Gaming Business Models

Gaming Business Models

Gaming Business Models

Gaming publishers & developers are often faced with the question of how to differentiate their game in an oversaturated market. Recently, innovative developers have been using new styles of games to establish their place in the industry. It is crucial to understand the evolution of gaming business models in order to determine what methods are most beneficial for you.

There is currently a few established gaming models that all publishers will stick by.

  • Subscription
  • Buy to Play
  • Free to Play
  • DLCs – Addons – Expansions
  • Micro transactions

The MMO gaming model has evolved in the course of the last decade. Several different styles have popped up in order to attract or hook different types of gamers. In fact, many big publishers uses a mixture of these established models to monetize their games.
Taking a look at one of the biggest and most known MMORPGs, World of Warcraft. Blizzard takes 4 out of the 5 models to monetize WoW. Namely, Buy to Play, Subscription, Expansions and Microtransactions.


The subscription model for MMOs deals with players paying a monthly fee, in order to gain access to all areas of the game or game-time. This model relies on getting players who will continue to pay the monthly fee to play the game. This is no longer popular amongst MMORPGs due to its restrictive nature and often restrictive gameplay. The subscription model is often criticized for giving the player less value than that of the monthly fee. The subscription business model is commonly mixed in with Buy to Play Model.

Subscription model is not the same as an in-game premium/VIP subscription. The main differences are that a subscription model will always affect the player’s ability to play the game or game-time while an in-game premium/VIP subscription does not restrict game time access but provides the player additional benefits instead.

Latest Subscription Games Articles

Buy to Play

The buy to play model is quite popular in the MMO market. This model allows players to purchase the game and access it indefinitely without an additional monthly fee. It is not much different than purchasing games for your consoles or triple AAA PC games. Buy to play model relies on a constant stream of new players to purchase their game. The Buy to Play model is often mixed with the Subscription, DLC/Expansion and microtransaction models.

Latest Buy to Play Games Articles

Free to Play

Free to play business model is one of the most common models amongst MMOs. This model is very similar to the buy to play model, except it allows players to access the game for free. Free to Play heavily relies on micro transactions instead of subscription fees or sales of new game content. This allows the developer to generate continuous revenue generation due to the sheer number of players that are accessing the game for free. This business models is commonly associated with Pay to Win Games. The Free to Play Model is commonly mixed with the microtransaction and DLC models.

Latest Free to Play Games Articles

DLCs – Addons – Expansions

DLCs are additions or expansions that are released after a game has already been established. These will typically cost extra and allow the player to gain access to new gameplay, items, or features. The DLC/Addons and Expansions business model is commonly mixed in all other existing models.


Micro transactions are something that is becoming more and more common in MMOs. It allows the player to purchase currency or items within the game or also known as the Cash Shop. These may be purchased with real currency or in-game currency that is farmed by playing the game itself. This generate revenue for developers by offering micro transactions and compensates players who may not have time to farm currency for free.
Micro transactions was one of the most efficient ways for the developer to gain revenue from every player in game. This is done by offering micro transactions within the game. For example, a player who enjoys customizing their character with outfits or costumes may be willing to spend money on the newest outfit released or if they are collectors, they may just purchase every outfit released whether they like it or not.

The micro-transaction business model is commonly mixed in all other existing models.

Pay to Win

The pay to win is quite controversial term amongst the gaming community. Each player has it’s own meaning and definition of #Pay2Win. Pay to Win is a sub-model branched from microtransactions. The model consists of players paying for special advantages, most often by spending money on micro transactions, over other players who do not use micro transactions or free to play players. This model is commonly criticized and hated by the western audience due to the fact that it gives paying players an unfair advantage over those who are not paying.

Blade and Soul is one of the best examples of a Free to Play business model that turned completely to Microtransactions and Pay to Win to fund the game. As one of the biggest and hyped games in the past decade, it quickly became a complete mess when players started to leave simply due to free players unable to compete.


In the MMORPG business, publishers heavily relies on in game sales, in game currency, and micro transactions with in game currency, which in order to succeed, they would need a huge player bases. The business model is super important for any serious publisher as it can be the result of a successful title or a flop.

Over the course of the last two decades, the Free to Play gaming model has remained pretty much the same, always mixed with the Microtransaction model. As they rely heavily on players making transactions to purchase items from the cash shop, which Western players commonly dislike as this model tends to always lead to a Play to Win playstyle.

Some players often prefer Buy to Play model as it is often associated with no-pay2win elements however that is not always the case as we saw with some titles such as Bless Online or Black Desert Online.

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