What is a term for a videogame that, while labeled "Free to Play", is impossible (or extremely slow/tedious) to progress in without spending money on in-game content?

Edit: Freemium is a decent answer, but I'm looking for something with more of a negative connotation.

To further elaborate, an example of the type of game I'm thinking of might be an MMORPG that, without purchasing a special stat boosting potion for real world money, requires an excessive/unrealistic amount of grinding/leveling in order to progress through the game.

  • 1
    You mean like a demo?
    – JLG
    Feb 27, 2013 at 0:39
  • 1
    "Free to Pay" would seem to be the appropriate truth-in-advertising formulation.
    – Sven Yargs
    Feb 27, 2013 at 0:57
  • Sounds like "bait and switch" to me! Feb 27, 2013 at 1:59
  • @JLG, not demo, FTP model is a trope that has been around for a few years now.
    – theUg
    Feb 27, 2013 at 8:39
  • 1
    On the edit: Yup, that's P2W alright.
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 27, 2013 at 22:16

4 Answers 4


As @Theo mentioned, game companies like to refer to a business model built around buying usability extras for a "free" game as "Freemium".

However, in the situation where the game doesn't really allow a player to make a competitive showing without purchasing stuff, we gamers call it Pay-to-Win (sometimes abbreviated as P2W). The name is always used derisively, so I doubt you'll ever hear a company adopt it in their game marketing.


A Freemium is a general term and a business model that refers to a product that is offered free of charge while a micropayment is charged for users to access premium features and virtual goods. Quoted from Wikipedia:

A freemium is a business model by which a product or service (typically a digital offering such as software, media, games or web services) is provided free of charge, but a premium is charged for advanced features, functionality, or virtual goods. The word "freemium" is a portmanteau combining the two aspects of the business model: "free" and "premium".

  • While the term itself is good, its definition is lacking. All F2P games provide advanced functionality as premium (by F2P I do not mean true freeware), the point is the game that makes free portion is vastly inferior or slow to premium portion, which makes it impossible to compete.
    – theUg
    Feb 27, 2013 at 8:42
  • @theUg Most Freemium games I'm aware of (or the most popular ones) aren't particularly competitive. I'd love to see a counterexample of a Freemium game where the premium portion doesn't give a significant advantage to game play. What would be the point of the business model if this were not the case? I'm not sure why you believe the definition is lacking.
    – ghoppe
    Feb 27, 2013 at 15:40
  • I will likely select this as the answer, but I'm going to wait to see if there is something with more of a negative connotation... Updating my question to clarify.
    – MikeS
    Feb 27, 2013 at 15:48
  • 1
    @ghoppe, Battlefield Heroes is one. It is actually one of the first F2P games, and money are usually used for cosmetic stuff to personalize soldiers. That said, I have not played in years, so I don not know if that changed.
    – theUg
    Feb 27, 2013 at 16:30

I would propose something along the lines of crippleware, which describes software that is free to use but has some vital features that are disabled as an incentive to get the complete version.

I would propose games that do this could perhaps be cripplegames or grindware since advancement requires excessive grinding for dreadfully tiny game currency rewards in order to upgrade to an implausibly lofty trade-in price.


A generic term for this form of inducement is come-on (noun).

Something offered to allure or attract; an inducement, especially to buy. ( American Heritage Dictionary)

(slang) inducement, lure (Dictionary.com)

something (as an advertising promotion) intended to entice or allure (Merriam-Webster)

Synonyms include "allurement", "bait", "enticement", "siren song", "temptation".

A come-on is generally interpreted as a deceptive technique, and has the negative connotation that you are looking for.

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