Are free games really free?

What are free-to-play and freemium games?

Free-to-play games (commonly known as F2P) are games which allow players to access everything, or almost everything, without paying. This means that you can download, install and play for free as long as you like.

What does freemium means?

The vast majority of free-to-play games are also "freemium" games. What is a freemium game? It's basically a free game which requires the player to pay microtransactions for "premium features".
The very definition of freemium covers a broad range of games: from MMOs to simple, and often old, shareware games.

Here are some examples of premium features:
- new lands to explore in a MMORPG (Lord of the Rings Online, RIFT)
- cosmetic outfits for your in-game persona (The Elder Scrolls Online, DOTA 2)
- better equipment (weapons, armor, etc.) in some MMOs
- DLCs or expansions, usually not mandatory to play
- new levels in shareware games (Duke Nukem, Doom)
- character transfer between servers (World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online)
- optional paid subscription to better enjoy the gaming experience (RIFT, Star Wars the Old Republic)

A game heavily based on microtransactions can suffer greatly from bad user reviews. Some freemium games are indeed referred as "pay to win". This means that, yes, you can play for free, but you are not going anywhere far unless you start buying something to help you.

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