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For a small fraction of the player base, these games are very susceptible to becoming Serious Business, with some players spending astronomical sums just to get the best equipment and Character Class.
Game design jargon calls these players Whales (a term used by gamblers to describe someone who spends extravagant amounts of money on his favorite game) - they are usually the major source of a game's income and how badly you should milk them is a permanent ethical question for any game company.
Games based around this concept are commonly referred to as "Free to Pay" or "Pay to Win." This is primarily an advertising trope about a mismatch between PR and reality.
Fortunately many apologists have gone to be with the Lord but who will replace them?
"The joy of online strategy gaming, and online gaming in general, is defeating an opponent who was just as likely to defeat you—so how much fun is a game if, no matter how good you are, you may get owned by some kid who blew his allowance on WMDs?
If you don't stand a chance in a 'free' game without shelling out, then the game ain't really free."A game that you can play for free, with a heavy restriction on the "can play" part.
This is for games that claim to be free, but players have to pay for a HUGE chunk of the content.
Sometimes you're restricted to a "free" zone and have to repeatedly buy access to the rest of the game piece by piece, sometimes you're incapable of gaining certain abilities or items without buying them with real world money, sometimes you can buy a copy or pay a subscription fee (and even then, additional purchases may be needed.) Some games just have so much that is exclusively bought that those who pay have such a gigantic advantage over those who don't.