‘A Cancer That’s Eroding The Market’: Reactions To EA’s Dungeon Keeper

‘A Cancer That’s Eroding The Market’: Reactions To EA’s Dungeon Keeper

EA’s new mobile Dungeon Keeper is free-to-play in the worst possible way, offering up a twisted cartoonish world in which you can progress through the game either by waiting or paying, and people aren’t too pleased about it.

“A cynically motivated skeleton of a non-game, a scam that will take your cash and offer nothing in return,” writes Escapist’s Jim Sterling. “A perversion of a respected series, twisted by some of the most soulless, selfish, and nauseating human beings to ever blight the game industry.”

Of course, the iTunes store is stuffed with free-to-play monstrosities and scammy games. Gated progression isn’t an anomaly, and it wouldn’t be worth too many words if this game had any other name. No, what’s really got people like Sterling calling the new Dungeon Keeper “a cancer that is eroding the market” is the fact that it’s called Dungeon Keeper.

See, Dungeon Keeper was originally a beloved strategy game. Released in 1997, the Bullfrog-designed god game put you in charge of your very own dungeon and gave you the tools to populate it with all sorts of malevolent traps and creatures as you tried to fight off invading bands of sanctimonious heroes. (The game has aged well, too — you can get it on GOG for $US6. No microtransactions!)

Dungeon Keeper is a classic, and that’s what’s got people fuming. I can’t even bring myself to download EA’s newest mobile disaster for fear of tainting my memories of hours and hours digging and crafting on the old Bullfrog classic. It freaks me out that this will be some kids’ first exposure to Dungeon Keeper and strategy games in general. They might think that 24-hour waiting times are normal, that this is just how these things are supposed to work.

Fahey didn’t mind this new Dungeon Keeper, but some other reviews are quite brutal.

“There are hard-working developers and publishers struggling to bring meaningful, beautiful game experiences to mobile platforms,” writes USGamer’s Pete Davison, “and yet their hard work is undermined by games like this simply seeking to make a quick buck.”

“It’s like EA saw dollar signs after the success of Clash of Clans, and wanted to clone it in the worst way possible — by using a respectable IP as its skin,” writes Destructoid’s Chris Carter.

Blech. It’s not just reviewers — check out some of the Twitter reactions:

What EA has done with Dungeon Keeper makes me so mad I don’t even

— Adam Blue (@AdamBlue) February 3, 2014

that game doesn’t deserver the name Dungeon Keeper, nor the characters used in it. A disgrace to the legacy..

— Lets Play with A3D (@Acantophis3rD) February 3, 2014

Omg Dungeon Keeper is now on phones?! Oh, it’s free to play? Digging costs money? Ok, that’s ok. I’mma find a shotgun and shorten my life.

— C418 (@C418) January 31, 2014

New Dungeon Keeper does this immediately after the tutorial. EA lacks class. pic.twitter.com/xpf1893Yvo

— CANDY Stanton (@RichStanton) January 30, 2014

Re: new Dungeon Keeper “EA describes the app as a “twisted” take on Bullfrog’s RTS classic”. Yes it’s twisted alright, and not in a good way

— Michel (@michelmcbride) January 30, 2014

I am surprisingly bothered by the “please wait” version of Dungeon Keeper on mobile. Don’t mess with my childhood games, EA!

— Justin Gilman (@eyeofmidas) February 3, 2014

I am really feeling the pain of all those gamers being forced into a terrible f2p nightmare with Dungeon Keeper. Gaming is ruined.

— Steve El-Sharawy (@Stiff) February 3, 2014

Sigh. If this is the future of gaming, we’d better hold on to all of our old discs. At least they can’t take those away.


    • I immediately thought of a parody of “Let it go”, except it’s “Let it die” and it’s about EA.

  • No EA hate here – just straight hate for this trend of making soulless, bastardised cash cow mobile/social games full stop. It needs to die. Sadly the only reason they’re continually made is they rake in metric craptons of cash. So it’s going to keep happening.

    • Personally, I’ve got no problem with them making these games. If people are stupid enough to play/pay them, then fine.

      What I have a HUGE problem with is them taking classics like Dungeon Keeper and using their good name to sell total POS games like this. Come up with a new name, or make a proper new Dungeon Keeper.

      • Ruining past franchises is an unforgiveable sin, for sure. It’s actually my biggest issue with this game, I think. I played the originals as a younger man and loved them to bits – along with almost every other Bullfrog titles that was released.

