Today’s gamer vocabulary word is “Free To Play”.
Free to play is a business model that has risen to prominence in the last few years. The idea is that the developer and publisher give most or all of the game away for free. They then make money through microtransactions. They sell things ranging from cosmetic items to content to extra lives.
This business model is especially prevalent in the mobile gaming space. One big example of this is Candy Crush Saga. Candy Crush is a match 3 game where the player must complete a specific objective in a certain number of moves. The player gets 5 chances and then must wait until a timer completes to continue. However, they can pay $0.99 to skip the timer and continue playing. The player is also able to spend money to buy power-ups to help them complete the level.
You will find these types of “time gates” in a lot of mobile free to play games. They will impose timers that impede your progress unless you pay. The hope is that they can hook the player so they will want to pay instead of having to wait. This can be a very profitable model.
Mobile games are not the only ones making money using free to play. One of the best examples is Team Fortress 2. TF2 is a free to play team based first-person shooter. The developer, Valve, makes their money selling hats. The hats are completely cosmetic. They do not effect gameplay at all. And yet players spend a TON of money on them.
The big benefit of free to play games, obviously, is that you can try one out without having to make a large financial investment. If you do not like it, you just stop playing. You can find a list of ones to try out here.