Tobold's Blog
Monday, February 03, 2014
Dungeon Keeper

Pocket Tactics has a long rant about why EA's new Free2Play Dungeon Keeper is doomed. There is a lot of truth in saying that the sort of people interested in Free2Play massively multiplayer "strategy" games of today probably aren't the same people who loved the old Dungeon Keeper from the previous millennium. But I'm not convinced that this "dooms" Dungeon Keeper. It only says that old PC gamers are irrelevant to EA's marketing strategy.

As it was free and I wanted to know what the fuzz was about, I tried out Dungeon Keeper. And I think it is fair to say that it is very much a clone of Clash of Clans. Which the Pocket Tactics article shows being the 3rd biggest global mobile game by revenue of 2013. Now I am not a huge fan of Clash of Clans, but I would say that if I had to choose, I'd rather play Dungeon Keeper. It is funnier, and I prefer the dungeon setting to the village setting. Your mileage may vary.

In any case it wasn't obvious to me why somebody who likes Clash of Clans wouldn't like Dungeon Keeper as well. Some people might figure that they have a better chance to become a big cheese in a newer game, as it is practically impossible to catch up to the veterans in Clash of Clans now. Others might just like me prefer the dungeon setting. And in the mobile games market being a clone of another game isn't necessarily hurting popularity or sales.

In short, the new Dungeon Keeper is probably not a good choice for hardcore fans of the previous Dungeon Keeper games. But that doesn't mean there is no chance for the game to be financially successful. Given how many more potential customers there are for the mobile version, it might even do better financially than the original. Just because a game isn't for you doesn't mean it is doomed!

I wrote a fair bit recently about DK. It is a horrific piece of F2P software that exemplifies what is wrong with the mobile space.

Clash of Clans (and clones) work on a balance of resource management. You need to bring in X amount of resources per action to continue playing - or wait for it to generate.

The clones generate resources through harvesting/PvP at a decent rate to progress and keep a session active for 15m-1h. The time sink is in building upgrades.

DK has no resource balance. You never have enough to harvest (say 1k per 10 hours) and combat gives you paltry sums (under 2k). When an upgrade is 50-90k, you wonder what the heck?

And the upgrade time isn't the problem here. It's the base size. You can open half the map fairly quickly. The other half, each block takes 4h to 24h to remove. To speed it up, for about $100, you can remove 8 blocks. It would take a about a year, non-stop, to remove them all while waiting.

The setting is fine, the art too. The mechanics are just...stupid doesn't do it justice.
Yeah, it's a bit of a spit in the eye.
"Hey, this game franchise was popular! Let's reanimate its corpse into a rotting, shambling monstrosity and see if they'll go back to it! Hmmm. They're not going back to it. Oh well. Send it out to the fertile newblands to infect the villagers and raise an undead horde like we usually do."

OK, so let's accept the premise that fans of the original game aren't the target market. Why the hell did they use the IP? What does the target market who didn't like/know about Dungeon Keeper get out of it? Nothing. What does the DK fanbase get? A shitty, unoriginal F2P clone of a game that was already pretty shit. It's an utterly pointless waste of the IP at best, an outright insult at worst.
Casuals don't care at all about EA attitude and copyright stuff. They just check the App Store, click the "suggested for you!" icon and it's a go.

Tons of games are 1:1 clones of other games. And they make a lot of money anyway, see Candy Crush Saga for example.

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