Way back in 1997 a company named Bullfrog productions created a game called “Dungeon Keeper” . It was published by Electronic arts back when games were written for DOS, the word “Playstation” didn’t have any numbers after it and Xbox was but a dream. To some the game was, and is still, considered a classic. What happens when Mythic Entertainment (or is it still Bioware-Mythic?) brings the classic game to mobile platforms?
What happens is what is fast becoming the rule, rather than the exception in mobile gaming.
Imagine you walk into your favorite fast food restaurant to order a hamburger and are greeted with a banner advertising “FREE HAMBURGERS.” That sounds great, right? It is what you wanted in the first place! You walk up to the windows to get your hamburger and what the nice person behind the counter hands you is an empty bun – nothing but cold hard bread. You look up and are greeted with the following sign:
Hamburger with meat: $20.00
Pickles (per slice): $5.00
Mustard: $10.00 per ounce
Catsup: $15.00 per ounce
Lettuce (without mold): $6.00 per leaf
You decide you are hungry and begin to take your stale empty bun and walk away. As you do the person behind the counter berates you for being a cheapskate for not ordering anything extra. Being a bit low on cash you ask if there is any way you can earn at least a slice of pickle. “Sure,” replies the manager. With a broad smile he suggests that you sweep out the parking lot and hands you a toothbrush with which to accomplish the task. Think that is farfetched? Read the following excerpt.
“It started in the game’s very tutorial. The grasping. The harassing. The demands for money. As I was being taught about how gems can speed up the building and excavating of dungeons, the game’s narrator – a twee redesign of the once iconic Horned Reaper – openly mocked me, making fun of how “polarizing” in-app purchases were before shamelessly telling me how spending my real money will grease the wheels and get things accomplished.” – Jim Sterling , Escapist Magazine, DUNGEON KEEPER MOBILE REVIEW – WALLET REAPER
If you don’t recognize the author’s style of writing, watch a few episodes of Jimquisition and you soon will – we are sure you will love it like we do.
PC gamers have yet to experience the level of greed that seems to be a growing trend in the mobile gaming industry. When we see “free to play” we often think of companies like Turbine (whom we have lauded often on our show). This is the company that brings you Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online. This is a company that produces a perfectly playable game that really is free to play – not “free to play” as long as you are willing to spend excruciatingly boring evenings at tasks that would make a stretch in solitary look like a weekend in Vegas .
This is what we hear at No Prisoners, No Mercy have come to call games that are “Greed to Play”. To be sure not all game developers are like this. 505 Games brought us Terraria . For just five dollars I received a game that was both innovative and restored my interest in 2d scrollers. Rubicon Development brought us Great Big War Game. For just three dollars I received a top down, three d strategy game that doesn’t ask for anything but time to have fun. But the greed to play games are, as Jim Sterling calls the mobile edition of Dungeon Keeper “a cancer that is eroding the market and has already destroyed the credibility of the once promising mobile gaming sector”.
Jim Sterling couldn’t be more right. Greed will kill any company, any industry, faster than three bullets to the head. As a professional project manager I have seen it destroy more than one career. If it weren’t for government bailouts it would have killed the saving and loan industry, Wall Street and the American Automobile Industry. Don’t get us wrong. There is nothing wrong with free to play when it is done correctly. Some companies know how – Mythic, it seems, doesn’t. What is more judging by the reception of the gaming community of their latest offering, the company that brought us War Hammer Online (another fantastic IP damaged by mishandling) might be doomed to repeat itself.
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