SmileTutor Blog Parents Parenting Tips Understanding Modern Game Monetisation: Why Does Your Child Overspend on Video Games?

Understanding Modern Game Monetisation: Why Does Your Child Overspend on Video Games?

Little Timmy used to have his money smarts around him. 

But ever since he got hooked up to a computer, all of that sensibility is thrown out of the window.

What’s that? Loot boxes? “Buy-1-get-1-free” bundles? 

What’s gotten into Timmy? Why is he spending so much money online? You know Timmy. He’s not the type to be that irresponsible with money, so the last thing you’d see him spend his money on is video games.

That’s right, parents. Video games, we’re going back into the rabbit hole. Unhealthy playtimes, portrayal of violence— There always seems to be video game slander every day of the week. 

But this time, it’s children spending money, lots of money on a video game. When you associate heavy spending with video game addiction, alarm bells SHOULD be ringing in your head.

Exclusive offer for first-time customers only!
Get 15% discount off your first lesson and no agency fees! Choose from a selection of reliable home tutors and keep learning even while at home. Claim this promotion today.

As video games become more popular, more Timmy’s will show up on the news. Cases of our little ones (who often do not know better) will tell us of an increasingly common trend, that can be more dangerous than it looks.

Today, we’re talking all about it, so you’ll know what you’re dealing with!

Video Games Are No Longer a One-Time Purchase

We used to have the idea that games were a one-time purchase. You buy the product, and use it just like any digital software in the past. But today, things have changed. 

Many popular game titles these days have more than one way to attract spenders to part with their money. Game companies have now designed their products in a way that incentivises repeat spenders.

We have subscription plans, monthly premium memberships and similar payment plans that want you to keep paying to stay in their product ecosystem. This applies to many things that exist digitally, like Microsoft Office and Adobe Suite.

Naturally, this includes the ideologies of game monetisation. There are even monetisation tactics that have been researched to exploit the psychology of players! 

How Your Child Started Spending Money on Video Games

Here’s why your child is spending their weekly allowance like tap water.

The First Payment: The Illusion of a Free Game

[Jam City]

With the piracy of games running rampant in the early years of the industry, game companies began to seek better monetisation methods. One such method was to popularise live-service games that were free-to-play. It’s “free to play”. That’s right, there’s no more “entry fees” you need to pay in order to download and play the game.

And… What’s the catch? 

Well, let’s illustrate the points with a story. Put yourself in the shoes of the player.

For the first hour or so, you have a great time with the game. You progress the story, your character gets stronger, and you get lots of game currency. 

That feeling of freedom is snatched away when you hit a “paywall”. Like its literal meaning, a paywall is an intentionally-designed monetisation method that prevents you from progressing in the game unless you paid money for it. Usually this happens when the game raises its difficulty level, requiring players to find ways to “upgrade”.

The game allows you to pay for convenience, so you get to the fun part more quickly. 

Of course, you’re not obligated to spend money. No no no, the game is still technically free. If you wanted to get over the paywall without spending a cent, you sure could! But the game will make sure that you won’t have a fun time— As you spend hours and hours grinding chores, the spenders are having a blast entering the newest dungeons and slaying dragons.

Parenting is hard, don’t do it alone
Receive weekly parenting tips, latest MOE updates, and how to prepare your child for examinations.
You have successfully joined our subscriber list.

But the thought of a shortcut lingers at the back of your head every time a spender overtakes you.

Like a devil’s whisper, occasional reminders would flash out from the store using in-game advertisements, taunting you with an “easy way out” that everyone else had already used.


You see what this is, parents? For a teenager who’s already invested time into the game, it’s not easy for them to shake away the temptation of a shortcut. After all, it’s just $5. A common line of rationalising the expense would be as follows:

“If I do this the normal way, it would take me over 3 hours to complete this stage. For just $5 which is even less than the hourly pay of a part-time job, I can immediately get to the good rewards.”

Your child doesn’t want to play the game to perform “chores”. They’re there to take their mind off things and have a good time. If it didn’t cost them much, the money would feel ‘well-spent’.

Once you’ve fallen for the illusion of choice to spend in a supposedly free-to-play game, you’re well on your way to the second phase of the game’s monetisation tactic.

The Second Payment: Succumbing to FOMO

When you become familiarised with the game, you will be introduced to more items and characters. Learning that there are more ways to play the same game, you get used to the idea of having lots of choices. 

This is where the game introduces the player to a Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).

Hold on, there’s a better weapon I can get? You turn to the store page, and lo’ and behold. There’s a time-limited five star legendary sword, only available for purchase for two more days!

It’s $30. Admittedly, it is a little more expensive than before. But hey, you notice that the sword has actually already been heavily discounted. If you don’t get it now, it’ll go up to $50 tomorrow.

Begrudgingly, you take out your wallet, and purchase the five-star sword. The thought of the discount lowers your resentment, and you put your mind towards enjoying what you’ve bought.

“Wow, fifty dollars sure made a difference! This sword is so much better!”

Most of the time, you’re just feeling a placebo effect from the rush of spending money in the game.

The Third Payment: Paying for “Value”


You’ve played the game for a few days now, and you realise that you’re out of resources again. At this point, the game informs you of something called a “Battle Pass” or “Rewards Track”. You’re given a set amount of resources every month. But if you pay $15 more, the resources you get, double! 

