Kabam responds to Dragons of Atlantis boycott

Boycott organiser banned from playing, Kabam denies pay to win strategy

Kabam is currently embroiled in a battle with some of its customers over its free-to-play strategy game Dragons of Atlantis, with players organising a boycott and Kabam reportedly responding with bans.

Players are angry at changes that have been made to the game's monetisation, and the angry players have started a suspension of activity expected to last two to three weeks, depending on the result they achieve.

"Kabam has switched around their operational mode to promote power gains and not battle, taking away the incentive to actually battle and providing incentive to gain power through competitions," said an open letter from group, which now has 3,363 supporters on Facebook.

"While we can see from a business standpoint why they would do this, as consumers, we are fed up. Kabam is no longer promoting free-to-play games. In fact, they are now making it next to impossible for any player who does not purchase online currency to grow at all."

One of the boycott's organisers Andrea Richards has reported she has been banned for "inciting player[s] to boycott Kabam," while Andrew Veen, also of the group, explained to GamesBeat that the problems included the purchase of Blue Energy, one of the game's resources.

"The problem with Blue Energy is not its rarity, but that 'free-to-play' gamers rapidly run out of it or have insufficient stockpiles of it such that they are barred and prohibited from advancing in the game. On the other hand, 'pay-to-play' gamers have access to unlimited supplies of it in the shop and can never run out of it. "

Meanwhile Kabam told Polygon that the issue was players using illegal tools to help their progress.

"The issue is pretty much that there's a small number of players who were using an unauthorized third-party tool that gave them an unfair advantage in the game. To keep the game fair and equitable, we disallowed that. We don't want anyone to have an unfair advantage in the game, so we don't authorize this third-party tool anymore, and that is what has been the cause of this," said Kabam's VP head of global corporate communications Steve Swasey.

"Whether it's Kabam or other free-to-play games companies - everyone can get the app and play for free, but if you want to have a premium content experience, that's when you pay for it and that's how Kabam makes money. There's no advertising in Kabam games, there's no subscription or fee to start. It's all completely free-to-play. But if you want faster gameplay or an enhanced experience, then you can pay for the premium content."

Related stories

Two Kabam studios form Aftershock following Netmarble acquisition

New company has “opened itself for acquisition”, conversations already underway with potential buyers

By James Batchelor

Kabam cuts Beijing team

Legacy of Zeus developers let go as company narrows list of key assets left to sell

By Brendan Sinclair

Latest comments (12)

Spencer Franklin Concept Artist 4 years ago
Funny enough, I was reading another article on where a fella from Kabam seemed very adamant in defending F2P, and so went to check out the games they create, and found all of them use the same in app purchases of some sort of in game currency, priced all the way up to 99.00 bucks... I personally wont even touch games like this. But I saw all the complaints in most of the apps saying basically the same thing... I guess I understand why he was so heavy on defending it now. And what exactly is an"Enhanced" experience? Is that where you actually get to see what the game was meant to be like before they cut it up to monetize...?
3Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development4 years ago
I don't know the details of this, but having just read this piece quickly, is this a fair summary of the boycott?:

"Some of us who paid you nothing will no longer play your game because we can't freeload as well now"

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 18th September 2013 10:28pm

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Tim Ogul Illustrator 4 years ago
I don't know the details of this, but having just read this piece quickly, is this a fair summary of the boycott?:

"Some of us who paid you nothing will no longer play your game because we can't freeload as well now"
Maybe. Still,you can't advertise your game as "free to play" AND get to complain about entitled customers who do not pay. If you advertise as being "free" then you need to BE free, no hedging on that. You can monetize elements of it, but only completely optional elements like cosmetic features or convenience features, but a player who pays absolutely nothing should be on equal competitive grounds as someone who's dropped thousands on the game.

If you're unwilling to live up to that expectation with your products then don't try to pass if off as being "free to play."
4Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Show all comments (12)
Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 4 years ago
Am I too dmub to understand tihs article?

Pleyars syaing:
They changed the monetization strategy in such a way that what we perceived to be our f2p core gameplay no longer is free. That the f2p game is now perceived to be too expensive.

Publisher siyang:
People were using third party tools and banned for it.

in other news:
F2p publisher pointing out to customers that free games aren't in fact free to enjoy, only free to get hooked on and pressured into by friends.

a more convenient to read version of this post, is available at my webshop for 257 gems.
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Curt Sampson Sofware Developer 4 years ago
...but a player who pays absolutely nothing should be on equal competitive grounds as someone who's dropped thousands on the game.
No, I don't buy this one. I think it's perfectly reasonable to give limited advantages to players that pay money, in the same way that it's reasonable to give limited advantages to players who play more rather than less. The key is to very carefully balance the advantages given so that player skill is still a larger factor than how much money you spend.

World of Tanks is an example of a game that does this quite well. I've got two WoT accounts: one on the Asia server that's had about $700 and 1200 put in to it over the last year, and one on the North American server that's had no money at all and about 300 hours on it. Progress isn't as fast on my NA account, and I have to spend more time grinding for credits, but I actually have a slightly higher win rate there, and I do just fine against many players who spend large amounts of money on premium ammunition and the like but simply aren't as good as me.

I can't say whether or not Dragons of Atlantis is well balanced in this way, but it's certainly wrong to say you can't give any in-game advantage to the paying players.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 4 years ago
registering a domain = $10
misappropriation of company webshop solution = bedazzled boss
pushing one post to the limit = priceless

then I thought, but what about the people who do not want to pay? I'd have to geocache some QR codes around the world which also unlock the post. It's either that, or going indy on kickstarter.
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Samuel Verner Game Designer 4 years ago
funny how eric tries to find excuses. kabam is a very good example for everything whats wrong with the f2p bussines model. maybe they should stop calling their software "games" - they are just colorful software platforms to nickel and dime the hell out of the users.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Samuel Verner on 19th September 2013 3:08pm

1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 4 years ago
I propose the term:

Audiovisuallly consumed psychoactive machinecode for guided human self-conditioning and re-education.

