Premium Currency

Exchange rate between real money and in-game currency disguises the real price of items.

One of the most common Monetary Dark Patterns is the use of premium currency. This is when real money is exchanged for in-game currency. It could be gems, tokens, crystals, coins or anything else specific to the game. This in-game currency is then used to purchase items, upgrade weapons or otherwise play the game. Usually, no limits are placed on the amount of premium currency that can be purchased, which can lead to some addicted players spending huge sums of money on the game. In the industry, these types of players are called "Whales" because of their big spending. Historically, less than 2% of a game's players will spend money on a free to play game with premium currency.

There are several reasons why this is a Dark Pattern:

First, the exchange rate between real money and the premium currency often disguises the real price of items that you purchase in the game. This is compounded by the fact that purchasing larger bundles of premium currency often gives you a better exchange rate. Because the true price of the in-game item is disguised by the variable exchange rate, player's aren't as aware of how much they are spending, and end up spending more.

Second, because of another dark pattern called Waste Aversion, people are reluctant to leave a small amount of unspent premium currency. Game developers know this and they often price items in such a way that you will always have some unspent currency. For example, you may only be able to purchase gems in bundles of 1000, but items cost 80 gems inside the game. This means you'll have 40 gems left over and may feel like you need to purchase more gems to try to even it up and get down to zero.

Third, some countries have laws against gambling, which would make it illegal for the game to sell Loot Boxes for real money. Because premium currency isn't real money, game developers can claim that loot boxes aren't gambling and they can get around the laws. Loot boxes are a powerful money-making technique for game, so using an intermediary currency to get around the law allows games to continue to including gambling in their games when they would otherwise be prohibited.


Fishdom Fishdom
"you can buy gems and coins"

Stick War: Legacy Stick War: Legacy
"Outside of gameplay, the in-game currency is gems. These can be earned by winning levels but can also be bought with real money"

"You can buy diamonds, diamonds buy other things, generic."

Cookie Run: Kingdom Cookie Run: Kingdom
"Yes, BUT!!! this is another thing i'd love to have a "kind of" review option on hbdhfbhjs CRK is VERY generous. The premium currency is given out for free all the time, and you receive PLENTY of it through normal play. Spending money is NOT required."

Peridot Peridot
"Numerous in-game currencies of different value, some of which are not available except through real money transactions"

Cursed Treasure 2 Cursed Treasure 2
"The in-game currency 'skulls' (which can be used to purchase temporary effects during a level of gameplay) can be bought in large batches (thousands) via microtransactions, or very slowly accrued in small amounts (random chance of ten at a time per kill) through gameplay."

SortPuz: 3D Color Water Sort Puzzle SortPuz: 3D Color Water Sort Puzzle
"You can pay for "pieces" of the in-game collectables, which you can also get via gameplay."

Tetris® Tetris®
"You can pay for "loyalty points," which can be redeemed for real-world gifts such as plane tickets to a tropical destination."

Mahjong Solitaire: Classic Mahjong Solitaire: Classic
"Yes, and it constantly advertises bundles of premium currency. After a certain point it starts filling up a "piggy bank" with premium currency after every level, and pesters you to pay to get that currency every level once it has filled up."

IdleOn - Idle MMO IdleOn - Idle MMO
"Pay to win"