. Some of the former can be considered game-breaking, at least at lower levels; while the latter includes an item that does nothing but increases an already well-endowed female character's bustline to ridiculous size.
  • Final Fantasy XIV, a subscription based MMORPG, has a cash shop where players can purchase vanity items with real money. Items range from cute little minions/pets, a new mount/ride, and gear that appeared from past events. Since Yoshida, lead director of the game, wanted to avoid a pay to win scenario, he wants the cash shop to be purely for cosmetic items. While most people can easily ignore the extra fluff, players who want to collect everything may be spending quite a bit of money to get all the items. In a later patch, the ability to skip chunks of the main scenario and bringing up a character's job level shy of the cap were introduced at steep prices. While many people did worry that people would buy their way to the post game content without knowing how to play their role properly, the high prices discouraged players from just buying the items on the spot and opted to just play the game normally, which is what the developers were aiming for.

    Tabletop RPGs 
  • In many wargames, after having bought the books, you have to buy large quantities of miniatures in order to play (and paint them if you want to play in a sanctioned tournament). For many people collecting and painting miniatures is the main appeal, not an added cost.
    • Games Workshop is getting most of the flak nowadays, partly because their franchises are among the most popular but mostly because they've severely tightened their grip on independent vendors to control pricing. Another aspect has been their aggressive marketing of pre-made terrain kits. Contrast this with their earlier sales of instructional books like How To Make Wargames Terrain which detailed methods for creating do-it-yourself terrain. It is probably no coincidence that those instruction books ceased printing when GW started upping its production of pre-made terrain.
    • GW's store managers often have strict rules that require every model in an army to be made 100% out of GW models. No third party anything.
    • GW prevent people cobbling together additional figures by ensuring that model packs are always limited to the bare minimum amount of torso & leg pieces. Certain packs of special & heavy weapons have their own limitations, where even if they give you multiple weapons, you still only get enough bases, weapons carriages and accessories to make only some of them out of the box.
  • The 4E books for Dungeons & Dragons repeatedly encourage the reader to sign up for the online D&D Insider service. In fairness, there's general agreement that it's at least worth it for a DM for all the tools to simplify running a game.

    Video Games 
  • In general, online multiplayer features on gaming consoles require a monthly/yearly fee for that gaming ecosystem. Microsoft was the first to put this in place with Xbox Live Gold during the seventh generation, followed by Sony with PlayStation Plus and Nintendo with Nintendo Switch Online during the eighth generation. All three companies have some additional incentive for purchasing a subscription. Xbox and PlayStation's services give players two "free" games a month, with these games being ones that have released within the past few years, while Nintendo's service is a successor to the Virtual Console, giving players access to a library of older titles. In all these cases, players lose access to the games they downloaded should they cancel their subscription, but regain access upon renewal.
  • The original Xbox required you to buy an IR dongle (plugged into a controller port) and remote to watch a DVD on the system; if you didn't have it, putting a DVD in would result in an error message. (This stood in contrast to the PlayStation 2, whose DVD capability was baked right in, and the remote was purely optional.)
    • Unlike its predecessor the Xbox 360 came with built-in DVD playback, but during the systems' early years, Microsoft sold an external HD-DVD drive, though they discontinued the drive after HD-DVD lost the format war against Blu-ray.
    • The original 360 didn't come with built-in Wi-Fi support, requiring users to buy an external adapter instead.
  • The multiplayer modes of the GameCube games Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles and The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures require each player to use a Game Boy Advance connected with a GBA-GCN cable to play. While this did make things a bit more streamlined by not making players constantly pause to go through their menus, or clutter up the screen with windows, it did make non-handheld gamers upset at being asked to buy a handheld system to play a console game with their friends.
