The App Store and the state of pay to play

:  ~ 4 min read

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:

Other notable usages of in-game currency include:

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)