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.


Examples

Gossip Harbor: Merge Game Gossip Harbor: Merge Game
"You can buy gems for money"

Seaside Escape Seaside Escape
"Money for gems"

Clash Royale Clash Royale
"Gems and Cold Coins"

Daily Themed Crossword - A Fun crossword game Daily Themed Crossword - A Fun crossword game
"Buy coins to buy other things."

Match Masters - PVP Match 3 Puzzle Game Match Masters - PVP Match 3 Puzzle Game
"Yes, but you can earn the same currency from just playing the game."

PAC-MAN PAC-MAN
"you earn a rather small amount of in game currency by playing and are incentivized to pay for them instead"

Dream Hopper Dream Hopper
"They have gems which you can get in game but you can also buy in game which are exchangeable for wishes"

Mochicats Collection Mochicats Collection
"you can buy star candies that you can use for a bunch of stuff in game, for real money"

Rise of Cultures Rise of Cultures
"Gems."

ExoMiner - Idle Miner Adventure ExoMiner - Idle Miner Adventure
"You can skip a lot of things by spending gems which, most of the time, can be gotten only by spending real-world money"