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The Pub at MMORPG.COM  » Has the definition of "Pay-To-Win" changed over time?

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28 posts found

Apprentice Member

Joined: 4/24/13
Posts: 466

OP  9/04/13 8:41:32 AM#1

I remember back in the glory days of DAOC when our server-alliance chat for Albion was making jokes about SOE starting into the foray of micro-transactions (yea, it really has been that long since SOE started doing them). One of the things that came up was how most micro-transaction games gave you the ability to "Pay to win" at the game.


In short, paying to win meant that you could pay more money via micro-transactions in order to advance in some avenue of the game faster/better/stronger than people whom did not spend as much money as you. This was the very definition of P2W, and is one of the very reasons it became such a well known phrase.


Back then, about 5-6years ago, ANYTHING that gave an advantage for money meant it was "Pay-To-Win".


Exchanging real life money for XP potions for X amount of time is an example of what used to be considered P2W, because you're paying real money to advance through the game's levels faster than other players whom do not have the excess money to spend on XP potions. This was never a source of contention in the past.


However, today you can easily start a huge war in global chat about whether "X" game is P2W or not simply over experience potions.



So my question to you is this, do you consider XP potions a form of P2W anymore, if no why not?





ps: I was in the middle of adding poll options when I accidentally hit enter. I also meant to add "No, but I've always felt this way" as a last option! Please forgive me :(!

Do you consider XP potions a form of P2W?

Yes, I felt the same way in the past too.
No, but I felt differently in the past.
(login to vote)

Advanced Member

Joined: 2/16/09
Posts: 1082

9/04/13 8:50:36 AM#2

Well, remember back in those days, getting to level cap took a REAL long time, especially with things like deleveling added in.  So xp potions could be a very significant advantage, heck some would argue that leveling was most of the game. 


Nowadays leveling is the chore you have to do before you can play the real game.  A couple of weeks of casual play before you can join the rest of your friends and do stuff together.


Elite Member

Joined: 1/13/10
Posts: 13418

Currently playing EVE, SMITE, ArcheAge, and Combat Arms

9/04/13 9:01:20 AM#3
There has never been a set definition for it, as it is entirely subjective, varying not only from game to game but among the communities of each game itself.

There isn't a "right" or "wrong" way to play, if you want to use a screwdriver to put nails into wood, have at it, simply don't complain when the guy next to you with the hammer is doing it much better and easier. - Allein



Joined: 7/26/03
Posts: 11863

9/04/13 9:27:00 AM#4
Originally posted by BearKnight

 about 5-6years ago, ANYTHING that gave an advantage for money meant it was "Pay-To-Win".

8 years ago, in 2005, I would have agreed


since 2007, not so much

the first time i encountered exp potions was in EQ2

SOE offered a variety way of experience boosts

- veteran rewards of potions such as play EQ2 for 1 month

- potion rewards for playing their card game, Legends of Norrath

-  x2 exp weekend promotions for everyone occasionally


it never felt like the exp boost was big deal in EQ2


I think the big changer for me, was WOWs Refer a Friend program, in 2008

it accelerated players experience far faster than any potion


Elite Member

Joined: 1/09/08
Posts: 2300

9/04/13 9:36:12 AM#5
The definition has changed because games have changed. Back then it was rare to see a free to play game, and the ones you did see were usually incredibly pay to win. But with games being pay to play with the option of microtransactions, people still complain about the same things today. Any time a pay to play game ends up with a post about a store coming in for it, everyone jumps on the hate train for said game. It's the same kind of thing. With free to play games though the reason that it's a little more lenient, is the fact that people kind of understand there has to be something there in the shop other than just cosmetic gear so xp pots and things like that are generally accepted since it doesn't inhibit their playing experience. Now if they were selling gear or power up runes or something like that in the shop it would have the same hate train. It's just perspective and what type of game that allows the definition to change over time.

Advanced Member

Joined: 12/13/08
Posts: 2047

9/04/13 9:50:02 AM#6
Originally posted by BearKnight

So my question to you is this, do you consider XP potions a form of P2W anymore, if no why not?


Yes, all microtransaction games are pay to win.   As you stated in your OP any item that players purchase to gain an advantage to pursue a goal is pay to win.   I think most people are confused on the term pay to win because the advantage they give does not always mean a player is more successful in obtaining their goal, and this leads to players questioning whether or not the cash shop item is an advantage in the overall picture.   In other words, the concrete definition of pay to win is confused with how " fair " the advantage is over nonpaying players.




Advanced Member

Joined: 12/09/08
Posts: 2166

"See how I reward those who fail me!"

