It seems that EA Games, everyone’s favourite publishing powerhouse, is intent on winning the title of Worst Company in America for a third year running. Not content with the bug-ridden release of Battlefield 4 and the lawsuits that arrived in its aftermath, the company has been accused of rigging the ratings system for the updated mobile version of Bullfrog’s classic Dungeon Keeper. The game, which has garnered less than stellar reviews, has employed a unique ratings system. When the in-game pop-up asks you to “Rate Your Experience,” gifting the game five stars will deliver you straight to the Google Play store. However, dare you wish to give the title a star rating below five, players will be whisked away, not to the Google Play store, but to an online feedback form, circumventing the Google Play store rating altogether.
The reason for this? An EA spokesperson has issued the following statement:
“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.”
As they say, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. However, preventing players from offering a rating other than “Perfect” does not seem like a noble endeavour, no matter what the excuse is. If EA was really concerned about feedback, its developers could read the reviews left on the Google Play store. What this new feature amounts to is a deliberate circumvention of the ratings system in order to inflate the game’s score.
Players can choose to rate the game separately on the store outside the game, and as a result of “ratingsgate,” the one-star ratings are exploding. It seems that what we have witnessed is the ugly mutation of a cult classic into yet another freemium cash cow from EA’s mobile division.