Free-to-play (F2P or FtP) video games are games that give players access to a significant portion of their content without paying or do not require paying to continue playing. Free-to-play is distinct from traditional commercial software, which requires a payment before using the game or service. It is also separate from freeware games, which are entirely costless. Free-to-play's model is sometimes derisively referred to as free-to-start due to not being entirely free. Free to play games have also been widely criticized as “pay-to-win”— that is, that players can generally pay to obtain competitive or power advantages over other players.
There are several kinds of free-to-play business models. The most common is based on the freemium software model, in which users are granted access to a fully functional game but are incentivised to pay microtransactions to access additional content. Sometimes the content is entirely blocked without payment; other times it requires immense time 'unlocking' it for non-paying players, and paying the fee speeds the unlocking process. Another method of generating revenue is to integrate advertisements into the game.
The model was first popularly used in early massively multiplayer online games targeted towards casual gamers, before finding wider adoption among games released by major video game publishers to combat video game piracy.