Should You Be Spending Real Money On Virtual Items?

Should You Be Spending Real Money On Virtual Items?

Many of us have spent real money on virtual items in games, whether it be extra pokeballs in Pokemon Go or gems to help us level up in Clash of Clans. While some of us are happy to spend money on these items, others may see it as spending money on nothing. After all, you can’t hold a virtual sword that you’ve bought in a game. What have you really bought with your money?

Of course, you could argue the same about a handbag or an expensive watch. These items may be physical, but they aren’t necessary – and yet some people are willing to spend thousands on them. So why is it not okay to spend a few dollars on a virtual sword?

Adding value to the game

Most of us buy virtual items as a way of enriching the game. When we buy a game, we’re buying into a virtual experience. Paying money for extras is just a way of improving that experience. Of course, certain extras such as extra maps or extra missions are likely to add more value than buying character clothing. However, it’s up to the player to determine that value.

One growing popular reason as to why many players buy virtual items is to save time and energy. Games such as Neopets can require us to put a lot of grind in so that we can accumulate in-game currency. Generating this currency isn’t always particularly fun (and the whole point of a game is to be fun), which is why many people buy Neopoints with real currency. Just as you might outsource a travel company to book a vacation for you, it’s a convenience that allows you to focus on the fun factor.

The danger of pay-to-win games

There are of course games that take advantage of allowing players to buy extra content, making it impossible to complete a game without spending extra money. These are often referred to as ‘pay-to-win’ games.

2014’s MMORPG ArcheAge was a famous example that allowed players to buy extra gear that could not be obtained through actual gameplay. Those that didn’t pay for this extra gear had virtually no chance when up against players that had paid for this gear.

Mobile games can be notorious for this and it’s worth always reading reviews before you get sucked in.

Being sensible

Some people spend ridiculous amounts on virtual items. Keeping a budget and being realistic about the value that these items provide is important.

You should be particularly careful of games that effectively allow you to gamble real money. For instance, many games have loot boxes or mystery boxes that can be purchased with real money – you don’t always have any idea as to what the contents will be, which means you could spend money on a load of useless items.

It’s also important to know exactly how much you’re spending. EVE Online infamously sold a virtual monocle for $60 – however, this wasn’t clear as you had to first convert money into the game’s own digital currency before browsing through items.


  1. dbkid92 April 2, 2020

    This is good advice. I’ve been stuck at home thanks to the coronavirus outbreak in my country and all there is to do is watch netflix or play games. Downloaded Elder Scrolls Online because it’s free for a few times but it also has a big cash shop full of DLC and items that you can only buy with their “crown store” virtual currency. At least I’m saving money with pokemon go because I can’t walk anywhere to catch anything in it.

  2. David April 2, 2020

    I’ve definitely bought virtual currency from online games like Dofus and WoW before and I can say that it doesn’t “take the fun out of things” it allows me to have fun faster, without the tedious grinding. Will definitely buy Kamas (Dofus) and also buy Neopoints (neopets) again.

    • Qalelith April 3, 2020

      Yeah that’s the point the article is trying to make I think. There’s a lot of negatives associated with virtual currency but if it is done right it is worth it. I just don’t like the games where they make the grinding intentionally excessive to force you to spend too much on virtual currency. Btw would you recommend Neopets? I’ve hard a lot about it but never tried it. I’m looking for something laidback to sink some time into.

      • David April 3, 2020

        It’s definitely not as active as it used to be, but since we’re talking about spending real money to get up to speed then yeah, I recommend it.
        It’s pretty laid back and has seasonal events like The Negg Festival (find a link in a page with some clues), the Altador Cup (usually in the summer) and Daily Dare (you get a challenge to get a score in a particular game each day).
        It’s currently transitioning to HTML5 from Flash so I hope it still has a lot to give.

  3. Qalelith April 3, 2020

    Thanks, I’ll check it out. Adventure Quest Worlds used to be my go-to chill out game many years ago and now with this forced social isolation thing I’m tempted to get back into some online gaming.

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