The kids just discovered a game that’s completely free to play and they are really enjoying it. A free game? Is that possible? While a lot of free-to-play games are good to play without spending any money, most of them offer in-game purchases that add extra content to the base game such as extra levels, new cosmetic items or access to unique items. In this article, you’ll discover the most commonly used in-game purchase systems and learn how they work. Because knowing is half the battle: Free-to-play games offer a great chance to pay-as-you-go, the more you like the game, the more you might be willing to spend.

Cosmetic items

Fortnite Starter Pack Playstation
Nice armour, let's buy it!

Cosmetic items have no impact on in-game statistics, game mechanics or the way a game plays. They can be found in most free-to-play games to visually sweeten the experience. And there are a lot of them! If someone wants their game character to wear a pink bunny suit, or a shiny piece of knight armour that makes them stand out from the rest, PlayStation Store is the place to go. When buying these items, it's important to know if your child is really invested in the game and whether they will play it for a long time. Otherwise, it would be wiser to divert your budget to items from another game with more longevity. Additionally, you can set up a Spending Limit as Family Manager, which is part of the parental control options offered on PS4 systems.

Useable in-game items

Some developers allow the purchase of specific in-game items (a gun for instance, or some special gear) that are clearly powerful and effective, and have an effect on the way the game plays. Having an edge over the competition can be a lot of fun of course. Paying for items that will help you get better in the game is a great way to enhance your experience. Most games, however, are careful to make it possible to win without spending (extra) money so these items are more a luxury than a necessity.

Extra content

When someone finishes a game that they have and completely fallen in love with, they are probably hungry for some more content to continue their adventure. Perhaps a new map for their favourite free-to-play Battle Royale game, or a new storyline to complete in an adventure game. Most games have extra content available, usually released in intervals throughout the year. These downloadable content (DLC) packages, add-ons, or expansions vary in price depending on the size of the update. If someone is only interested in a specific piece of new content that fits their play style it’s worthwhile to check if there is an option to purchase it separately. If you are buying for someone who is going to want all the extra content, looking for an option to buy a complete package that already includes future content is your best bet. These content packages sometimes offer good deals (offering Fifa points for half the price, for example) and will save you money down the line.

Session length restrictions

When free-to-play games took over the mobile game industry years ago, many of them came with session length restrictions. Nowadays, this feature can also be found in several free-to-play games on PlayStation Store. These restrictions give the player a limited time to play a game before locking up. Unlocking all features and access is done by purchasing the full game. Playing a game, really liking it, and then being able to unlock the full game with a one-time purchase is a great way to test the waters before taking the plunge.

Hopefully, this information gives you a better understanding of the products your kids may ask for in free-to-play games. Some of this content is also available for games you buy in stores or online, which we’ll dive into in a separate article.