PAY TO WIN How Video Game Developers Use Microtransactions to Hack Our Brains & Wallets



“When you are six hours into playing Battlefield and you run out of ammo in your clip and we ask you for a dollar to reload, you’re really not that price sensitive at that point in time…We’re not gouging, but we’re charging and at that point in time the commitment can be pretty high.”
– Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello


How Video Game Developers Use Microtransactions
to Hack Our Brains & Wallets


Are you playing video games–or are they playing you?
The video game industry is under siege. Greedy game developers are doing everything in their power to transform gaming from a relaxing hobby into a pay-to-win industry. Microtransactions and loot boxes are used to squeeze every penny from players and killing the experience in the process. If they’re not stopped, only the gamers with the fattest wallets will get the best gear, powers, and prestige.
This book dives into the dark patterns, broken systems, and unfair mechanics that are taking over gaming. Learn how these games are trying to bleed you dry–and what you can do to fight back.

Chapter Overview


Electronic Arts, one of the world’s largest video gaming companies, made a questionable choice on how to maximize revenue for Star Wars Battlefront II. which came back to bite them in a big way.


A look at how video games first started and a quick recap of the major milestones in the video game industry. How the industry has gone from classics like Pong to multi-billion dollar franchises like Call of Duty.


An examination of what microtransactions exactly are and why developers are using this innovative revenue model to turn video games into massive money generating machines – all at your expense.


Microtransactions have had an enormous impact on generating cash for video game companies and this has led to more and more companies adopting them. See which companies use microtransactions and how much of their revenue has been coming from microtransactions over the years.


A look at the reasons why microtransactions work so well. Developers use psychological and behavioral economic tricks that are designed to prey on your mind, unwittingly making you spend when you didn’t plan to and spend more when you didn’t want to.


Although microtransactions are becoming more and more prevalent, many critics and even governments are wondering if they should they be regulated like gambling or even outright banned? Some say a different flavor of microtransactions is the future business model of gaming.

Chapter 1: How to Lose 3 Billion Dollars Overnight: A Lesson From EA

The day Star Wars Battlefront II was announced, it all changed.

Gamers saw the upcoming shooting video game set in the Star Wars universe as a thrilling opportunity to run around shooting blasters as a Clone Trooper, to fight as the insidious Darth Maul and cause terror in the enemy ranks, to fly high with spaceships, and all kinds of other exciting things. The game promised players that all their Star Wars dreams would come true, so naturally, the moment the trailer launched on YouTube, it spread like wildfire all across the internet. It was all that the gaming community seemed to be talking about. As more trailers were released and more information about the content was shared, the excitement only grew.

Electronic Arts, the company putting it out, put their feet up and watched the predicted sales skyrocket. All signs pointed to this game being the game, the one that everyone would play and that would deliver EA another huge profit. If you had ever watched a Star Wars movie and liked anything about it, you’d love this game. It had everything: great graphics, plenty of characters, vehicles… everything.

Unfortunately, it also had loot boxes and microtransactions, a system designed to get consumers to pay more for in-game items like weapons, powers, and characters.

To the producers, loot boxes and microtransactions seemed like a great idea. The $60 – 80 base price for the regular game did not include a lot of the things that people wanted the most.

You want to play Darth Vader?

Did the trailer show him in action and make it seem like you, too, could be playing him immediately?

Well, too bad.

Many of the fan favorites ended up being not included in the base price, meaning that players had a couple of options: pay more money to buy something in game (microtransactions) that many people thought were already included, or play enough to where their level unlocked the desired character or item. On paper, this might have seemed like something that would have been accepted with open arms. EA would bring in some more money from people who were impatient and wanted to play Luke Skywalker the day it came out and boom, everything would be sunshine and rainbows as stockholders gasped in awe that EA had done it again.

This wasn’t the case. Once their greatest weapon, social media became EA’s worst nightmare…