Having spent $35 on the game already, rounding it up to $50 simply wasn’t as big of a deal anymore. Your decision on spending this time comes from the expectation that you will be “investing” in the game you’re currently enjoying.

What you don’t realise, is that the Battle Pass refreshes every month. So, you’ll be spending $15 every month going forward, because you’ll have your ‘money’s worth’. 

With these top-up bonuses, it does seem like you’ll be getting quite the deal each time!

Parents, are you still following this skewed thought process?

The Fourth Payment: Buying a Sense of “Identity”


Some may have already realised their own spending problems at this stage, but they’ve already fallen into a sunk cost fallacy.

Regardless, the issue only gets worse from here. Teenagers are inherently attention seekers. You’ll want to wow your online friends. You want to look different

There’s no harm in wanting to look different and stand out within the online community that you’re a part of. The problem is that these “cosmetics” often do not have a stopping point, requiring repeat purchases to “complete a look”. These microtransactions often cost a whole lot more than you had intended to spend!

Case Studies: More Infamous Offenders on Predatory Monetisation

While the usual experience of playing games laden with microtransactions can be discreetly exploitative as we’ve narrated above, video games have also shown to push for conversions aggressively.

Candy Crush Saga

[Getty Images]

One game stands apart from the rest of the industry as one of the highest grossing mobile games in recent times: Candy Crush Saga.

This simple, but addictive puzzle game involves the simple “match-three” game mechanic, where you simply need to match colors in a row in order to remove them from your screen and accumulate points. It’s a simple gimmick, but with pretty visuals, the concept of matching, popping and blasting candies can be a really cathartic experience for many.

While popular across all ages, Candy Crush Saga leans its core demographic more towards players within the 20 to 40-year age range. While on the commute, you take out your phone and mindlessly move the same colours around and feel the satisfaction from hitting your combinations. It is the perfect idle game.

What it’s not praised for, is its incredibly predatory monetisation practices. The game would interrupt your play to make offers, push FOMO with the words “limited time offer”, and even highlight it with a countdown timer on the screen!


In fact, the game makes stages more difficult on purpose so that players will put in small amounts of money each time to obtain more “moves” to clear them. Stages continue indefinitely this way, creating a compulsion loop that reinforces the pleasure from play and a higher tolerance to spending in order to continue playing.

There are several more factors that make Candy Crush Saga an issue when it comes to game monetisation, but you can read more about Candy Crush addiction here

Genshin Impact

[Genshin Impact]

On the other side of game monetisation lies in an increasingly popular niche known as a “gacha game”, abbreviated from the Japanese term “Gachapon” used to describe a vending machine dispensing capsule toys at the cost of a coin or two. Today, the term “gacha” is now more commonly used to describe the randomised nature of the Gachapon, hence leading to the implications of implied gambling in games.

One of the most popular gacha games today is Genshin Impact, a Chinese title that is heavily influenced by Japanese anime culture. Genshin Impact features a large 3D open world for players to explore, and has since adopted a large following since its release in 2020 right around the pandemic period.

Lending its niche from the gacha game genre, it employs limited-time banners for players to “pull” for powerful characters. This means that you’ll be spending premium currency in order to have a chance at getting the character

The game doesn’t give you an option to buy the character immediately. That’s right, get that dopamine into your brain. Feel the thrill of getting the character “earlier” than everyone else. The ‘unpredictable nature’ of a gacha game means that the products sold by the game are luck-based acquisitions. 

When even money isn’t able to guarantee the item you want to buy at a reasonable price, is that not dissimilar to real-life gambling?

This troublesome trend of monetisation has become a topic of controversy for a long time, as lawmakers continue to monitor the ethics of such practices today. Recently, China has even drafted new regulations regarding online games in order to curb such unhealthy business practices. 

The Unfortunate Reality of Being Young Today

When we take a step back and find the biggest cause for these unhealthy spendings on video games, we can only see it as a problem with age.

You see, the young demographic is vulnerable to these monetisation tactics precisely because they’re targeted for it. Children and teenagers naturally lack impulse control at their stage of maturity, and they are known for their emotional spending

Game companies often sponsor influencers as well. Streamers and YouTube personalities play these games and laud them excessively, giving entry points for many impressionable youngsters to start playing. 

Without proper guidance and parental control, it is very easy for your child to go off towards a point of no return.

Navigating the Modern Gaming Landscape With Your Child


Responsible gaming habits. That’s what you need to foster in your children. 

With games appealing more towards our child’s emotional needs, it’s even more important to teach them about the sinkhole of spending too much money on such in-game purchases and microtransactions.

That is not to say that it’s all bad for your child. Teaching them all about the modern gaming landscape also lends you a hand in preaching the early practices of financial management. They’re able to become more independent with their money sense, as they learn what it means not only to spend money, but the hardships of earning money.

Establish clear spending limits, encourage financial literacy, and utilise parental controls. 

Find a direction in these pivotal steps, so that you can find opportunities to engage in open conversations about these modern issues about their digital hobbies.

Rum Tan

Rum Tan is the founder of SmileTutor and he believes that every child deserves a smile. Motivated by this belief and passion, he works hard day & night with his team to maintain the most trustworthy source of home tutors in Singapore. In his free time, he writes articles hoping to educate, enlighten, and empower parents, students, and tutors. You may try out his free home tutoring services via or by calling 6266 4475 directly today.