        But I do worry about it’s impact on general gaming as well though, regardless of what the title is. These games are proven to be profit-monsters – they cost bugger all to make, and net millions (or even billions?) of dollars. I worry that it will become a mainstay – why would a company invest millions of dollars making something like, I don’t know, say Watchdogs – when they could spend far less on making a shitty freemium mobile/social game and probably eclipse all profit Watchdogs could ever hope to make?

        That’s my biggest worry, that this type of game will become more and more tempting, and ‘real’ games will suffer as a result. Which i think is happening a little already – not enough to cry ‘We’re doomed!’ or anything, but it’s concerning regardless.

      • This is my problem with it. Who the fuck was this for? I doubt fans of the original Dungeon Keeper want this F2P clash-of-clans clone bullshit, so what does the IP bring to the table for the folks who do ‘play’/pay for this exploitative crap?

        At best, it’s an utterly pointless waste of a great IP. At worst, it’s a direct insult to the fans of the IP. It’s one thing to simply sit on Dungeon Keeper and hold it in trust, it’s another completely to reanimate the mangled corpse using foul F2P necromancy, then dangle the twisted abomination in front of those who loved it, and expect… what. Enthusiasm?

        Fucking half-wits.

        • so what does the IP bring to the table for the folks who do ‘play’/pay for this exploitative crap?
          The fact that this article exists should give you a clue.

          Sites like Kotaku enable this b.s. because they will report on this utterly forgettable pay to win clickfest because it has the name “Dungeon Keeper” attached to it. That’s why they do it.

    • Sadly the only reason they’re continually made is they rake in metric craptons of cash. So it’s going to keep happening.

      I agree with most of what you’re saying but are these gold mines or is it just another WoW case of one person striking oil in their backyard and then everyone rushes out to tear up their lawn? I mean how many whales have they harpooned with this title? The target audience is people who don’t know what Dungeon Keeper is and it’s on a platform where that name and the style of game doesn’t stand out at all.
      I understand that the game is super cheap to make so it starts returning money way earlier, but I still feel like they must be struggling to return more than they’ve done in damages to a property that’s potentially very valuable.

      It seems like the smarter decision, even from a ruthless perspective, is to license out the Dungeon Keeper property to an smaller studio for a reasonable licensing fee plus a percentage of the profit. Hell, I feel like Microsoft would have paid them more than they made with this to make it a Windows 8 App/XBOX Live Arcade exclusive minus the micro-transactions.

  • Its been out for a while now though right? I’d been playing for a few months already. Why are these articles only coming out now? ah well

    That being said, I don’t know why I kept playing it. In order to upgrade you need to harvest gold and stone from mines. but in order to accumulate enough you have to harvest for several days. But its impossible to go that long without getting attacked and losing large percentages of your gold and stone, and when that happens, production halts and your harvest is low until u log in again. so the only way to get enough gold or stone to upgrade or do anything for that matter is to pay.

    Thats the completely effed up thing about it. Alot of social games you just take a looong time to get anywhere, but at least you feel like you’re slowly getting somewhere. Here, its almost a guarantee you won’t get anywhere unless you play constantly (and even that isnt a guarantee, cos attacking hardly yields any returns for resources) or pay for attack/defense boosts or resources with real money.

    Stupid game! which i am happy to say I have stopped playing because it took me that long to realise how futile it is without paying

    • This is what ticked me off the most. Now, if there was a single player mode where I could just go through the campaign in peace…

    • The Simpsons: Tapped Out followed a similar model. You get through the tutorial and then to do anything you need to wait for hours for the characters to complete their tasks, unless you spend real money to buy doughnuts to speed it up. I uninstalled the game pretty promptly after that, rather disappointed.

      • You don’t have to speed it up. You can just wait. If there is a special limited-time event, the free quests can easily be completed within the limited time without speeding up with donuts.
        If you want more money, you can build lots of houses and collect rent – that’s house farming.

        Admittedly, you will not be able to afford many premium items but you can play a lot for free if you ignore those premium items.

        My biggest complaint about the game is that it requires a constant internet connect and drops out frequently.

        • You can just wait.

          That’s the issue. I got bored very quickly because not long after the tutorial, I had every character doing something that required me to wait for 2-4 hours or more, I had a house building and crops growing that also needed several hours to complete. Yawn. That’s not a game. That’s tap something and leave it alone. There’s nothing you can do while you wait for that stuff except collect rent. To do anything of value, you need to buy doughnuts to speed the time up, otherwise you basically just set your characters off doing stuff, leave it overnight then get them to do something else in the morning. It wasn’t fun at all, it was boring.

          • Well, boringness aside, in simpsons tapped out at least if you wait, you will still be able to progress even at a snails pace. Wait long enough and you can buy and upgrade almost anything. So theoretically u can still play without spending a cent. You can still progress, albeit ridiculously slowly.

