What is a Microtransaction?

Microtransactions are small financial transactions that are typically used to purchase digital goods and services, such as in-game items, additional features, or access to premium content.

Microtransactions are most commonly used in the gaming industry, where players can purchase virtual items or in-game currency to enhance their gaming experience. For example, a player may buy a special weapon or outfit for their character, or purchase additional levels or game modes. These purchases are often made through online marketplaces or in-game stores, and can range from a few cents to a few dollars.

Microtransactions have become increasingly popular due to the rise of free-to-play games and mobile gaming. These types of games are free to download and play, but often include optional in-app purchases that allow players to enhance their experience or progress more quickly.

While microtransactions can provide a source of revenue for game developers, they have also been criticized for creating a pay-to-win dynamic in some games. This means that players who are willing to spend money can have an advantage over those who are not, potentially making the game less enjoyable for everyone.

Despite these criticisms, microtransactions remain a popular and widespread business model, particularly in the gaming industry. They allow players to purchase items or features that they find valuable, and provide game developers with a steady source of revenue.

Simplified Example

A microtransaction is like buying a small toy at a store. Imagine you're playing a video game and you want a special sword or a new outfit for your character. Instead of having to wait to earn it, you can buy it right away with just a few clicks. It's like buying a small toy at a store, but instead of taking it home with you, it goes straight into your video game. And just like how you can buy multiple small toys, you can also buy multiple microtransactions in a game, to enhance your experience and make it more fun.

History of the Term "Microtransaction"

The term "microtransaction" likely originated in the early 2000s alongside the growth of online gaming and digital markets. Its development was influenced by the demand for alternative monetization models in free-to-play games, the normalization of virtual goods trading in online platforms like Second Life, and the widespread adoption of microtransactions in mobile gaming during the late 2000s and early 2010s. This term refers to the practice of allowing players to make small, incremental purchases within games or digital platforms.


Purchasing virtual currency in a mobile game, such as coins or gems, to buy items or unlock additional features.

Paying for an in-game item or cosmetic upgrade in a video game, such as a special weapon, costume, or vehicle.

Paying for a subscription or premium membership on a social media platform or online service, which may give access to additional features or content.

  • GameFi: A decentralized financial ecosystem for the gaming industry that aims to create a new, blockchain-based financial infrastructure for the gaming world.

  • Initial Game Offering (IGO): These new games offer a variety of digital assets that are tradable in the form of tokens, coins, or other virtual items.