As we’ve noticed in the past, EA is a widely disliked company among many gamers not just because they make mistakes but that its executives can never own up to their mistakes in a remotely honest manner. Case in point: In an interview with Games Industry International, EA mobile boss Frank Gibeau admits that EA botched the launch of Dungeon Keeper for mobile phones and tablets but he offers the single most ridiculous explanation for why it failed.
For those of you who need a refresher, Dungeon Keeper is a nominally “free-to-play” game that involves assigning a group of worker imps to dig out a given area to create a dungeon that is populated with monsters. However, while the game was indeed free to download and start up, gamers quickly found that it can take hours or even a full day for the imps to prepare an area unless they shell out real money for special “gems” that will help the imps speed up. This basically means that while Dungeon Keeper is free to play, it costs a good deal of money to play in a way that doesn’t make you want to smash your tablet.
This led to a backlash in the gaming community and EA even got called out by the U.K,’s Advertising Standards Authority, which ruled that EA was being deceptive in ads for the game that touted it as “free to play.”
For Gibeau, however, the problem wasn’t that EA made a supposedly free game that actually did cost you money to play in a remotely enjoyable manner. No, Gibeau thinks the real problem is that the company was just too “innovative” for its own good. Yes, I’m being completely serious.
“I don’t think we did a particularly good job marketing it or talking to fans about their expectations for what Dungeon Keeper was going to be or ultimately should be,” he told Games Industry International. “Brands ultimately have a certain amount of permission that you can make changes to, and I think we might have innovated too much or tried some different things that people just weren’t ready for.”
I consider myself a fairly cynical person but I admit my jaw did drop a little when I read that. There’s nothing “innovative” about a game that’s designed to play terribly unless you feed it money. That’s not something that any normal person will ever be “ready” for and the fact that EA apparently still thinks we will be ready for it in the future is both laughable and scary.
Elsewhere, Eurogamer recently scored an interview with EA CEO Andrew Wilson, who lamented that it was a “shame” that Dungeon Keeper was so poorly received. Like Gibeau, he also made some ridiculous comments about how some gamers — particularly longtime fans of the Dungeon Keeper franchise — just weren’t ready for the new version because they felt too attached to the old one. To his credit, however, Wilson also comes much closer to addressing the real problem with Dungeon Keeper: Namely, that it was designed as a cynical shakedown intended to gouge gullible gamers with in-app purchases.
“When you’re thinking about any business model, premium, subscription, free-to-play, value has to exist,” he said. “Whether it’s a dollar, $10, $100 or $1000, you have to delivering value, and always err on the side of delivering more value, not less.”
I’d love to think that EA is taking this lesson to heart but given the company’s history, I’ll believe it when I see it.