EA: You Can Only Rate Our Dungeon Keeper App If you Give It A Perfect Rating

from the not-how-it's-supposed-to-work dept

When they write the future tome discussing how to run a video game company in such a way as to piss off as many customers as humanly possible, it seems quite likely that it will be titled The Electronic Arts Guide To Business. Between doing the old customer demand flip-flop when it came to SimCity, attempts to lock their games down from the modding community, and their practice of shutting down games in which real customers have spent real money, the company at times appears to be some kind of macabre performance art piece on how to be as anti-customer as possible. Word of mouth has supplied a reputation for EA that is less than desirable, leading some to wonder how they might be able to turn their PR ship around.

Jeffrey Nonken writes in about one method EA has come up with to combat the perception of their games from customers. It’s a delightfully cynical plan to try to convince customers that they can only rate EA games in the marketplace if they agree to give a perfect review.

Dungeon Keeper sure has a high rating on the Google Play Store for a game loathed by many. Its 4.5 star average of over 84K user reviews suggests that people are really liking EA’s microtransaction-heavy affair. Only there’s one thing this rating system isn’t telling you: customers are only given the option to rate the game if they say they’ll give it five stars.

See, on Android you’re given the option to rate the Dungeon Keeper after a certain period of play. Only instead of tapping the appropriate number of stars you think it deserves, you’re asked if you think it should receive “1-4 stars” or “5 stars”. As reported by PocketGamer, selecting the latter option takes you to the game’s Google Play Store where you can rate it, while the former option simply takes you to a new “feedback” prompt asking “What would it take to make Dungeon Keeper a 5-star game?” Your options: “email us” or “not now.”

Ah, it’s so simple! If you want to make sure your games are highly rated, attempt to convince customers that they can only rate the game with a perfect rating! More beautifully, while you can still rate the game whatever you like after promising a 5 star review, this method allows for the wonderful practice of forcing your customers to lie in order to do so. It’s like an evil multiplication machine!

Oh, and that ability to lie and review at less than five stars? That’s what makes this sneaky attempt to garner favorable reviews a-okay, according to EA.

“We’re always looking at new ways to gather player feedback so that we can continue to improve our games. The ‘rate this app’ feature in the Google Play version of Dungeon Keeper was designed to help us collect valuable feedback from players who don’t feel the game is worth a top rating. We wanted to make it easier for more players to send us feedback directly from the game if they weren’t having the best experience. Players can always continue to leave any rating they want on the Google Play Store.”

Right, except you aren’t being upfront about that with your customers, whose feedback you so greatly desire. Unless that feedback is a low rating in the marketplace, in which case your customers can either figure out they have that option on their own, or they can suck it. Meanwhile, of course word about this devious attempt will make the rounds, cementing most folks’ opinion of EA as being as consumer un-friendly as possible.

I guess they’re still vying for that “Worst Company” three-peat.

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Companies: ea, electronic arts

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Comments on “EA: You Can Only Rate Our Dungeon Keeper App If you Give It A Perfect Rating”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Don’t worry about it too much, Respawn has already confirmed there will be no microtransactions in Titanfall.

Hey, you know what though? I think EA is starting to see the light. I might even buy games from them again cause they are such a good company for not having microtransactions in their games. /Stockholm Syndrome

Ninja (profile) says:

I haven kept my distance from EA in ages now. I’m not even pirating their games anymore. This should be worrying them.

This is a nice experience to see how far a big company can do it wrong before it reaches the breaking point where it’ll enter an unstoppable downward spiral towards bankruptcy. I wonder if Square is some sort of pioneer?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

you are not alone. The whole origin/spyware disaster was the final straw for me.

well, not being able to access my Dragon Age origins and Mass effect 2 DLC because they were to stupid to properly merge accounts and unwilling to fix anything helped as well.

They had the gall to tell I should just buy a new copy.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Not legal according to the rules?

I don’t see how they can do this, isn’t this in conflict of the rules for getting your apps accepted on the market?

This is Android, you can put up anything you want. It could be taken down later if you break the rules, but you don’t have to get your app accepted before it can go up.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Not legal according to the rules?

That’s not true at all. If you want your app in the Play Store, it does have to go through an approval process. That process isn’t as completely insane and arbitrary as Apple’s, but it does certainly exist.

Of course, you don’t have to put your app in the Play store to distribute it at all. You can use other app stores (each has their own approval process) or simply provide it directly to your customers. This is one of the really huge advantages to Android, both for developers and users.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Not legal according to the rules?

If you want your app in the Play Store, it does have to go through an approval process.

I think that is not correct.


No mention of being reviewed by anybody at Google (that I saw, I skimmed it), and my experience is that both new apps and updates propagate to the play store in 1-3 hours, regardless of time of day, weekday or weekend. I doubt Google has enough people working to approve apps that quickly.

If you have some documentation that there are humans reviewing apps before they are published in the Play Store (which is what I mean by approval process), I would like to see it.

Arthur Moore (profile) says:

Google hates SEO

I forget where I heard about this before. It might have been Slashdot. Oh well, there was one important thing mentioned that stuck out to me.

