Freemium or free-to-play: is there a difference

Two consonant concepts - freemium and free-to-play - for many have become absolute synonyms. Very often, when they write about the monetization of games, especially mobile ones, one is easily used instead of the other.

But despite the frightening frequency with which freemium and free-2-play are confused today, they not only differ from each other, but also come to the world of mobile applications in completely different ways.

Let's see what the difference is.


The concept of Free-to-Play (also spelled as free2play and f2p) today, first of all, is associated with multiplayer and social games. Including with similar games on mobile devices.

These projects, as a rule, do not require money for the opportunity to play, but they require patience. Actually, this is where f2p games earn money. And also on our love of comfort, including gaming. You want the buildings to be built not during the day, but instantly - pay; if you want it to be not so difficult to play, pay, you are interested in new skins for your characters - again, pay.

It is not necessary to invest money in free-2-play games - for that they are free, but without money it is difficult to get pleasure from the game, so many people make the so-called. micropayments. As a rule, the average cost of one purchase in such projects does not exceed $ 1. The developer’s task is to make as many users as possible give away on this very dollar.

Role sources


A similar model has developed naturally. Its origins go to MMOs beginning zero. At that time, most online projects not only asked for money for a box with the game, but also demanded a monthly payment (and this was far from thirty and not even a hundred rubles). It is clear that in order to achieve success in these games, it was also necessary to invest time and one's own strength.

Although it wasn’t right away, the developers figured out how to offer the players to save both time and effort. So in virtuality, real money began to work: for them it was possible to purchase more powerful weapons or some kind of artifact.

Over time, it turned out that such a scheme works fine even if the game client itself is free. Moreover, with free distribution, the game’s audience increased at times, and, as you know, big money comes with a large audience.

If we talk about the further history of this approach, in a very modified form the concept was adopted by social games where the user paid not only for items, but also for the opportunity to play, for example, an unlimited amount of time per day. Actually, in this form it reached mobile platforms.

The essence of this model is that you do not download the whole game for free, but its demo version.

If, after playing, you understand that you want more, the developers offer for a few dollars to open access to the remaining levels, i.e. You are offered to buy a premium version. This is called the Freemium (free + premium) monetization model. As they say, the first dose is free, but you have to pay for the rest.

Among the most popular mobile games distributed under the Freemium model - Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Swampy Crocodile - and this is not a complete list.

Back to the past
At the end of the 80s of the last century, small development teams posted on the electronic notice wall (BBS) an evaluation version of the game, ending in the most interesting place. To get access to the full version, you had to pay. At that time, this version of the game was called shareware.


In the gaming industry, the term shareware lasted until the mid-zero. Along with the proliferation of PC and the Internet, casual games have appeared that satisfy the unpretentious tastes of a wide audience, including office workers and housewives. The terms shareware and freeware did not tell them anything. Perhaps it was precisely on these lines that distributors of casual products replaced shareware with the concept of Try & Buy.

Against this background, Paid didn’t sound very attractive, so the concept of Premium appeared, which means the content of the “highest standard”, which, of course, is worth it to buy, without even getting acquainted with the trial version.

Actually, the term Freemium appeared by analogy with Premium, and in many ways, perhaps because it turned out to be more harmonious in comparison with shareware. In other words, the free version of the highest standard product began to be called that.

Why are we confusing?

The ability to pay for the full version without leaving the mobile application transfers Freemium games to the category of projects supporting in-app purchase (i.e., in-app purchases). The latter brings confusion, because these IAPs are also used to pay for various "chips" in F2P.

If you understand the essence, then these concepts are quite difficult to confuse.

Free-to-play - You can play for free, but regular small purchases make it possible to do it with great comfort and gain access to great opportunities. In this way, most social games are monetized; while often for real money the game currency is first sold, which users spend already on virtual items.

Freemium - a free distribution model of the "limited" version of the game with the ability to purchase the full, "premium" version. Sometimes in this case, users are also offered sets of additional levels for a fee.