The Null Device

You'd have to be an idiot to play Evony

Imagine, for a moment, that you have published an online multiplayer strategy game. How do you get players to play your game (and, more importantly, spend money on the numerous playability enhancements, from premium-priced instant messages to power-ups) rather than any of the numerous other games out there? Well, you could concentrate on making a particularly playable game, give away accounts and wait for word of mouth to do its work. Or, if you're the publisher of Evony (formerly known as Civony), a game heavily inspired (to phrase it somewhat generously) by Sid Meier's Civilization games only much more heavily monetised, you could bet on the assumption that sex sells and plaster the web with increasingly lascivious ads, in which the traditional cod-Tolkienist clichés gradually give way to gratuitous female nudity, culminating in the apotheosis: a close-up of a lingerie-clad bosom, with nothing about the actual game whatsoever. It's Idiocracy marketing taken a few steps beyond the typical Facebook ads with pictures of hot chicks promoting completely unrelated products, assuming that your target market is comprised entirely of idiots who, when shown pictures of BOOBIES!!!1!, begin drooling like Pavlov's Dog and reflexively get their credit cards out.

And here is a Grauniad piece about Evony. It seems that their dodginess goes well beyond patronisingly pornographic ad campaigns, and extends its slimy tentacles into everything from spamming blog comments to gold-farming and gouging their clientele (the "suckers", as I believe the technical term is) to lifting text and graphics from existing games. These people, it seems, have more contempt for their user base than MySpace.

And as if bad advertising and tenuous intellectual property were not enough, the game is also under fire for its business model – a system that seems intent on getting players to spend as much money as possible. Players are encouraged to buy in-game extras to speed their progress – but the confusing way the game prices its add-ons means that many users may not realise that a simple action, such as sending a message to another player, can cost 15p a time.
It turns out that the site's backers are equally unpopular. Evony is the product of Universal Multiplayer Game Entertainment (UMGE), a developer linked to a Chinese gold-farming operation called WoWMine. That site has also come in for regular criticism, but the real kicker comes with the news that the company's owners are being sued by Microsoft over allegations of click fraud.

There are 4 comments on "You'd have to be an idiot to play Evony":

Posted by: Greg Sat Jul 25 07:54:52 2009

I've been seeing those ads and thought they were so horrendous they must be a send-up. That medieval wench character with her top half off saying "Play now, my lord" or whatever, made me think: how stupid do they think gamers are? And their other clumsily-concealed acts of dodginess listed above: really, how lossy do they consider their target audience? But now I wonder if what they are doing is merely a more extreme form of the practices that most online games, and especially MMORPGs, engage in. I mean, this is basically a genre of entertainment, quite blatantly aimed at young males without a sex/social life, which takes their time and money in return for a flimsy power fantasy. (Of course most forms of entertainment do something like this.) Is the rest of the industry coming down on Evony's heads because the clumsiness of their efforts focuses attention on what the rest of them are up to?

Posted by: NPC Sun Jul 26 09:38:43 2009

"The seeds of ... Evonymus are nauseous, and said to be purgative and emetic; sheep are said to be poisoned by them." from The Vegetable Kingdom by John Lindley, 1853, p.587

Posted by: acb Mon Jul 27 21:56:15 2009

Greg: isn't there an extra dimension of cynicism involved in Evony? Judging by the coverage, the company doesn't have anyone in a decision-making position who is passionate about gaming or playability, but is entirely a cynical operation to produce a game-like object optimised for fleecing suckers at the lowest possible cost (including ripping off artwork and text wholesale from other games), without any thought being given to the user experience and long-term staying power. In contrast, I imagine that there'd be quite a few people at the World of Warcraft company who would be interested in gaming and game design.

Posted by: arthur Wed Jul 29 09:41:56 2009

Evony does look like a scam, but I must say that the practice of putting unrelated models on game boxes is quite common in among Chinese game developers (example here: ). It's idiotic, but it works reasonably well, and some of the models end up becoming minor celebrities.

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