Subscription games aren’t a new concept in the world of gaming. Both Microsoft and Sony charge a subscription fee to access online gameplay for their respective consoles and $15-a-month MMOs have been around since the early 90s. However, subscription-based mobile games are a relatively new concept that I was shocked to encounter. Then I started thinking about it.
The game that introduced the concept to me is King of Thieves. It’s from Cut the Rope developer ZeptoLab and it launched back in March 2015. The game functions similarly to Clash of Clans in that you have a base you can set up to your liking in an attempt to keep other people out of your gem cache, while you have a set number of keys you can use to break into other’s dungeons in an attempt to steal their gems.
The game has over 10 million downloads in the Google Play Store thanks to it being free to download, but of course, there are in-app purchases similar to what you’d find in any free to play mobile game.
Where it gets interesting is the subscription “service” that ZeptoLab offers customers willing to fork over a dedicated $4.99 a month. There’s real value here if you’re the type of person who hates having to wait for timers to replenish, but the subscription doesn’t let you pass up some of mobile gaming’s greatest annoyances.
So here’s the breakdown of the benefits of this subscription. Free users start with 10 keys. Keys are used to unlock other players dungeons and players can upgrade their dungeons with more locks and more keys in an attempt to keep other players out. Another upgrade in the game is increasing the amount of keys you can hold. For free players, that number goes up one per upgrade period. For subscription players, you get 10 times the keys.
This means if you’ve upgraded your key slots to 13, you can actually hold 130 keys. That number increases as you continue to upgrade the number of keys you can hold, too. But that’s not the only benefit subscription players get. Keys also regenerate 10 times faster. A free player gets 1 key every 3 minutes, while a subscription player gets 1 key every 30 seconds. As you can imagine, this cuts out nearly all of the waiting surrounding raiding other players.
What it doesn’t cut out is the waiting for upgrades. Just like most other mobile games, King of Thieves features base upgrades that start out relatively cheap time-wise but become more time consuming as you continue to upgrade.
You can see here the upgrade trees for the game are still intact, with each successive upgrade in each category costing a more significant amount of time than the last. I’ve upgraded the number of locks protecting my door from other players more consistently than any of the other bonuses, so those upgrades take around 16 hours to complete now.
So while the wait to increase your own stats is still present in the game, the $4.99 a month subscription lets you completely bypass waiting for your keys to respawn so you can invade other’s dungeons in order to steal their gems. It makes the game a lot more fun in longer periods of play, but it also means you’re more competitive against others who are trying to keep you out. And boy is this game competitive.
King of Thieves is best describes as Super Mario Maker for Super Meat Boy, as some of the later single player levels are just as devious as what Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes put into their 2010 indie hit. However, the player created levels with the level editor open the possibilities and create endless levels for you to exploit, some use techniques so crazy that ZeptoLab regularly highlights them on their YouTube channel.
I found the $4.99 a month price compelling enough to fork it over so I could enjoy the game without annoying timers, but I’m curious what the Android community at large thinks about this practice. Would you pay a subscription for a mobile game you are really enjoying?