A game I sometimes check in on to talk to old friends, Pirates of the Caribbean: Tidesof War, was going ballistic yesterday. The largest alliances where being gutted and banned. What the heck was going on? It was a mass extinction event and the whales were going down. Why does a game ban its biggest spenders? What did they do?
The in-game chat was fired up with people being called cheaters, to “hey you know them, they are your friends”. Ask what happened and get two or more versions. One version is they used loaders, the other they abused the refund policy. Another says the terms were changed over night and then people were banned.
I am stubborn. I should actually change my name to it. So seeing this is going to be a hard nut to crack, with nobody really talking, we reorganize our outreach. Ask ask and ask. Tonight we got the answer, and it is so more insane than the rumors.
I get invited to meet the players banned and they are already working with google and apple to get the game removed from the respective stores. They are talking to lawyers about a lawsuit. They have reached out to the FTC. They are angry as hell, and the list goes on as to how far they are going.
Remember now, these are the biggest spenders in a game. These are the top 2% representing 90% of a game’s income. These are the players the little guy hates, because they can and will drop a couple grand to get the latest greatest thing, then enjoy themselves kicking your little base from here to a reset point if they could. At least some of them anyway.
So now we find out, why are the game’s bread and butter at the point they want to burn the game down? Well yes, they are being banned. But why.
Most whales and even other players use loaders. Loaders use IP spoofing to disguise their location at a country the game offers packs at reduced rate, then usually buy gift cards or credits in bulk at a discount rate. A player meets a loader, they talk, money and logins change hand, and the player gets to enjoy lower price packs. Some smaller players call this cheating, but it is really just shopping around for a better price. If its cheaper in another country, why not. The developer gets paid, just at the lower price “they” set in a country, and the whales spends thousands upon thousands of dollars keeping the game going financially. Developers usually say no to loaders, but turn a blind eye because they get paid tons of money in the end.
Here is what happened this time. When you allow somebody access to your account, you take a risk. This time the risk backfired and the loader, after doing his or her job, and after making tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, reversed the charges and got a refund.
This left Joycity, the developer, out of the money, and the player with all the virtual goods. So there are many ways a developer could handle this. Joycity chose to burn the house down because the tenants shorted them on the rent. Here is how.
Once they identified the players involved, they changed their TOS. Next stop was soft banning everyone of them. Each was sent what they all perceived as a ransom letter. They where told they had to buy back all the virtual gold that was refunded, an amount was included, at full price.
These amounts ranged from a few hundred dollars to in excess of $54,000 dollars to get their accounts turned back on.
Some paid, only to be met with silence so far. Let us go back to the letter. It stated pay within 14 days in order to discuss the lift of the ban. Read back, it said “discuss.” Paying the ransom does not guarantee your account will be activated. Players that paid are still waiting for a response as of writing this.
So we talked for a bit. Some players are seeking a refund from google for their normal purchases. These amounts will be in the thousands. So Joycity, remember the sunk cost fallacy you addict players with, you forgot how that works? Joycity not only lost the loader refunded amount, a sunk cost, but now stands to lose a great deal more.
I also came to find out they targeted players that received legit refunds from google and apple for a pack, here or there, that wasn’t delivered as promised. One player is currently banned until he repays .99 worth of gold.
If anybody has any questions for the players banned, all are welcome to join the discord server to talk. It is a shame how much a game will addict players and create ridiculous spending compulsions. Its even more insane to treat them this way.
Gold cost $.05 US each gold