You might also say the slightly more derogatory Audiovisuallly Consumed Machinecodebased Entrapment", mainly because it spells ACME and is considerably shorter.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Yiannis Koumoutzelis Founder & Creative Director, Neriad Games4 years ago

Recently during a test someone sent me over, I suggested some changes for exactly that problem for this particular game which i see as Kabam's weakest point on this title. (which i play and like a lot) Feel free to contact me for a free consulting session. :)
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Samuel Verner Game Designer 4 years ago
I only mentioned facts that are not single-sided, which does mean I am not taking sides here but rather attempt to approach the subject from different angles and consider varied PoV's, including the less supporting of the kind of theory you have exposed in your post.
the only point of view you share is the point of hurray-patriotism for f2p games. this news-articel shows how far you left behind by the reality of everyone else.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Adam Jordan Community Manager, Ubisoft4 years ago
1. I do not speak for the company I work for, nor did I ever comment on my employer strategies, choices, activities and I will not start here. Besides I do not work on DoA and have only distant knowledge about it.
To be fair, yes you do. As an employee of a company; your words whether right or wrong are still taken as Employer's words. Yes you have your own mind, opinions and are entitled to speak them but in this day and age where customers can connect and socialise within minutes, everyone has to be careful with what they say.

As someone that has worked for EA, this is something that I have lived with myself and always had to second guess, write out and then delete whatever I said because it could be taken the wrong way and as an official response from the employer (Though most times it wasn't thankfully) but the point I am making is that no matter where you are, no matter who you are speaking to, your words have an impact as you are representing your employer.

Many employers these days make their employees aware of this, of course with EA having a large legal team at their side, it was made clear within the early days of employment.

Onto the actual issue at hand. I see both sides and their stories. Both sides also make very good points and generally F2P should essentially be - Free to download, free to register, free to load up the game and free to enjoy the core game with friends...experience the game as you would without the price tag but if you don't have enough time to unlock things or the patience to do so then put some money into the game and do so. What occurs after that however is where opinions clash.

Most games can get away with just cosmetic payments, such as League of Legends (I was once a naysayer to the game but once I played co-op vs AI with friends, I am pretty much playing it on a daily basis) but delving into their champions shows where their real prowess lies. Each champion is available to everyone, not only that but as real cash and as in-game currency. When you start LoL as a new player, they award you with enough riot points to get a champion and they also have 10 FREE champions available every week, not only allowing you to have a pool of champions but to also try out the different kinds and find the one you like.

When I started I was able to grab Pantheon, at the time he was around 500 RP but a sale occurred and I grabbed him for 297 not only did I have the chance to play 10 champions for free but I also got one for free as well. Each champion has a unique feel and brings new challenges to the game. My in-game currency pool grew with games, not too much but not too little either and with some patience, that's how I funded for some of my champions, it then took me 2-3 months to finally crack and buy a champion bundle before also delving into the skins. My point is, I decided when it was time to support Riot with my money and at most I have probably spent the same amount as I would for a normal newly released game.

Other games however either need or desire for little advantages to stay alive because the community evolves and so the game needs to do so. The main issue however is that due to F2P games being so accessible, you will gain every element of diversity within the community.

Now before I continue, I am not one of those that wants "everything free", I have never believed that purely because I understand what is needed for the game to stay afloat and that's a small percentage that support the game. However I am not one of those that wants to put a price on everything either.

I am one that looks for equal balancing to a degree...allow paying players to unlock items faster (Whether they give advantages or not) and allow free players to unlock the same item by putting hours into the game...not essentially a grind fest but reward the player for spending cash or reward them for playing the game.

I also understand that sales, discounts and exclusivity (That word will be a bane of my existence for the whole of eternity) can drive people to becoming paying players. That's great and fantastic, listen to what the player's are looking for or even forward to seeing on sale....interact and communicate...two very vital words that should play part in F2P Games.

Overall, veteran and loyal players should be rewarded, give a reason for players to stay with you, make them want to play the game longer or fund the game. My personal pet peeve, not just in the games industry but in the whole of the customer service industry is the fact that new customers are given everything on a silver platter and the customer's that have been with companies for years don't get squat because it is always assumed they are happy and will stay for good.

Finally to bring it back to the related article, I do believe the incident could have been handled much better as it certainly rings alarm bells throughout the F2P Market but generally we're in a time where F2P hasn't been given a solid definition yet and due to this it is still being experimented by companies to see if it can be successful for them or not.

Just to note, I don't have an issue with F2P myself since I feel that the player has the choice of where and how their money is spent. I only have an issue when a freeloader player isn't given the same chance to obtain an item, whether that be through the game's currency or unlocking it with hours of play or through achieving a goal.

In fact I think if most F2P games implemented an "Unlock an item when you achieve this goal or buy it now for x amount" then most players wouldn't have an issue.

As far as balancing goes, that will forever be up for debate but again, that can be solved by listening to the community (The ones that provide actual feedback) creating a community group that can be trusted to test and provide feedback for items and generally providing a method that both sides can get the item(s)

It's like games that use the "Buy more energy now to continue playing or come back tomorrow" - It's a great way of gaining money but awful for your player base, after all the player wants to play your game.

Anyway these are the ramblings of a F2P Community Rep at around 1am, I do hope they make some sense to someone :P

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Adam Jordan on 20th September 2013 1:09am

1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Bobby Farmer Development Director, EM Studios4 years ago
No surprises here.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.