  • The Sims franchise (both the original and The Sims 2) and its countless expansions. The Sims 3 took it to a truly ridiculous level with the Sims 3 Store. We're talking 2,000 Sim Points- that's $20- for a set of 47 items! And a lot of Store stuff was available on release day, raising suspicions that they held it out of the retail game on purpose. And then there is The Sims 4. Where can we even start with that?
    Zero Punctuation (Referring to The Sims 4): Remember all that texture customization from Sims 3? 'That's out! It's chintz and pastels, or fuck off back to Call of Duty!' What about an intervening stage between infancy and childhood, so that babies don't instantly switch from one to the other, and parents don't suddenly find themselves breastfeeding a twelve-year-old in mixed company? 'Out the balloon with you, toddlers! Whoops, they didn't fly so well.' ...Of course, none of the above features couldn't be returned to the game later on with content patches, but if you seriously think that the thought of charging for them hasn't slithered its way across EA's mind like a fat slug made of rancid Spam...''
  • There have been accusations made, such as this comic, that the limited number of installs allowed by the DRM in EA's PC games from Spore is a form of this. While some complaints are fairly mild, in other cases, such as Spore, the DRM is essentially invasive malware that also contains horrible install limitations (sometimes 3 "total" installations).
  • Railworks turns this trope up to eleven with its DLC on Steam. The price for all of the DLC combined was over four hundred dollars, with single train addons usually costing twenty dollars each and route addons going forty. Add to that the fact that new DLC becomes available about every week, crack may indeed, be cheaper. The cost for all the DLC jumped from over $700 to over $2000 in six months, and it shows no signs of slowing down. There is some free DLC... at least one of which requires another, not-free DLC train to play. This is presumably counterbalanced by the idea that nobody will buy all the DLC, and people will only buy the particular trains and routes they're interested in.
  • Paradox games, such as Europa Universalis and Crusader Kings, periodically release expansion DLCs that add new mechanics and features to the game, which players usually find fun and useful. However, alongside the main DLCs, various types of cosmetic DLCs featuring portrait packs for new/existing cultures, new music, and new uniforms for military units. Altogether, this can cost quite a lot.
  • In Burnout Paradise, after you buy Big Surf Island, anything that used to show the "Paradise City" logo now shows a "Paradise City: Big Surf Island" logo. Also, you get a new main menu so you can choose which expansion pack to start from, and a new car menu that lets you choose between different types of cars. Oh wait, it does all this even if you haven't bought the pack, so that most of the main menu selections lead you to a "Oh you haven't bought this yet? Well get out that credit card!" screen. There's also a new page to flip through on the pause screen that promotes the store, which means one more microload between you and the options menu. Big Surf Island itself also gets added, so your 10 quid just lets you access it. Otherwise, it's fully visible, and you can even start to drive across the bridge to it... only to be greeted with a pop-up menu saying to buy the Island to continue. If you refuse, the game will face you the other way and drive you back into Paradise City.
    • Made worse when EA dropped the online store for the PC version completely. As well as making certain vehicles which were supposed to be free with the Ultimate Box unattainable, the game will confusingly show you a white screen where the ads used to be, with no explanation.
  • Some people accuse Square-Enix of doing this for Final Fantasy XII with the strategy guide by making a deal with Brady Games. First, most of the guides that were in the limited edition version came with various artworks, so naturally people will want to grab that by pre-ordering the game. Second, the Infinity +1 Sword and many other rare enemies and drops are impossible to get to on your own (especially the strongest weapon, which requires not touching 4 specific treasure chests/urns, with a vague warning about this offered only after you've come across two of them) without a strategy guide. Of course, the internet countered this plus the guide didn't even have complete information on everything, which is something Brady Games is infamously known for with other games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Parasite Eve 2. The Brady Games guide for Final Fantasy IX was also pretty much useless, since it told gamers to plug a code into Play for half its expected content.
  • An NPC follows you around in Dragon Age: Origins with a quest marker over his head.. Who tells you to go buy the DLC if you want to help him out.
