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Hands on with Playond – Apple Arcade with a free tier

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Apple Arcade earned a lot of plaudits last year for shaking up the freemium-blighted mobile gaming scene. But it’s not the only subscription gaming service worthy of your attention.

We’ve already considered GameClub, which resurrects a bunch of lost iOS classics for a monthly fee. Playond offers a similar package, but with a more current game roster and a lower monthly fee.


Playond’s browsing experience has a Tinder feel

Playond offers access to some 60 premium games, with more on the horizon. And while not all of these are household names, there are a number of surprisingly recent big-hitters.

There’s the platform puzzling of Daggerhood, stylish puzzler Linn: Path of Orchards, polished twin-stick shooter Jydge, and the entertaining golf-platformer mash-up Golf Zero, to name just a few. Playond even managed to snatch the fantastic crafting RPG Crashlands.

The set-up establishes your favorite genres for recommendation purposes

What’s truly remarkable is how accessible these fine games are. Playond offers a free tier that offers limited access using a recharging power gauge mechanic, which gets drained by downloads and gameplay. Returning the next day or watching an ad can recharge this meter.

Alternatively, you can pay $1/£1 per month for the full unrestricted Playond experience. This is significantly cheaper than both Apple Arcade and GameClub, both of which cost $5/£5 per month.

The free tier operates on an energy system

It’s worth mentioning that this is listed as an ‘early adopter’ offer in a few places, so the price may eventually increase. But for now, Playond is comfortably the best iOS game subscription deal in town.

The hub app’s interface doesn’t let the side down either. It seems to be focused on providing a friendly and intuitive browsing experience above all else, with the core Games tab offering a swipe-to navigate system reminiscent of Reigns or Tinder.

The app pages look a lot like the App Store

Each game gets its moment in the spotlight, complete with an App Store-esque auto-playing gameplay video. If you want a more functional grid-based system, hitting the search icon will bring up a zoomed-out overview.

Tapping on a game takes you into a more detailed breakdown that closely resembles the App Store experience. Whatever you think about such a ‘tribute’, there’s no denying it’s a very effective layout. It’s all very slick and easy on the eye.

There’s a ‘Badge’ reward system

GameClub arguably offers a better, more distinctive experience in this regard, with a more thoughtfully curated browsing experience and lots of editorial background on the game selections. But for simply getting you to the games, we can’t really knock Playond’s approach.

Like GameClub, Playond can’t hope to rival Apple Arcade’s fresh roster of all-new and exclusive mobile games. But many of its offerings would arguably have been worthy of inclusion on the polished Apple service if they were released today. And the full subscription is extremely affordable to boot.