Experienced Points

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How Electronic Arts Made Dungeon Keeper A Huge Fiasco

Shamus Young | 15 Jul 2014 19:00
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Failure to manage PR

As always, EA follows their bungling with PR that makes things much worse. After making a game that was a complete failure on all levels, they make a public statement that blames fans for their own obvious failures, and does so in a way that seems to imply fans are a bunch of ungrateful morons for rejecting their glorious vision. Even if you're clueless enough to think that, Public Relations 101 teaches that you should at least have the presence of mind not to say it.

The game was was just "too innovative". You weren't "ready for it". (As if someday the public will develop an insatiable hunger for terrible empty gameplay.) It's not a bad game, you're just bad at enjoying it. This statement is like burning someone's house down in a kitchen fire and then claiming they "Just weren't ready for exotic cuisine." It's not just a transparent attempt to put a positive spin on an egregious blunder, it's a failure to accept responsibility. It's blaming the victim. It's showing that you haven't even listened to their complaints.

I'm sure the typical EA apologist will claim (without evidence) that all of this is okay because Dungeon Keeper Mobile "made money", as if simply generating some income could justify this kind of incompetence. But the question isn't "Did the game make money?" but "Could the game have made vastly MORE money if it had been properly managed?"

The recent reboot of X-Com shows that there's a viable market for revivals of classics. (And if we want to judge which game is more successful: XCOM got an expansion. Does anyone think EA is still pouring money into Dungeon Keeper Mobile?) EA could have given the fans the Dungeon Keeper sequel they've been asking for. EA could have made a decent freemium game. They did neither, instead wasting money developing and marketing a game that nobody wanted. They didn't just fail to make money, they wasted money, damaged IP, and scuttled what could have been the re-launch of a successful and profitable series. They did this by making obvious rookie mistakes, and when called on it they made statements that further angered, insulted, and frustrated the gaming public.

Whether they're talking to their customers or their investors, EA has a lot to answer for. The fact that FIFA, Madden, The Sims, and Battlefield make money by simply doing what they've always done doesn't relieve the leadership of their obligation to understand the market they're in, the products they make, and the customers they supposedly serve.

Shamus Young is a programmer, critic, comic, and crank. You can read more of his work at Twenty Sided.

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