EA always gets themselves in these situations, getting into a bad PR hole hoping to rectify the reactions they received. When Dungeon Keeper for the iOS came out last year in 2013, it wasn't taken in too well and EA boss Andrew Wilson admits that they could have done better with Bullfrog's classic IP.
The problem lies with the iOS version turning into a Clash of Clan clone, with a strong pay wall right in your face in just a few minutes of play, and to have a very small resemblance to the original content. New and casual players are familiar with this kind of gameplay, but it doesn't give much value to stay invested, and players that are huge fans to the 1997 classic is still left scratching their heads even after its release in 2013.
In an interview with Eurogamer, EA boss Andrew Wilson said that it was "a shame" and they "misjudged the economy".
“For new players, it was kind of a cool game,” he said. “For people who’d grown up playing Dungeon Keeper there was a disconnect there. We misjudged the economy. In that aspect, we didn’t walk that line as well as we could have. And that’s a shame."
“As we look forward, the two lessons we get are, one, where you are dealing with IP that has existed in the past, even though you’re reinventing it for a new audience, you have to do your best to stay true to its essence.
“The second is, when you’re thinking about any business model, premium, subscription, free-to-play, value has to exist. 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.”
"Stay true to it's essence". Hearing that from the higher-ups at EA brings hope to future titles. But time will tell if they will act upon it during development. The backlash really sparks from the use of making this a Dungeon Keeper remake. If it was a new IP with a different name, it would have been taken lightly and easily forgotten in a few weeks time. It still boggles my mind to why they didn't just give us a true remake release on the PC? The fan base is still there...waiting for a true new release of the beloved strategy game.
Is it really monetization embedded into the gameplay the problem? Not entirely. Many Free-to-Play games like League of Legends, Clash of Clans, or Team Fortress 2 show that it can grow a player base with real money transactions in play. It's really all about how it's presented to the player.
The game's original designer in 1997, Peter Molyneux, says "I don't think anyone would be so against the monetisation loops if they came in a lot later and a lot more gentle," he pondered. "But it is so in your face."
In your face indeed. Two hours to cut down a piece of block was bad enough, but constantly asking to spend gems or buy gems to speed gameplay? Pay walls first before ever experiencing the gameplay hinders any momentum for the player. If you compare this Dungeon Keeper remake to Ubisoft's Trials Frontier on the iOS, you'll have a better understanding on what went wrong.
Admitting they could have done better is half the battle. I fear for other Bullfrog classics still in EA's vault of games.