Google hates SEO(Search Engine Optimization), and they like to keep control of their app store. They’re not as bad as Apple, but Google has no problems pulling an app for bad behavior. Given those two things I’m half surprised that they haven’t just shut down the game.

Anonymous Coward says:

EA has bad priorities

I worked for EA Mobile for a while. I warned them about this precise thing with Dungeon Keeper, long before it was released. It was ignored, obviously.

There’s a history with EA of using cheap tricks to try to maximize cutesy things like rating, at the expense of the big picture like fixing the problems that resulted in the bad rating in the first place. For example, their Scrabble apps were rated poorly, so they played around with merging/splitting the iPhone and iPad versions; existing users would update to the merged/split version appropriate for them, but the App Store rating would be reset for the “new” app(s).

One thing I will say is that not all of EA is bad. Most developrers want to make awesome games. It’s the business interests, which focus solely on short-term gains, that corrupt the place. You could balance profit-making with making users happy, ensuring long-term growth — or you could just, y’know, build the game around microtransactions and pay-to-win and have a nice quick cash-grab.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: EA has bad priorities

“Most developrers want to make awesome games.”

Of course. The problems with EA are clearly management/business operations, not from the developers themselves for the most part. However, the lead developers who got out in public and lied during the SimCity debacle deserve scorn. And I always wonder about people who continue to work for companies which are obviously terrible.

Anonymous Coward says:

I never ever trust recommendations dealing with games. EA was doing this back when gaming magazines were doing ratings. If the gamer mag couldn’t give them a shining report and rating, next game that gamer mag didn’t receive at all to rate.

I have no problems with EA because I refuse to buy their products anymore. If you get burnt as a customer I have no sympathy for you. It’s not like they’ve never screwed the public and their customer base before.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

More beautifully, while you can still rate the game whatever you like after promising a 5 star review, this method allows for the wonderful practice of forcing your customers to lie in order to do so.

Not really. A lie is something told to another person with the intent to deceive or mislead them. This is nothing more than working around a bad design in a piece of software.

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

As much as I loathe EA

Other scummy marketing tactics aside, at least their microtransactions (usually) aren’t too outrageous compared to a few other companies I know.

Compare that with the current management social forum site/avatar dress-up site Gaia Online, which ever since the new CEO & COO came in last year, have pretty much been out EA-ing EA in terms of treating their customers like human wallets [granted, they were brought in to generate a profit after the last CEO shit the bed, but their marketing strategy is so short-sighted it’s not even funny].

EA charging $5-$70 bucks for microtransactions in actual games? Gaia Online has charged $1000 for rare collectible avatar items (which were never supposed to be re-released in the first place) several times since last July (depressingly, some idiots actually buy them). Gaia Online isn’t even a MMORPG and yet it’s charging prices for non-animated pixels and making EA look like a fucking saint in comparison.

When you’re outdoing EA and Zynga in less than 12 months in terms of treating your consumers like shit, that’s Golden Poo quality material right there.

My ranting aside, unless Comcast pulls a bunch of really dickish moves in the next couple weeks (other than trying to merge itself with Time Warner), EA’s pretty much got that “Worst Company in America” Award locked up. Again.

Alias (profile) says:

>>Players can always continue to leave any rating they want on the Google Play Store.

This is the way I always write reviews for apps from the Play Store. Those sheep who are spoon fed a review dialog are the ones that are allowing this behavior. A smart person would say, “well, that’s BS” and would just go to the play store to leave their honest opinion.

So, EA here is just taking advantage of the fact that some players are either not savvy enough to know about leaving a review on the play store or are just lazy.

>>Still gonna buy TitanFall even if each mech costs $5 and I can only rate 5/5 cos I’m an idiot gamer who willingly allows companies to exploit me.

This comment is just vitriol. Gamers, for the most part, are not idiots; this is one of their past times. Some people have the interest and disposable income to be attracted to this type of business model.

I, for one, am not. In fact, the last EA game I bought in 2/2012 was THE last EA game I will ever buy because of this type of cash-grab mentality that EA exhibits and their general ineptitude (product-launch failures, Launch-server capacity mishandling, etc.) and uncaring nature for their customers. I don’t have enough time or funds for that crap so I am voting with my wallet.

Anonymous Coward says:

This would be funny if dungeon keeper didn’t contain code to sureptiously activate peoples phone cameras, steal contact data (for spam adverts) etc. Data which it directly streams to EA for what is basically illegal marketing purposes.

I have zero doubts EA sells this data onwards to shady third-party spammers for cold hard cash (cash being EA’s god and high priest)

Sheogorath (profile) says:

File an objection

Right at the bottom of the page for each individual app in Google Play is a little clicky which allows you to file an objection about it and potentially get it pulled. The objection I filed is as follows: Company is maximising star ratings in abuse of Google’s terms. Bad game, crashes all the time, can’t play without money, and now can’t rate less than five stars. Feel free to copy/paste.

Ed Kohler (profile) says:

This is a common ratings tactic

It’s not surprising that a game company knows how to game their ratings. But, they’re far from alone in using this tactic. It’s also used for gaming Yelp and other review directories by sending up follow-up surveys where positive responders are asked to publish their comments at sites like Yelp while the others are thanks for their feedback (and hopefully given follow-up about their less than idea experience).

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