Sep 20, 2017:  ~ 5 min read

The App Store and the state of pay to play

Truth be told, I haven't installed a free game like this since ... as long as I can remember. I haven't played games like Candy Crush et al, so I don't really know if this is the standard or not, but I'd like to share my latest experience. You don't have to have experience with this genre, it's all generic stuff, or obvious enough.

I like tower defense games, and the other day I thought I'd give SurvivalArena a try. I saw it's a pay to play, but I thought it can't be that bad, I'll just progress slower; after all, it's a tower defense, what paywalls can there be?

Well ... after around 15, maybe 20 minutes of gameplay, I literally couldn't advance any further. The incoming creeps were so difficult, no combination of towers/upgrades/mazes could hold them. I only had two towers at my disposal: single target damage (upgraded to level 5) and single target slow (upgraded to level 4) - with further towers having to be unlocked. Needless to say, you start needing AoE towers pretty quickly, but tough luck. At this point I had already spent the ~800 in-game currency that I was awarded at the start of the game.

Unlocking new towers? From chests. Just like unlocking almost anything else. How do you get these chests? With in-game currency, or by performing certain tasks. Sound easy enough, just do these tasks and you'll get your stuff, albeit at a pretty slow pace. Well ... after you receive a chest, you need to unlock it, and that takes time. How long? They start off with 30 min, continue with 1 hour, then, bam, 8 hours. Oh well, let's just wait and, in the mean time, complete some more tasks. Next tricky parts? You can only hold up to 4 chests at once, and can only unlock one chest at a time. So that means you will reach a point where your slots are full, waiting on the current one to be unlocked; at this point you can/should no longer complete tasks, or you will probably lose their respective chests (haven't tried).

Surely enough, there are ways to unlock chests faster: open instantly with currency, watching a 30 sec ad, or by reducing the timer with lockpicks; these come in different types, of 1 min, 10 min, 1 hour, 4 hours, 8 hours. Where do you get these from? Haven't figured it out completely yet, but from chests for sure. Obviously, the drop rate is rather small. Let's go through the three options:

  • Open instantly: 800 currency, which translates to $3 if you buy the second-cheapest currency pack (750), or $1.6 if you buy the most expensive pack (50.000), priced at $99;
  • Ads: unskippable fullscreen clips of 30 seconds; watching one reduces the timer by 1 hour; 8 hours needed x 30 sec per ad for 1 hour reduction = 4 minutes total. OK, fine, you'll say, I'll waste 4 minutes of my life so I can play this game a little longer. Cherry on the cake? After watching a few adds, you get a timer during which you can not watch ads anymore. Yes, really, there's a cooldown on watching ads for reducing chests' unlocking time;
  • Buying lockpicks: a pack of 5x 8 hour lockpicks costs 3500 currency, which means $13 for a 3000 pack ($10) + a 750 pack ($3), or $7 through the most expensive pack - this translates into $2.6/$1.4 per unlock. Don't think the rewards for the longest-to-unlock-chest (I just assume so, because there's no higher lockpick) are super impressive, because they are not.

Other notable usages of in-game currency include:

  • level up your towers - pretty small currency fee;
  • level up your abilities - pretty small currency fee;
    • for these two you also need some kind of cards, found in chests, at a rate of 1-3 for the lowest level chests, but quickly start needing 25 of them per upgrade;
  • level up your hero, which is close to useless at low levels - huge currency fee of 1500 (total of $6/$4.8) at level 1 + some kind of hero points, obtainable from tournament, but also purchaseable at $5 per 50 tokens, but 250 are required at level 1, summing up $25 + $6 = a grand total of $31 for level 2;

If I were to calculate the USD prices by converting the price in my local currency, they'd be 30% higher.

First couple of reviews on the US Store:

I want to start by saying I love tower defense games, and love the idea behind this. It has such a great potential but it feels like it was designed with a greed-first approach.

I started the game last night. The game has a gem system, a time system on chests which unlock cards, and keys to speed up the chest unlock time. Low rank chests that take 2 hours to unlock contain little cards it seems to be 5 or 6? Leveling each item goes from getting 1 card, 2 cards, 4 cards, then 25. You have to spend money to progress even right out of the gate with this game. Not to mention an inventory of only 4 chests on some weird "unlock a chest" queue, so you can't even claim all the rewards you get. You're at a choke point right at the start, and with a jump from 4 cards to 25, I don't even want to bother seeing how many card are required for the next level. Save your money.

So far so good. Minus one star because starting off and I can already tell it will become a pay to win

Badum tss... (yupp, I do think this whole thing is a really bad joke)

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