In this special issue on ludic economies, we argue that the study of digital games – their milieux of production, cultures and contexts of play, user-generated production, and spectatorship should be applied as a primary heuristic in understanding the cultural economy of neoliberal late capitalism - as well as vice versa. The articles here focus on a range of issues related to both mainstream ... [Show full abstract] profit models including digital distribution platforms and mobile games as well as peripheral game economies such as jams and indie production. Each of the studies share an attunement to the tensions and contradictions embedded within what are commonly approached as matter-of-fact within traditional economic analysis of games. Rather than framing industrial changes as necessarily either overdetermined exploitation (of workers in the mainstream games industry, players and their ‘free’ labour) or emancipatory and progressive (new forms of creative production, play, resistance), they address the specificity and peculiarity of game economies at both the micro- and macro-levels of industry, technology, and everyday play culture. And rather than simply countering a pessimistic picture with other, more progressive examples of contemporary game culture such as ‘games for change’, art practices and political interventions – as important as these are – the contributions to this special issue instead track the contradictions and tensions within game cultures and economies as reflections of those within the late capitalist and patriarchal cultural economy at large.