9/14/13 2:29:12 PM#7
Yes, it's changed. Paying to get an advantage is more common these days and people don't like being seen as someone who "pays to win" even if they are. The reailty is that there are varying degrees of paying to win. Getting an XP potion is typically a rather mild form of P2W and more generally accepted.

"Tiny clown, he got wet. I was talking to a psychic and I can't sleep in the ozone. There are too many different peanuts, looking sad.


Novice Member

Joined: 9/01/10
Posts: 12

9/16/13 1:09:57 PM#8
I typically don't consider a game to be pay to win if the item shop is limited to things like costumes and EXP boosts.  However, games that sell actually massive buffs in the premium shop, like +50% HP and things like that, are very much pay to win.

Advanced Member

Joined: 4/03/12
Posts: 5677

9/16/13 1:22:25 PM#9

In the past, "P2W" meant cash shop funded MMO. Then companies recently tried to challenge that (Turbine, ANET among others) By redefining or at least trying to define what P2W as using money to get an advantage. But now you have to define advantage. Thing is, no matter what it is, there has to be a definition of "Win" in the game. If there is no definition of "Win" in the game, there can be no definition of "P2W" Having an "Advantage" is also meaningless if there is no definition of "Win".

So then, What is "Win"? I guess that would depend on your objectives as a player? Are you into PVE? Group PVE or solo PVE? Are you into PVP? The subjectivity of this concept is endless.


For me, I hate RMT. I don't even define it as P2W anymore. It's all about real money. What kills a game instantly for me, is the ability to infuse real money into the game's economy. All games have it. But when the publisher doesn't try to fight it, or does it themselves, I'm out.


If it wasn't for FF14 releasing as sub only, I'd probably have gone back to WoW just to get away from cash shops. Although, You can still get gold in WoW through the TCG, but W/E.



Joined: 7/26/03
Posts: 11863

9/16/13 1:33:00 PM#10
Originally posted by GeezerGamer

For me, I hate RMT. I don't even define it as P2W anymore. It's all about real money.

i consider p2w a grey area where many gamers will have different "lines in the sand"

RMT though is basically black and white


Spotlight Poster

Joined: 1/15/04
Posts: 1994

9/16/13 2:21:02 PM#11

Nah, not really.

If you can buy something in a shop, that would make you more powerful in the game than if you wouldn't buy it, then it's pay 2 win. Like stronger weapons. Or things that buff you in some way.

XP potions are convenience items. Like more space in the bank, or more character slots. They don't give you an advantage over another player, but rather make the game more fun to play.

That doesn't mean that I support the latter ones. I'd still always prefer a game which you buy once or pay a subscription fee. The problem is that the convenience items don't make a good game better. They often make a game simply playable. If you don't buy them, those games are often like shit and simply annoying.

Let's play Fallen Earth (blind, 300 episodes)

Let's play Guild Wars 2 (blind, 45 episodes)


Advanced Member

Joined: 1/28/05
Posts: 6018

Correcting wrongs on the Internet...

9/16/13 8:39:10 PM#12
Originally posted by Loktofeit
There has never been a set definition for it, as it is entirely subjective, varying not only from game to game but among the communities of each game itself.

I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been -Wayne Gretzky


Novice Member

Joined: 12/10/08
Posts: 3109

9/16/13 9:56:42 PM#13

I always had trouble with the term - unlocking utility or house/character decorations was my endgame to begin with, so *anything* a shop offered seemed "pay to win".

( restricting "win" to purely "a contest between maxed out characters", which is what this disagreement ends up being about, always seemed a very narrow view of what MMOs are to other players )



Advanced Member

Joined: 3/28/06
Posts: 1450

9/16/13 9:56:58 PM#14
Originally posted by Nadia


I think the big changer for me, was WOWs Refer a Friend program, in 2008

it accelerated players experience far faster than any potion


I agree, P2P is generally P2W... but this was gratuitously P2W.


Advanced Member

Joined: 9/19/07
Posts: 137

9/16/13 10:06:30 PM#15

P2W is not buying exp potions.... people who buy potions just run out of content and burn out on the game faster. 

P2W will always be buying a weapon, armor, or some form of power that gives a favorable advantage over someone else. leveling faster than someone else is not P2W. They will be there eventually.

Now.... a game where you can earn everything in the cash shop eventually through gameplay and purchase it in the shop later through converted currency can still be considered P2W if it offers any INSTANT power gains in the same form of weapons, armor, skills, etc.  because you're paying to skip the grind and instantly becoming "good" therefore pay to win.