            This new iteration of Dungeon keeper, not only is that boring waiting an issue (for buildings, for resources to accumulate etc), theres the added issue of other players stealing your resources almost every time you’re not playing, not being able to recoup those losses by harvesting efficiently enough, and having all upgrades after a while costing so much resources you can’t purchase them because you’re constantly struggling to raise your resources, essentially making it nigh impossible to progress without paying money for resources.

  • The fact that games oriented around microtransactions exist doesn’t bother me so much, and even less so when there’s alternate means of achieving the currency needed to progress (eg., Kingdom Rush on mobile, which is neither pay-to-win but you can get gems to get a bit of a boost).

    What does bother me is the sort of IP-necromancy of beloved games of the past into a shambling zombie where you’re backed into a corner and have no real option other than to give them your brains^Wwallet until you can escape.

    • Wow. Those were almost my exact words here and elsewhere. You posted earlier, but I hadn’t read it yet. Spooky. 🙂

      Well. I wasn’t going the ‘escape from zombie’ angle as much as the ‘necromancer taunting the corpse’s loved ones’ angle.

  • If they made a Dungeon Keeper mobile port and charged $5 they would proboly net themselves five million dollars in a week………I know I would have brought it. I wonder how much they are making by alienating customers??

    • Probably 10 times that. I doubt most people playing on mobile or tablet ever even heard of the original and don’t know any better.

      • The production cost to profit ratio on these freemium games would make any profit hungry company cream it’s jeans.

    • The problem here is that people don’t want to make an initial outlay to play a game. I can understand that – I’ve made the initial outlay a couple of times and the game has been rubbish. Also, as much as people discount piracy as an issue, it is a relatively smaller issue for always-online-micropayment games (although I threw up a little in my mouth using the word micropayment to refer to DK here).
      I think a good solution is the ‘demo’ model, where you get the game for free and play a level, and can then make an IAP to get the rest of the game (or just have a demo and full version). I bet it wouldn’t make as much money as the model used here, though. The users in this situation only need to buy the ‘most popular’ IAP once for a smallish number of gems and they have spent 3-4 times what people are willing to pay outright for a mobile game. If two hours later when they run out of gems having made little progress (digging out a dozen squares maybe?) they realise they are being fucked and never buy another gem again EA is still ahead.

      You don’t need to be able to keep selling to you users. You just have to be able to sell once to everyone. (Just wait until they realise they can include only 3 levels in a game and then incrementally increase the in-game IAPs needed to continue so everyone gives up before finishing level 3).

    • Yep i would be all over that shit like a rash!
      Hell id even buy it on pc for $10 if they updated the graphics. I loved this series when i was young.

      Come here IMP ineed to slap you again!

      Toil faster damn it! SLAP!!!!!! I said TOIL

  • 24 hours? Some Clash of Clans upgrades are 8 days.
    That is insane, and the costs to pay to get the upgrades quickly are super expensive.
    These ‘Free to Start, Expensive to Play’ games are fucking over everything. It makes a great game like Zelda seem horrifically overpriced at $60 to the general community, but the cost of actually playing these ‘free’ games in an enjoyable way runs into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
    The problem is, they are steering people away from purchasing ‘complete’ games at ‘full’ price.
    Forza/Turn10, EA, Supercell, King etc. I hope you all go bust before you destroy the industry.

    • But the fact that they are making insane mountains of cash on these things indicates that is what people want and ensures that it’s not going to die anytime soon.

      Probably says something about people preferring to pay to get something quickly without actually having to earn it.

      • Probably says something about borrowing from Peter to pay Paul.

        The gamer enthusiast market is simply a different market to the ADHD mobile freemium-spender market and obviously it’s more profitable to spend two hundred bucks making a game than two hundred million, so the freemium fuckers get the benefit of gamer enthusiast beloved IPs.

        I’m not sure WHY. Maybe some vague brand recognition in a market where attention is at a premium and anonymity spells a swift death? It sure as hell doesn’t endear them to gamer-enthusiasts, but we’re not the target market so why should they give a flying fuck about us?

        Up until they DO want to sell something to us, then they have to turn around and hope that we don’t pay attention to what’s happening in other target markets. Then they wonder why they get voted the worst company in America by a staggering number of passionate haters.


      • This is the problem.
        It’s the same reason why we get a 4th rubbish Transformers movie and why there is a new COD every. People lap it up like fat kid hooked up to an IV drip full of liquid cupcakes.

        Everyone online hates the crap out of these types of games. The word Freemium is thrown around like the ugliest of slurs. And yet, they keep making them and they keep making money from them.