  • The arcade version of Double Dragon 3 had extra playable characters, weapons and moves that could only be accessed by the player by literally buying them (read: inserting more tokens into the arcade cabinet) through the various weapon shops located throughout the game.
  • Mortal Kombat II: There is an audit on a information screen called "Kano Transformations" as well as a random end game text message that says "Where is Kano/Sonya/Goro?" This is only there to con players into trying to find a secret that doesn't exist (selling guides to sucker kids was big business back when MK was huge and the Internet was not the infinite font of free information it is now; some of the sillier inclusions in Mortal Kombat 3 such as animalities and brutalities were made for the same reason).
  • Furcadia has Revenue Enhancing Devices called Digos, which let players walk around with winged characters or even play as dragons and whatnot. They make ALL their money this way.
  • SoulCalibur 4 and Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation are clearly making money via DLCs. The former lets you buy additional tracks, characters and character equipment (including weapons which can be unlocked in-game without the DLC, but it's specified in its description before you buy it, both on XBox Live or Play Station Network) while the latter offers special planes and custom paintjobs for them (including several Idolmaster-themed and Call Backs to earlier games).
  • The Mann Co. store in Team Fortress 2 allows players to buy in-game items with real money. It started off with hats that don't really do anything, and has since expanded to all other kinds cosmetics, taunts, and weapon skins. Most of them can be found for free if you play long enough, but prices can get a TAD ridiculous.
    • The "tad ridiculous"ness is why the game became free to play —- Valve is entirely confident that they can print money off that game just from its store!
    • It's even lampshaded with the hat called Ze Goggles, where the "description" is simply "Nothing". It's supposed to be a Shout-Out to The Simpsons, but it's Hilarious in Hindsight as well.
    • There's the crates too. As mentioned above you can get items by random drops, or by crafting them from other items. However, with the arrival of the Store, you would start getting crates as random drops. A crate is of no use at all on its own, and needs a key to open. Whilst crates are come across on a fairly regular basis, there's only one source of keys. Yes, you guessed it, the Mann Co. Store. When you open a crate with a key, you get... a random item. You're basically being asked to pay for extra random drops. Whilst some of the items you get from crates are unique and can't be gotten by any other means, most of the time all you'll get is a bog-standard item that you probably already have three of in your inventory as it is. Did I mention that keys are one use items and you need to buy one for every crate you find? You can't even recycle crates into scrap metal if you don't want to use them, your only option other than opening them is to junk them. (Thankfully, crates drop in addition to rather than instead of normal drops.)
      • However, weapons obtained from later crates have been given the "Strange" quality prefix, Strange weapons are just like normal weapons, but they have counters like number of kills, making it less of a loss if you open a crate and find something you have already.
      • The real draw for unlocking crates is to find an "Unusual" quality items, which gives it a special particle effect. There's only about a 1% chance of finding an Unusual, and they are highly coveted by collectors and whales. Many of them can be sold for hundreds of dollars, with Unusual hats from old, out-of-print crates going into several thousands.
    • Note that Team Fortress 2 was not the first game to make players pay for keys to random drops, just the first to be popular in the West. In fact, ZT Online has a daily prize for the player who used the most keys that day!
    • They sell "map stamps" too. All that gets you is a hat (one per customer, not one per stamp), a place on the stamp scoreboard for the corresponding map and a warm fuzzy feeling that you are paying the dude who made the corresponding map.
    • With the Mann Vs. Machine game mode they introduced the idea of paying to play on official servers. The missions are harder that the default free-servers-only ones (but anyone can play the missions just by bothering to chose something different than the default) and you get an exclusive slightly modified copy of a weapon everyone gets for free already, and a small badge. The real draw is potentially better teammates and a much better connection to the dedicated server.
    • There are three globally unique hats that goes to those who have spent the most in one of three categories each day: winning dueling minigames, buying stamps, and sending gifts. Dueling minigames can be traded and profits from stamps don't go directly to Valve, but you're still spending hundreds to afford the materials needed.
