Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pay now or pay even more later

This week I got this e-mail from Funcom:

Character Deletion Alert

Thank you for playing Age of Conan.

As part of our maintenance your account is now flagged to have your characters below level 20 deleted as part of maintenance. Please re-activate your account now to ensure that your characters progress and names stay intact.

After seeing last weeks phishing mail I had to take a look at the source of the e-mail as I suspected that this was just another scam. After all, why would any company want to destroy their customers property? But no, it's not a scam, the e-mail does come from Funcom.

Two years ago, I've bought Age of Conan as a pre-order. And I stopped playing after only a few days as it quickly became clear to me that this game wasn't my thing. Having my ass kicked time after time by two mobs of my own level got frustrating really fast. Frustrating enough to go play something else. Interestingly, when I shared this experience months after my Conan adventures with my WoW guild mates the response I got was "Did you play a Bear Shaman"? Maybe I just took the wrong class. I remember having some difficulties in WoW with my low level warrior. Whatever causes those problems, it's small stuff like this that is enough to remove the fun part in Funcom. It's a shame as I really do like the Conan franchise. Robert E. Howard made an excellent fantasy setting with his Conan books. Those books still offer good reading decades after they've been written. Howards universe is more mature then Tolkiens, it's refreshing to see an mmorpg which doesn't see the world through 12+ goggles.

Since I didn't play this game for a long time deleting all my low level  characters won't change much for me. None of my characters were above level 20. It did make me think about my WoW characters though. What if they decided to delete all my lowbies if I stopped playing for a year between expansions? I'd be loosing my bank alt which stores all my gold! They'd force me to either pay €15 to reactivate my account for a month and send all my items to my higher level characters or loose the equivalent of months of playtime. That would piss me of in a major way. In the end I'd cough up the €15 to save my time investment. They'd gain a few euros at the cost of pissing of their customer base and harming their brand name.

Their given reason for doing this is a joke. "Maintenance"? You mean your maintenance will be so specific that it won't touch any high level characters? Give me a break. Other companies manage to keep your characters for over a decade. All it costs them is a few bytes on a server. It's obvious that this is a way to force some players to return to the game and fill the publishers pockets.

I can only imagine if you descubsribed from Funcoms maillist or if that e-mail lands in your spam mail. You reactivate your account when the next expansion hits and you're hoping to pick up the game where you left it. Only to enter a game where all your belongings have been destroyed. It might be enough to stop playing all together. Destroying players characters will destroy their reasons to come back. If my high level WoW characters were to be deleted before the next expansion hits the shelves there's a big chance I'd stop playing WoW. Relevelling my characters from scratch again before I can do the new content isn't  appealing. Deleting characters is preventing your customers from ever coming back.

I do wonder if the money Funcom makes by this action will be worth the bad reputation they've built up with it. Personally, I now think less of Funcom. And no, giving me seven free days when I reactivate my account won't be enough to restore your reputation.

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