EA Mobile’s Frank Gibeau: “Dungeon Keeper suffered from a few things.”

dk-1

Following on the heels of comments from EA’s CEO, EA Mobile head Frank Gibeau shared his thoughts on the failure of Mythic’s Dungeon Keeper reboot for mobile, and acknowledged that the game suffered from, among other things, a disconnect with the player base and fan expectations:

“Dungeon Keeper suffered from a few things,” Gibeau said. “I don’t think we did a particularly good job marketing it or talking to fans about their expectations for what Dungeon Keeper was going to be or ultimately should be. Brands ultimately have a certain amount of permission that you can make changes to, and I think we might have innovated too much or tried some different things that people just weren’t ready for. Or, frankly, were not in tune with what the brand would have allowed us to do. We like the idea that you can bring back a brand at EA and express it in a new way. We’ve had some successes on that front, but in the case of Dungeon Keeper, that just didn’t connect with an audience for a variety of reasons.”

The Dungeon Keeper reboot wasn’t successful, but EA continues to keep the game up and running, having passed the live service responsibilities to another studio. It’s not because the company is hoping for a turnaround story so much as it’s just one more adaptation to running games with a live service model.

“If you watch some of the things we’ve been doing over the last eight or nine months, we’ve made a commitment to players,” Gibeau said. “We’re sincere and committed to that. So when you bring in a group of people to Dungeon Keeper and you serve them, create a live service, a relationship and a connection, you just can’t pull the rug out from under them. That’s just not fair. We can sustain the Dungeon Keeper business at its level for a very long time. We have a committed group of people who are playing the game and enjoying it. So our view is going to be that we’ll keep Dungeon Keeper going as long as there’s a committed and connected audience to that game. Are we going to sequel it? Probably not. [Laughs] But we don’t want to just shut stuff off and walk away. You can’t do that in a live service environment.”

Ultima Forever, Mythic’s other mobile-facing reboot of a classic EA-owned IP, doesn’t come up for mention in the article, but I suppose there’s a small amount of room for hope in Gibeau’s comment that EA will “keep [a game] going as long as there’s a committed and connected audience to that game”. Granted, Ultima Forever probably didn’t even do as well — financially — as Dungeon Keeper did, and the above text states rather plainly that Dungeon Keeper was no success in and of itself (a judgement I assume applies to its financials, as much as to its being panned by critics).

And people are still logging in to Ultima Forever, still playing it.

But it’s safe to say that a sequel is out of the question.

5 Responses

  1. Ideal Dragon says:

    I hate how he blames the failure of his shitty phone game reboot of a classic series on the fans. They just “innovated too much” and “tried some different things that people just weren’t ready for.”

    Yeah sure, the problem wasn’t that you made Dungeon Keeper into something no fan of the DK series ever wanted, it’s just that your game was too new, innovative & fresh for fans to handle. We’re totally the ones to blame, it’s not your fault at all!

    • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

      It’s not that the game was bad (apart from the impressively invasive freemium aspects); I actually had a lot of fun playing it, more than any other game I’ve played in which I didn’t have the option to not be attacked by other players on a whim.

      While it does sound like Gibeau may be attempting to pass the blame — and he indeed may well be — it’s worth noting that sometimes, fan expectations can hamper a game’s development. Look at the two-client situation with UO; the Classic client desperately needs to be put out pasture. The Enhanced client can do so much more, especially if the need to force it into a 2D isometric view (it’s actually got a 3D engine — possibly Gamebryo — underneath it, and the assets it uses begin as 3D assets before being backported to 2D) goes away.

      But of course, there’s a group of fans who wouldn’t ever stand for that, and they have a lot of pull and voice in the community. So the game has two clients…which is stupid to begin with and a nightmare for a small team (now at Broadsword Online Games) to support.

      So yeah, sometimes fans do deserve some of the blame. Is that the case here? I’m not entirely sure. Certainly, I don’t think a lot of the criticism the game received — outside of that which focused on its freemium aspect — was particularly objective, and I think a lot of that stemmed from people having preconceived notions about what Dungeon Keeper was and wasn’t…notions that they weren’t willing to budge an inch on. Take Destructoid’s 1/10 rating of the game; was it really that bad? No, no it wasn’t. I could see 6/10, 5/10, or maybe even 4/10 because of a particular animus toward freemium. 1/10? That’s got butthurt written all over it.

      The game was simply not THAT awful; it performed rather well when it came to actual gameplay. But you wouldn’t know that just reading reviews online; you’d have thought it was worse than the E.T. Atari game! And like as not, it’s not impossible that the game’s sales performance was hurt by all that.

  2. Sanctimonia Sanctimonia says:

    “…it’s worth noting that sometimes, fan expectations can hamper a game’s development.”

    If they’re allowed to. Your kids may be constantly begging you to eat candy, but it’s not their fault if you give in and they end up obese. It’s the developer’s job to know what’s best for the game. It’s the fans’ job to tell the developer if they were, in the end, right.

    “But of course, there’s a group of fans who wouldn’t ever stand for that, and they have a lot of pull and voice in the community. So the game has two clients…which is stupid to begin with and a nightmare for a small team (now at Broadsword Online Games) to support.”

    I think what it comes down to is A) knowing what needs to be done and B) having the balls to do it, despite the death threats, etc., from resistant fans. The problem is developers often don’t know what needs to be done (Ultima Forever) and don’t have the balls to go against vocal fans (Ultima Online).

    Problem A exists with any game, B with games that involve the community during development, and if those weren’t treacherous enough, we have problem C: Games based on an old and beloved IP like Dungeon Keeper or Ultima will earn you endless scorn unless they literally use the same engine with almost no changes.

    Something that would go a long way to deflecting all these arrows would be for developers to stop slinging around the phrase “spiritual successor” so blithely. If someone playing the game doesn’t almost immediately say, “Oh shit, this is just like [some old game],” you’ve probably fucked up.

    • Games based on an old and beloved IP like Dungeon Keeper or Ultima will earn you endless scorn unless they literally use the same engine with almost no changes.

      And then, when the game comes out, everyone bitches about how there’s no innovation and companies/publishers are afraid to take risks.

      It’s really a no-win situation.

      • Sanctimonia Sanctimonia says:

        Considering the number of people developing software, the availability of free or near-free high-level tools to do so, the price race to something less than 99 cents and market supersaturation, all jokes aside it is beginning to look line a no-win situation. Recently the thought has scared me a bit since game dev is my passion and one of the few things I consider myself fairly adept at. Will be interesting to see what the future of game dev looks like.