    • Then there's the "Something Special for Someone Special" which is to say, a wedding ring! Pay $100 to announce to everyone who's playing the game at that moment that your special someone accepted your expensive gift. Valve still made a killing off of them.
    • If playing dress-up with your favorite mercs wasn't enough, Valve expanded it to weapons. Unbox a pre-painted weapon or spray on paint on a weapon to add texture patterns onto them. They come with arbitrary Grades that show how rare it is by changing the text color of the weapon's description, and the textures can have wear and tear, from mint condition to worn out to hell from battles. You can also pay money for Contracts which have you complete in-game tasks to get items and weapon skins.
    • One of the worst examples this game has done is the Robotic Boogaloo update, the first major community update. ~57 community hats that were only given for opening special crates bought with special keys and cannot be crafted, only found in those crates and later only bought second hand.
  • Pre-internet (and therefore pre-Gamefaqs), strategy guides were the premier Revenue Enhancing Shenanigan for video games. If you got the version that was allowed to call itself Official, the devs were probably getting a cut. And for the really cynical, sometimes this was the only way to find out about some arcane prize only mentioned by one NPC living in a hovel way off in some unimportant corner of the map, or worse, not alluded to at all in the game.
  • Even worse during the early days of the Internet, where only the privileged (usually offices and upperclasses) ones could make use of it, one strategy book consists of almost nothing but a plug in to then Squaresoft's new web site Playonline.
  • Before Gamefaqs, companies ran pre-recorded or live game hint lines, charging a few dollars per minute with a 1-900 number, like an adult phone line. One might have to explain to their parents that this was not what that charge was for on their phone bill.
  • Nintendo Power magazine offered all the top secret hints that one would be unlikely to solve on their own without knowing the solution beforehand, like finding the first warp whistle in Super Mario Bros. 3. However, the magazine has also sometimes given you an overview and maps of the first couple areas of their then-new first party game, then told you to buy their Official Strategy Guide for the rest of the game.
  • The main gimmick of Skylanders is that you select a character by putting a physical figure of it on a "Portal of Power" peripheral, and the figure itself stores all of the character's personal data like stats and experience. The game comes with three figures - dozens more are sold separately. Plus a bunch of special promotional variants.
    • To Activision's "credit", they aren't being completely exploitative about this. The game is actually pretty good, even with just the three characters already included. At the very most, you only need one character from each of the eight elements to play this game to the very fullest; so that's five figures to buy on top of the three in the box. Not great, but not money-gouging.
    • The second game can go either way. They're not forcing players to reinvest; as all the old figures can be used in the new game, and they even put together a cheaper package without the portal peripheral for those who already own one. However, old figures are treated as So Last Season compared to the updated ones so you may feel the need to buy them anyway.
  • There are a number of Collectible Card Game machines in arcades with cards containing data for one or more game entities, Animal Kaiser being a notable example. Players usually buy or rent a starter pack at the arcade counter and the machines dispense additional cards when games are won or completed.
    • A related system uses a card that can store all of a player's game data like a memory card. These tend to be far more expensive, with some games offering cards with different capacities depending on the price. Naturally each is specific to one game, but there are cards that stores multiple games from the same company, especially if they are meant for arcade games. Bandai Namco's Banapassport and Sega's Aime are even cross compatible!
  • The Real Steel game for the Xbox 360. Not only can you buy game-beating robots and parts from the start, but until you drop the Points, you can't paint your robot, play a mirror match or the robots from the film in multiplayer. This leads to a huge gap between the grey proles and brightly-painted rich people in online multiplayer.
