Mobile app games are a fairly simple way of passing the time and engaging us in small nuggets of time. Their very purpose is to offer us small bursts of enjoyment and yet try to scupper our fun with some kind of blockade. Some have time limits meaning that they can somewhat control our usage of the game. Others have level grinds that negate us from certain portions of the game until we actually do dedicate the time to hike our way up the level mountain. A more sneaky method though is one that many people try to avoid when possible – the paywall. Simply put, most of these games are only free to download as they have some kind of content that is locked away to the player until they part with their hard earned cash. Many would stress that these items are not necessary to further the enjoyment of the game, but will simply be a quick fix to whatever issue the player is faced with. This may or may not be the case though with Square Enix’s current popular app game, Kingdom Hearts Unchained X.
Unchained X is the very starting point for the Kingdom Hearts franchise, the prequel to Birth By Sleep which is paving the way for the Kingdom Hearts 2.8 release at the end of the year. KHUX is the Western equivalent of the web browser game which has already been available to the Japanese player base. Due to this, there are major differences between the versions but one of the biggest differences is what hides behind the game’s paywall. In order to have a chance to pull the various medals used for fighting in the game, players will have to use the in-game currency of jewels. These can be obtained in small quantities just by playing the story quests, yet this gives the player a very small pool of medals to choose from and even then, a smaller chance of ever leveling them up. By exchanging real life money for those pretty jewels, users can access special dungeons that will make it easier for them to level up and farm for experience to grow their fighting arsenal. However, the Western player base are still unhappy with many of the aspects of this paywall employed by Square Enix for several reasons, mainly to do with the RNG of pulling new medals.
To put it in simple terms, just because a player spends a lot of money on the game does not mean that they will be rewarded for it. Previously it was very possible to receive medals already available through the free story quests, and it is still very possible to get duplicates of the same useless medal a player doesn’t want. Due to this, during some special events for medals (known as Epic Carnivals) there has been the inclusion of the ten medal confirmation – on their tenth consecutive pull they will receive the guaranteed special event medal at the time. This might not seem bad but take into consideration that for one pull of this fashion it costs 3000 jewels, at the cost of £10.99 in the United Kingdom. Sinking in almost one hundred pounds just for the guarantee of the one promised medal seems hardly worth it in the end if the rest are not guaranteed to be even remotely helpful to the gameplay experience. This random element has burned many a player to the point that there was a petition at one point, pleading with Square Enix to try and fix the fairness of the game for the Western audience. Their prayers have been somewhat answered with the newest update for KHUX, which has slightly edited how medal pulls work from here on out. Players will no longer receiver level one story quest medals in their pulls, meaning that they are less likely to receive the standard medals constantly. It is a small improvement but it may not necessarily satisfy the cries of still scorned players.
The general gripe from players, from those who are complaining loud enough, is that they feel obligated to pour money into the game just to get further ahead. When comparing the game’s two playstyles, Free to Play (f2p) and Pay to Play (p2p) do have significant positives and negatives. The p2p player will obviously have the leisure of going for those ten consecutive pulls for a guaranteed medal and they may be more committed to the game than the f2p player. The f2p play style however does show a level of strategy and planning, as that player will need to decide when they are going to farm for their exp medals and when to tackle certain quests due to their limited access to the premium dungeons. Some would say that p2p is the faster way to advance, but in the end one could say that the actual paywall only exists within the player’s mind. Everyone will have that difficulty curve hit them; for some it will come later than others. Whether they decide to dip into their wallet is down to them, but several players online have proven that spending lots of money does not equal instant success. The RNG element behind KHUX may be both the most exciting and also aggravating part of the game itself. but it is clearly not that big of an issue as the game still has thousands of players across the west.
Whether you are totally against the methods employed by these mobile games, or are happy to divide minutes of your time to calmly breeze through them, players should know that at the end of the day the only ones telling them to spend their money are themselves. It is perfectly fine not to invest money in a free download, and at the same time their is no shame in spending a little but knowing whether you realistically can afford to do so should be the main question on a player’s mind. That is what the reality of the paywall truly is.