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One of the most significant developments in the gaming economy over the past decade has been the en masse shift towards the free-to-play (FTP) model, which has proliferated across virtually every medium, including console, PC, mobile, and online. While this seems great for anyone looking for a bargain, it is important to note that, as with anything else in life, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

While it is perfectly possible to play some of the best games without spending a single penny, it is important that you know exactly what you are paying to play. With that in mind, here are some handy need-to-know tips for navigating the world of FTP.

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Understanding microtransactions

When playing any type of game for free, the most important thing to be mindful of is microtransactions. These are in-game payments that you can make in a “free” game to access certain features or content. While this is pretty standard across all types of gaming, it is important to understand how microtransactions operate in the game you are playing. For some games, in-game purchases are simply ways to get nifty extra content. However, some games that claim to be “free” will make it very difficult for you to progress or engage with the content at all without making a payment, effectively forcing you to participate in microtransactions. These are FTP games to be avoided.

Check those playthrough requirements

One genre of gaming that is particularly keen to offer free content to users is the online casino gaming sector. Many casinos aim to attract new customers by offering the chance to play real money slots and table games without the need to wager your own cash. However, it is important to check the so-called “playthrough requirements” to see what kind of deal you are getting. In online gambling parlance, playthrough refers to the number of times you need to wager the amount of any bonus cash before you can withdraw winnings that you earned from that same bonus.

Some casinos have very high playthrough rates, which means that, if you used a free $10 bet and won $500, you would have to bet many times the initial bonus amount before you could withdraw that $500. Thankfully, most reputable casinos offer very modest playthrough requirements. This brings an interesting situation where the offers available are almost too much for players to uncover, and as such, they need to visit review sites to see which casinos offer playthrough of 10x or less in Michigan, for example.

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Always know your sources

Now, let’s focus on PC and console games. There is no shortage of game libraries and code sites out there offering free downloads of the latest games to all and sundry. This is where it is critical to exercise extreme caution and do your research. Only use well-known and trusted games libraries such as Steam and Valve, which regularly throw game giveaways on new and old titles alike.

Avoid unknown game key sites, as key scams are a massive and rapidly growing industry that could seriously rip you off. In addition, make sure you are on the genuine website of companies like Steam, Valve, or Ubisoft before downloading a free game, as there is a large and growing number of “cloaked” sites posing as these companies.

By keeping this essential info in mind, you can enjoy genuinely free gaming on the titles that you love.