Free to play games have long been a difficult balancing act. People's interest in paying for a free to play game
is commonly low—said gamers didn't show up looking for a “cheap to play” title—yet by like token a game company commonly isn't interested in giving away a game for free unless some kind of compensation is forthcoming. Advertising revenue, corporate sponsorship, or making some parts of the game accessible to paying customers are all valid avenues to pursue making a buck on a game. But sometimes, said efforts don't go over well with the gaming community, and the result just showed itself recently in a full-on player revolt.
Over at Kabam's “Dragons of Atlantis
,” what's described as a “small but vocal minority” of players is up in arms about recent changes to the game. “Dragons of Atlantis” by itself has pulled in over $100 million in revenue, and drove a major new valuation that gave Kabam the juice necessary to reach $700 million in a secondary offering. This shows what ultimately is at stake here, and why finding a solution may be vital to Kabam's overall future.
The issue comes about in the fullest sense of play mechanics, specifically over the substance known as Blue Energy. Blue Energy has several useful features, from reviving fallen troops and training elite ones, or summoning dragons outright. Blue Energy can be either gathered through Reaping Stones or purchased outright, and cannot be gained from fighting. But the newest changes, according to some, have made Blue Energy easier to run out for free-to-play gamers, while those willing to shell out cash are treated to a massive stockpile from which to acquire Blue Energy. Kabam, reportedly, put a cap on the total amount of Blue Energy that could be held at any one time, essentially—to some—making buying the stuff with actual cash money the only viable alternative, as those who play for free find their stock of Blue Energy running out fast, and refilling the tank slow, as opposed to being able to grind some Blue Energy out and work from there.
While all this might sound like an innocent spat with discomfited gamers, the reaction from Kabam, meanwhile, is a little more ominous. One of the players involved in the outcry, Andrea Richards—who also maintains the player's group Facebook page
—reportedly found herself on the bad end of a roughly two week ban for “inciting player to boycott Kabam.” That's a very big step, and an unnerving one. It's not hard to suggest that a more reasoned solution might have been more in line, and certainly, overtures from Kabam toward its dissatisfied customers would probably have been a better solution.
This shows us right here that, while it's important to make a return on the investment required to create a game, it's just as important to do so without irking potential paying customers. Heavy-handed solutions like issuing bans probably aren't the way to go here, and Kabam's ownership may do well here to take a deep breath and a step back. A spokesman for Kabam, however, recently suggested that the issues involved may have something to do with a certain third party tool used to “gain unfair advantages over other competing players”, and it's certainly important to keep such game-breaking phenomena out of the game. It's a fine line here, and from the sounds of it, both sides may well have toes over said line.