Last week, after a protracted time of testing, Electronic Arts opened the flood-gates and let the rest of the world play a mobile rendition of a franchise they bought from properties created by Peter Molyneux called Dungeon Keeper. As it happened, on 01-30-14, I did my job and played, rated and reviewed the game for the Fetch app-discovery app, saying:
Recruit minions and carve out a sinister underground empire by harvesting resources and laying devious dungeon traps to painfully foil your enemies! EA did a great job bringing a PC classic to mobile devices.
I rated the game 9/10 (4.5), so imagine my surprise when I see a bunch of posts from other reviewers of games critically saying Dungeon Keeper is an example of everything wrong with mobile games, and that EA essentially raped the franchise because purchasing virtual currency is practically required to enjoy the game.
Well, I thought about refining my review to reflect recent trends, but instead opted to respond–I want to provide background to my reviewing processes and metrics, and, why EA was able to pull a well-planned fast-one that pissed off everyone. Essentially: EA orchestrated this as a blow to free-to-play, and it might be a good thing for mobile games…
I sat tapping through the tutorial of Dungeon Keeper with little surprise. I figured EA would turn Dungeon Keeper into a free-to-play game the second I saw it soft-released. As expected, the demonic guide talked down to me and encouraged me to pursue tasks that would take gems to complete quickly, like, surprise, Clash of Clans, or any other derivative. I tolerated it and took it in stride.
The tutorial was annoying, but compared to other games I’d played on Android, above-average, so I kept tapping through things until I found the point where I could break the MANDATORY tutorial. I assessed what I saw and rated everything in the game accordingly. I then un-installed Dungeon Keeper because I was disgusted, which, in retrospect, I think was intentional. EA did this to show the ridiculous nature of profiting in the mobile gaming sphere, and I’m forced to agree with them: you can’t adopt new payment methods to emulate traditional gameplay mechanics for mobile without pissing people off.
I stand behind my rating and review because the Dungeon Keeper gameplay exists, but is behind a pay-wall for those that want immediate gratification. EA engineered this to TRAP the media and with the hope that that would benefit them in the long run, because they’ve just used a cult game to make people find reason to hate freemium mobile games even more.
As a mobile games review editor, I don’t like what EA has done. EA has taken a wonderful PC game and commodified it to fit current mobile gaming trends. But, I don’t disapprove of their tactics either.
All that being said, when I rated the game, I figured Dungeon Keeper’s score in light of what you’d either be willing to pay or wait for, and not how upset you’d be at either junction. So, take that as you will.