Without fail, Electronic Arts has managed to outdo itself in the douchebag category. They have literally been voted as the “Worst Company in America” twice in a row and may be going for a hat trick this year. Why? Because EA have unashamedly bought into the “freemium” fad that has plagued gaming.
Let me explain.
A freemium game is more often than not, a mobile game that requires no payment to download to begin with, but later offers incentives to buy in-game items, a new sword for your character for example using real life currency. Over time this has become a recurring appearance in mobile games such as Simpsons Tapped Out, Angry Birds etc but is now unfortunately seeping into console gaming; Xbox One’s Ryse: Son of Rome has included this controversial system amid many complaints.
The newest type of game builds upon this system, but includes two more mechanisms. Games like The Simpsons Tapped Out deploys an in-game currency system; coins in small but frequent amounts and doughnuts (or something equivalent) – a less frequent but much more valuable commodity. The game relies on a real-time building mechanic to function; you buy a house in the game for 300 coins but it will take you six hours to build. Do you not have the time to wait? You can speed it up using the finite doughnuts, but if you want to buy more you have to spend real life currency.
What I hate about this system is that a) it targets young children who have no concept of money: reports of children spending £1000s of their parent’s money has been prevalent. B) It favours the gamer with more money than the more skilled gamer and c) breaks a game in order to reap the benefits.
Imagine you bought the final Harry Potter film, you get the majority of the film for free but they leave out important scenes unless you can make a payment – they are cheating you out of YOUR money in order to receive the final product that you were entitled to. It could be argued that you don’t have to buy in if you don’t want to; screw that special in-game sword.
But EA have taken it too far.
Recently, EA published a reboot of an old game called Dungeon keeper. In the old game you played as a monster that had to build dungeons to trap heroes by breaking down rocks to form rooms. The reboot has stuck to the same concept of the original but includes the tried and tested premium model. You pay to speed up play. What is obscene about this move this time around has caused a large fan uproar; it can take days to chip away a few rocks to build each room and due to this slow pace you are forced to invest money to progress each time. As the game gets more challenging, the time taken for each build is multiplied and this further dents your bank balance. Old fans of the original have branded the game “unplayable”.
In an interview with the BBC, original creator, Peter Molyneux said: “I felt myself turning round saying, ‘What? This is ridiculous. I just want to make a dungeon. I don’t want to schedule it on my alarm clock for six days to come back for a block to be chipped”.
Using clever tactics, EA have avoided direct fan criticism by funnelling reviews to two different web sites. If you decide to rate the game while playing and rate it four stars or lower, you are directed to the EA website but if you rate it a perfect five stars, you are brought to the app store and thus, boosting their average rating. In a response to the website, Gamasutra, a spokesperson for EA said: “The ‘rate this app’ feature in the Google Play version of Dungeon Keeper was designed to help us collect valuable feedback from players who don’t feel the game is worth a top rating.” The content to the game is apparently held hostage however, as the game tells you, “5 star ratings from you help us provide free updates!”
If EA were so keen to fix issues, they wouldn’t be placing negative reviews on a different website, away from potential customers. If you chose to review the game manually without using the game, you can bypass this cheap trick.
EA has recently continued this freemium trend in the recent update to fan favorite, Plants vs Zombies 2. For those unfamiliar with the game, you are tasked with defending a house from increasing waves of zombies. You would do this by placing weaponised plants that would fight off each wave. If your defense is destroyed, you have a final layer of Lawnmowers that will make a final-ditch attempt at destroying the attackers; if it fails, you lose. After each game ends your destroyed lawn mowers replenish but after this update, this is not the case. Instead, you are greeted with five “buy this” buttons in their place and you will have to buy them back in order. This isn’t a part of the game that is missing, this a CORE mechanic that is crucial to success. This game is now beyond playable if you cannot stump up the cash.
For these reasons, I boycott all mobile games produced by EA until they “fix” the issue that is apparently included in each game.
What are your opinions on this? Do you think this is right? Let me know in the comment section below.