December 1, 2014

The Man's Candy Crush: Game of War: Fire Age

Game of War:  Fire Age logo from the game’s main website.

By Megan G.

Too manly to crush candy?  Game of War:  Fire Age might be the addictive mobile game for you.  The name probably sounds familiar if you’ve recently watched an NFL football game, as a new commercial has been showing ad nauseam during various “manly-man” programs.  You know the ad with the intense battle scene, a massive hydra-demon-dragon, and Kate Upton in a toga?  That’s Game of War’s new, high budget commercial from their $40 million marketing campaign. 

Screenshot of the hydra-demon-dragon

Venture Beat reports that the advertisements’ intense action, undoubtedly paired with Kate Upton’s curves, has largely appealed to viewers catching the promotion during football games.  I was actually surprised to see the Game of War:  Fire Age title appear after such a grand advertisement.  The last time I remember seeing Game of War was as a small banner ad on my smartphone—the kind I usually write off as spam.  How did a free-to-play gaming application profit enough to produce this high cost commercial, complete with impressive CGI and a famous supermodel?  The answer lies in a tactic that mobile apps have both used and abused:  microtransactions, or users’ real payments for virtual goods.

Screenshot of the actual game.  Slightly less intense than the commercial

Developer Machine Zone labels Game of War: Fire Age a “F2P mobile MMO,” which translates as “free-to-play, mobile, massively-multiplayer online game.”  The massively-multiplayer part is true:  players can form alliances to defend each others’ kingdoms and conquer others’.  As for F2P, the game is certainly free to download, but “free-to-play” remains a rather grey concept for Game of War and its players.  The further players progress, the more obnoxiously the game starts to prods them with micro-transactions.  While some of these paid-for perks can be helpful, couldn’t these purchases be easily avoided by turning the game off and letting your royal hold progress naturally?  Not necessarily, since Game of War’s action doesn’t stop when you close the app.  Enemy players may easily attack a lone castle with an absent leader, but an 8-hour protection spell can keep your kingdom safe—for real cash only, of course.  This makes micropayments legitimately tempting if players hope to survive the game beyond a few weeks.  However, some players, like this teen who racked up $46,000 playing Game of War, are not even sure when they are spending real money.

“You will not leave me unattended!” From the app’s Google Play page.

E-commerce sites usually allow customers “a moment of doubt” before they make a purchase.  Are you sure?  Enter your password.  Let’s review your order.  These polite hesitations give the buyer a chance to back out.  Game of War:  Fire Age has a single-click, no-warning, “thank you for your e-business” kind of approach.  Sort of a shady practice, but if you have given the game access to your credit card information, obviously you should exercise some caution as you furiously click around your castle. 

Even Kate Upton thinks you have a clicking problem.  Photo from Adweek

The app’s spammy ads and aggressive micro-transactions seem to work in the game’s favor, for Game of War is still the third highest grossing mobile game.  Although, according to the highly negative Metacritic user reviews, you’d think this game would have lost its war awhile ago.  Furthermore, although its marketing strategy has evolved, Game of War’s gameplay and graphics largely have not.  Yet critics have judged Game of War:  Fire Age moderately well, praising the social aspects of alliances and the rewarding feeling of building one’s kingdom.  What keeps people around, and how does this game gain new players daily?  I blame George R. R. Martin.
The fantasy genre has seen a resurgence in mainstream popularity, thanks in no small part to the television series Game of ThronesI think it is safe to say that Game of War:  Fire Age mimicked the award-winning program’s title on purpose.  Considering that, in addition to the game’s sense of achievement and danger, it makes sense that at least the title of Game of War could persuade mobile users to download the app.  With its new commercial parading forth like a brazen banner-wielder on the marketing battlefield, it will be interesting to see the mobile game’s next advance.  Will Game of War:  Fire Age use the revenue from its new footballer fan-base to alleviate consumer frustrations, or will it continue to pour its experience into the advertisement skill pool?  Only time will tell, my Tekkie warmongers.

Have you played Game of War:  Fire Age, or other games of its genre?  Does Machine Zone’s strategies bother you, or is this just all part of the Game of Marketing?  Let the Tek Team know in the comments!     


  1. I'm not much of a gamer. However, all of the advertisement that I've seen for this game have gotten me interested. While I understand that it is still just an app, it can be quite fun. I don't really have time for a PC or Playstation video game. This app just might be what is right for me. I can easily fit it in my day.

    1. Good morning, Kent!

      Even though you haven't tried Game of War: Fire Age, it's interesting to see that you have done some preemptive homework on the subject! :) I'm sure other players will appreciate that tip you have linked to.

      Mobile games are often the go-to for gamers who don't have enough time or money to invest in larger scale console and PC games. I know I lot of people who love to play Game of War, just be sure to keep track of those microtransactions!

      Thank you for the comment,

      The Tek Team