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Buy-to-play (B2P) is a revenue model for video games that can only be played by purchasing the game, as opposed to there being a subsequent subscription fee for playing the game. These games may or may not include additional microtransactions, or may sell additional content in the form of expansions instead of asking for an ongoing subscription fee. Microtransactions are becoming evermore entwined with the Buy-to-play revenue model as most recent games allow for some sort of additional purchase. For example, buy-to-play titles Mass Effect 3 and Dead Space 3 allow players to purchases extra content in the form of story expansions or special in-game gear. Buy-to-play can be contrasted with Free-to-play (F2P), where users are granted access to a fully functional game (usually with limitations), but must pay microtransactions to access additional content. Some studies have been completed on the success of the free-to-play revenue model and also gamers’ perception of this method. The results of one study shows that players are often satisfied with purchases made in free-to-play games, however, they believe a lot of content is overpriced. The study also displayed that free-to-play game developers create restrictions in order to encourages more purchases. Pay-to-play (P2P) is a model in which a subscription payment is required on an ongoing basis, in order to use a service. When comparing the three revenue models, the free-to-play model is slowly rising in popularity as the buy-to-play and pay-to-play models are decreasing in relative popularity. This trend can be roughly shown by the amount of World of Warcraft subscribers over the years. Since 2011, the number of subscribers has been decreasing with the exception of a few small spikes. Overall, the buy-to-play model is sure to stick around for a long period of time as it remains one of the most popular methods of acquiring games, but trends point to it adopting some methods from the free-to-play and pay-to-play models.
Buy-to-play games require a one time fee to install and play. Some games, such as ArenaNet’s Guild Wars 2 uses in-game advertising or “Cash Shops” to provide income for buy-to-play games, which usually offset the subscription fee of a pay-to-play game.
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Ofer Abarbanel is a 25 year securities lending broker and expert who has advised many Israeli regulators, among them the Israel Tax Authority, with respect to stock loans, repurchase agreements and credit derivatives. Founder of TBIL.co STATX Fund.