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How free games are designed to make money

“Freemium” games can end up gaming gamers.

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The “freemium” business model allows us to use an app for free with the option to purchase additional features. In the case of games, that model can fundamentally alter the user experience, from gaming to getting gamed.

By collecting troves of data on how users play their games, developers have mastered the science of applied addiction. And with the rise of “freemium” games that rely on micro-transactions, they have good reason to deploy the tools of behavioral psychology to inspire purchases.

In the video above, I spoke to Jamie Madigan, author of a blog, podcast, and book about the psychology of video games. We take a look at some of the mind tricks that some of these games use to convert players into payers.

You can find more of his work here: is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what’s really driving the events in the headlines. Check out

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31 thoughts on “How free games are designed to make money”

  1. I really want to know how games that boast you can earn money by playing exist. Are they actually paying real money? Do they somehow make money by giving players money or are they aiming for something else? What’s the point of paying people to play solitaire or bingo?

  2. Ironically enough, the best version of this are usually Japanese Gacha games, the games that were made around the concept of buying and spending the currency to get good characters. A lot of the Gacha games I play are very F2P (free to Play) friendly like Fate/Grand Order and Fire Emblem Heroes. You don’t even need to spend to get those good characters to progress in the game because you’re given loads of really good characters for free and other "lower rarity" characters can be good or can be made good anyway (For example: Arash, Hans, Fuuma, FSN Cu, and Spartacus for FGO and Peony, Eir, Reginn, Fjorm, Ash, and Brave Ike for FEH)

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