  • Angry Birds Star Wars II features "Telepods" — any Angry Birds Star Wars 2 Jenga sets you buy comes with figurines you can scan into the game to customize your setup of birds (or pigs, in certain level sets). However, there is a limitation to using Telepods in that you can only use one specific bird/pig per level. If you want, say, a lineup of nothing but Jedi Lukes or Episode III Anakins, you have to buy them from the in-game shop with in-game currency, and getting unlimited amounts of them with this method is more expensive than the limited amounts.
  • PlanetSide 2 has revenue enhancers primarily in the form of cosmetics - camouflages (ranging from reasonable camos to silly chrome or iridescent neon camos), helmets and hats, and vehicle gear (cosmetic armor plating, underbody lighting, Tron Lines, etc). Many camos and helmets are now designed by the players, who make a profit off of them (similar to the Mannconomy in Team Fortress 2). Weapons can also be unlocked with real money - though the often absurd prices ($7 for the majority of guns) means that they are generally only bought during sales unless they're Nanite Systems (cross-faction) weapons.
  • Ubisoft have started doing this with multiplayer passports. While a code for the passport for a particular game comes free with the game, it can only be used once, forcing anybody who bought it second hand to buy a passport if they want to use multiplayer.
    • Online passes are now widely-used, including by EA, meaning a purchaser can't sell the spot on the server they paid for by buying new.
      • There has been enough backlash for this practice that it's fallen out of favor. Nowadays it's fairly rare to find a company still engaging in Online Passes.
  • EA recently introduced a subscription service which will be required to pay for if you want beta access to their games, something that was previously free. Admittedly you also get offers on games, but many users suspect more and more previously-free services will be gated off in this way.
  • Pre-order bonuses such as downloadable content (DLC) are now used to entice to encourage players to pay to pre-order and pay full day 1 price for the game. What's worse is the DLC content may well have been cut from the main product for this purpose, meaning the cost of this revenue-enhancement-device is a worse experience for everyone else.
  • At its most cynical, DLC in general can be a form of this, especially if the content was originally intended to be included in the original product but cut to generate more money later. This also enables companies to charge more for season passes and complete "Game of the Year" editions.
  • The use of loot boxes; see games such as Dungeon Keeper, Star Wars: Battlefront or NBA 2K are considered downright predatory in charging premium for the game itself and then gimping it that it cannot be played without massive amounts of grinding, if they can be played at all without paying for the chance to improve your gameplay, thereby turning them into gambling machines. In fact 2K had not only double downed on this practice, they went all in begging children to not only get their parents to pay for loot boxes but to lobby their government to allow catering gambling to children. Yes even in countries such as Belgium where it is illegal, 2K are trying to push children to say it's okay for the company to be above the law.
  • DanceDanceRevolution A20 has a number of features and tracks that are exclusive to the golden 20th anniversary cabinet that was released alongside the game itself, i.e. not available if playing on a previous cabinet that was upgraded to A20. There doesn't appear to be any sort of technical reason why the exclusives require playing on the golden cabinet.
  • I=MGCM: Downplayed in the medal shop, in which you have to exchange weapon skins and additional costumes with character medals. However, character medals can be easily obtained through selling dresses.
  • The Famicom Disk Recorder add-on for the Nintendo Entertainment System's Japanese counterpart is this trope. It's a tape recorder with Nintendo branding, aside from there's nothing special about it. The real circuit that enables the loading and saving to tape is in the keyboard supplied with the Famicom BASIC kit, and there's nothing stopping you from using a different brand tape recorder with the keyboard.

    Non-Gaming Examples 
  • In-Universe example on Mythic Quest. Brad is head of monetization for the titular MMORPG, and every decision and stance he makes is to increase their revenue stream. In the first episode he suggests tying Poppy's proposed digging mechanic to a fanservice-y loot box, and in the second he suggests basing an NPC identity reveal around the launch of an in-game casino (which Poppy derides as artless).
  • Publishers of college textbooks make minor changes every few years and call it a new edition, in order to discourage used book sales. That being said, most of the time the new editions of science/math textbooks just shift problems around or bring in problems from even older editions.