        Don’t hate the game, hate the player…

      • I wish another company would buy the title from EA and yank the rug out from under them by making a one time purchase game.

  • Downloaded the game onto my earlier generation iPod, got into the game and it told me it didn’t support my device, in game.

    • Probably doesn’t process payments fast enough, or support obnoxious/intrusive payment suggestions.

  • Wait, so does the game have to be connected to the web to be played (aka connect to a server)? Or does it use your device’s clock for time?
    Because if it’s local time, just build your stuff and change the time and date on the device. Get your rewards, and change back the time and date. That’s if you really insist on playing it.

    • Because then you might be able to play without having access to the store. And that’s unacceptable.

  • My review on the Play Store (shamelessly stolen from someone else concept, but it’s for EA so I accept the irony):

    Congratulations EA. You have earned 1 Star. You may purchase more Stars at the cost of $9.99 each.

    • This game has had 4 or 5 star reviews from the beginning, which goes to show that they’ve purchased a whole bunch of high ratings. They simply have no compunction at all about paying to game the system.

  • I installed it to try it out hoping it would be as fun as the old days. The EA logo during the intro gave me pause but I plodded on through the tutorial wincing each time i saw that everything cost gems or coins. By that point I had been thoroughly disappointed, so seeing the EULA agreement screen once the tutorial was done was the last straw. Digging deeper I found the section that mentioned they would track what you do on the device and pass on and sell your personal info and that totally sealed the deal and removed the application.

    I kind of feel bad for Mystic since I’m sure it looked like a great deal for them at the start, but seeing how much hate this port is getting I can’t imagine that they’re going to be too popular going forward. EA just seems to shamelessly taint everything it touches.

  • If you’re looking for something like Dungeon Keeper thats a bit more modern, give Evil Genius a try. Some mechanics as DK but was an awesome kitchy 60s evil villain feel. Its pretty cheap on steam and still looks great with liberal amounts of AA and Anisotropy applied.

  • I downloaded this and played for about a month, never spending a dime on it mind you. The thing is if you dont spend any money on it then just stop playing it when you get sick of it. I too hated this model but then realised as long as I am discplined enough to not let them scam me of my money then all is well. these little time wasters are great for my 5 minute smoke breaks at work 🙂

    Some games I rationaise what I think its worth and will spend up to that limit (very few to be honest) as many of them are made by small dev teams who still need to support their families. But as I said there are very few. If you say get a few weeks fun out of it, then it cant hurt to drop say $5 on it. However if I feel the dev is too greedy or sneaky in the way they try to extract my money then they see nothing, and yes anything with EA attached automatically goes in the ‘no money for you’ basket…but I will enjoy their work for free.

    • I call the entire genre of games like this ‘maintenance’ games. Your actual play session is incredibly limited, and eventually your ‘play’ consists of remember to log in when it’s time to make your obligatory few clicks or taps which will eventually allow you to do something that might look like progression.

  • Everything about the game will not so subtly hint for you to buy gems. When you beat one of the maps in solo, it tells you at the score screen that you could have pillaged this much more if you had bought the booster. Uninstalled it after that. Yeah, grats EA, three in a row. I wasn’t expecting much but I sure as hell wasn’t expecting a complete mockery and bastardisation of the originals.

  • This sort of thing makes me worry about the future of gaming. How many other developers are going to take the same route? And why wouldn’t they? These models clearly work. But then, just as I start to lose hope in the gaming industry and think that maybe this gen will be my last (get out while the going’s good), I see all the fantastic indie games coming out, and some of my faith is restored.

  • Ea shareholders should look at this and think hmm is this good idea?

    Yes it may bring in money however how much FURTHER damage is it going to do to EA and it’s other titles?

    The day Ea left steam was the last day i bought a EA game.

  • It’s just like Dlc though. Stupid shits keep buying the $20 map packs and the people selling them keep laughing at them while they rake in the cash.

    • Thats fine if they work. I paid for premium for BF3 and got over 1000hrs out of it for around $140….. that im ok with.

      So far premium for BF4 has netted me 0 DLC’s, a game with shitty netcode ( read poor response times etc. using netcode as generic term as some people like to point out its not the netcode its the 10 query a second servers etc) and patch after patch of shitty updates that break more than they fix.

      This i have a problem with. I have racked up nearly 300 hrs but those have been full of crashes hangs and bugs. If i didnt love the battlefield series so much id be trying to get my money back an sending hate mail for sure.

  • Is there ANY treasured gaming franchise that the soulless hacks at EA cannot or will not take and utterly fuck up beyond all belief?

    No. No there is not.

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