Shockwave.com offers a premium games service called Shockwave Unlimited for a monthly subscription fee. Shockwave Unlimited (formerly known as Gameblast) allows subscribers to download any game on the site and play it as much as they like for the duration of their subscription. An annual subscription costs only $4.95 a month (which comes out to a single yearly payment of $59.40), but they offer two other subscription options: quarterly, which is $6.95 a month ($20.85 billed every three months) or a monthly billing of $9.95 a month. Subscriptions are automatically renewed at the rate initially chosen, although you have the option to change your subscription package at any time.
Shockwave Unlimited does offer a free 10-day trial, although the subscription option you selected on sign-up is automatically billed on the eleventh day if you haven’t cancelled.
Pros of a Shockwave Unlimited Subscription
Shockwave Unlimited offers subscribers access to over 400 advertisement-free games. Sure, many of these titles are available to play online, but most of the “full-version” games are available only to Shockwave Unlimited subscribers or for retail purchase. With a Shockwave Unlimited subscription, all games on the site are available at no additional charge to be downloaded and played with no time-limits and no advertisements.
Shockwave Unlimited doesn’t restrict the number of games you can have downloaded at a time. If you want to download every available game to your hard drive, you can. Some premium gaming services will restrict the number of titles you can have available for use simultaneously or the number you can download in a given time period. Shockwave Unlimited members are not subject to any such restrictions.
Shockwave Unlimited offers subscribers a $5.00 discount on any game they wish to purchase through the Shockwave site. If you download a game and decide you want to own it, you can purchase a copy directly through the Shockwave site. Shockwave Unlimited members receive $5.00 off any retail purchase made while logged into the site through (at least) the end of March 2007. Most of the games retail for about $20.00, so it’s like getting a 25% discount on all of your purchases.
Shockwave Unlmited members are given access to more online games as well as downloadable games. If you enjoy online jigsaw puzzles, you get an extra twenty puzzles a month more with a Shockwave Unlimited subscription. You are also given the option to go back to missed days and complete those puzzles.
Cons of a Shockwave Unlimited Subscription
An internet connection is required to play Shockwave Unlimited games that you have downloaded. Every time you launch a Shockwave Unlimited game, it needs to connect to the Shockwave site to verify that you have an active subscription. Some older games require you to enter your username and password into the game software prior to launching; others will log you in automatically. Depending on your computer’s firewall, it may be necessary for you to manually add each Shockwave game that you download to your list of applications allowed to access the web. If games you downloaded with your Shockwave Unlimited subscription are unable to access the Shockwave site, they will either not work at all or revert to free trial mode with limited functionality. Which means that if your internet connection is out for any reason, you won’t have access to your Shockwave Unlimited games.
Shockwave Unlimited Games are often slow to download even with a high speed connection. Although this has not regularly been my experience, some members complain of very slow downloading times, even during off-peak hours. Most games should download in 10 minutes or less with a high-speed connection. However, complaints of download times upwards of an hour have been seen on the Shockwave site.
Many games available with a Shockwave Unlimited subscription may start to feel very similar. Shockwave.com does not offer terribly involved and complex games. Most of the games available through the site can be put into one of four categories: action/arcade/shooters, word games, match 3, and simulation / tycoon type games. Although there are a few gems on the site that do not fall into one of these categories, if you don’t like any of the game types above, a Shockwave Unlimited subscription would not be a good value for you. Match 3 is probably the most popular type of game available, with multiple clones of games like Zuma, Chuzzle, and Bejeweled available. Although each game has a little twist on the original, after awhile, finding new games that are similiar to the games you already like may start to seem stale.
If you cancel your subscription at any time, all the games you’ve downloaded while you were a subscriber will no longer work. Unless you’ve actually purchased some games through the site (at approximately $15 each after your $5 member discount), all the games you have downloaded while you were a Shockwave Unlimited subscriber will no longer work once you cancel your membership. So if there is a game or two you really fall in love with and you decide you no longer want to be a Shockwave Unlimited subscriber, you will have to spend more money to keep the games you really enjoy.
Personally, I find that a Shockwave Unlimited subscription is a great value. I pay by the year, so for less than $5 each month, I can download and play as many games as I like. I get to try out games that I might not try otherwise because there is absolutely no risk except for the time I spent downloading and playing them. Only once have I had an issue with what I felt was an excessively long download, and my computer is nearly always connected to the internet anyway. I make sure to check out the site every Tuesday, as that seems to be the day they release any new games. I actually find that I am spending less on games with my Shockwave Unlimited subscription than I did without it as I am no longer purchasing games at $20 each that I would tire of in a couple of months. Now, if I get bored with a game, I just download something else. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t spend at least a little time playing a game I downloaded with my Shockwave Unlimited membership.