Advanced Member

Joined: 10/11/04
Posts: 3332

9/16/13 10:19:51 PM#16

It really depends on the game, if reaching a certain level first is somehow considered "winning" in the game, then yeah, I suppose XP potions that allow this advantage would be P2W.  In most modern MMOs, leveling speed is pretty irrelevant.  Not only is it quick and easy to get to max level in most new MMORPGs, there is little to be gained by getting there first.  Every game that comes out inevitably has people who hit the cap in a week, do they win?  Not really, they just get bored first.  


Does being the first to level 24 give you some kind of permanent advantage over all those that hit level 24 after you?   Usually not.  


Most games these days, reaching cap is not winning, reaching cap is the game just starting.  People who know what they're doing still manage to level quickly enough I find.   

"I’d rather work on something with great potential than on fulfilling a promise of mediocrity."

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Currently Playing: EQ2, Firefall


Hard Core Member

Joined: 10/08/12
Posts: 573

9/16/13 10:20:22 PM#17

XP Potions I don't mind. Leveling slightly faster is just a commodity and about every game offers it to players in one or another way. You just get to the level cap a little faster, and then you are winning at nothing because you're on the same page as everyone else.


Now Faction Reputation or Arena/PvP point potions... that's a different thing. If someone gets an increased rate of level cap rewards because of boosts, that's where I'd start considering it pay to win, especially if those points are used to purchase useful equipment and consumables.

My opinion is my own. I respect all other opinions and views equally, but keep in mind that my opinion will always be the best for me. That's why it's my opinion.


Elite Member

Joined: 8/13/09
Posts: 6563

"It is double pleasure to deceive the deceiver". - Niccolo Machiavelli

9/16/13 10:52:21 PM#18

EXP potions are not pay to win. Why? because i dont want to reach max level in 2 days. I want to spend a few months progressing my character before reaching the end game that will finish my journey with that character until expanded content is released.

Even without exp potions you will level faster than me because i am not playing a racing game to level cap. I wish mmorpgs stopped using level progression so i dont to worry about that.


EXP pots dont give any advantage over anyone. If you want extra experience gain and dont want to buy exp boosts, rested exp is always there to do the same thing.


Or, are you going to tell me that playing a Pandaren in WoW gives you an advantage because they gain doubled rested exp?


Pay to win is about power. Not speed.

Lets say you use exp pots and i dont. It takes you 2 days to hit lvl cap while it takes me 5 months. In 5 months ill get the same gear as you and probably beat you in PvP. No big deal, nothing p2w there.

On the other hand, lets say we spend the same time leveling to lvl cap and did a lot of pvp throughout our leveling journey, both winning and losing based on how well we played with standard dungeon/pvp gear. One day you decide to buy a nice piece of gear with stats in the cash shop, or a potion that boosts your stats, or paid cash shop to upgrade your weapon and suddenly i cant beat you anymore. Thats pay to win.


Pay to Win has nothing to do with how fast you level. Leveling speed is one of the things that hurts mmos the most. Disgustingly fast experience gain when theres not enough content in the actual game. Really bad decision, but its not p2w.


EDIT: MMORPGS are suppossed to be long term games. THAT includes the leveling process. Do not pretend that long term only applies to end game. Thats just ridiculous thinking. The leveling is suppossed to be the biggest part in the long-term process of playing an mmo and then stay onboard longer for endgame proggression.


Novice Member

Joined: 5/08/11
Posts: 856

9/17/13 12:59:29 AM#19

My definition of P2W: when 2 or more players come together in direct combat, anything that can give direct advantage over me, which can be bought by money and can't be acquired through normal gameplay without noticeable grind is P2W. Everything else isn't.


An example: a player can buy a hundred levels, but as long as the game only allows fights against same level, it's not P2W. 


A player can buy a sword of instant death, but as long as it works only in non-competitive PvE, it's not P2W.


Purchase of 5% bonus to hit in PvP is P2W.


Novice Member

Joined: 5/30/09
Posts: 880

9/17/13 2:43:56 AM#20

Pay 2 Win is a much older term you have to go back a bit further then 5 or 6 years. The origins go back at least ten years when the first F2P games started porting over from Korea. Talking about games like MapleStory (2003) and Ragnarok Online (2004) that had pay walls that prevented players from advancing past a certain point in the game without buying power ups. These were the games that defined Pay 2 win as you could not win with out paying. An XP potion was never considered pay to win. XP potions were often given away as free promotional items in subscription games years before they were added to cash shops.



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