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What is Evony?
Evony, once known as Civony, is a free-to-play, browser based MMO. It's a turn based system where you build a city and conquer your neighbouring cities. To do this you have resources and a population, you just tell them what you want built, and if you have the necessary resources, they will build it. Once a building is built you can level it up, allowing you to get more resources, train new people or learn new technology, etc. Once you have a fair sized army you can start attacking other players and seizing their cities. There are a few other real time strategy, or RTS, browser based games out there like Evony (Wild Guns and Ikariam to name a few) but none have had such an aggressive marketing campaign when compared to Evony. It seems you can't go anywhere online without running into one of their ads, and there has been a lot of controversy in regard to some of the tactics Evony has been using to reach their market. If you want to know more about how to play Evony check out Bright Hubs Evony beginners guide.
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Evony's Marketing Strategy - Sex and Boobs
You've seen the ads, even if you haven't realized it. I know you have. It's entirely possible you thought it was an ad for a medieval themed adult site. Evony ads have been getting more and more racy as time goes on. I know what you're thinking, “So what, sex sells.” and that is proving to be true in this case. Over the past two weeks I've watched the Evony sites Alexa rating gain over 150 spots. At the time of writing, its Alexa rating is at 576. Personally, I have no problem with seeing sexy women in ad campaigns. I can't help but wonder if in this case, will (or should!) an ad campaign that has nothing to do with the product, help or hurt Evony's future.
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Ads, Ads, Everywhere - Suspect Tactics to Force Evony Ads to Your Site
The Evony ads lack of relevance aside, there have been tons of complaints all across the internet from bloggers and webmasters. They say that Evony has opened a multitude of Google Adsense accounts, under different URLs that all point right back to Evony. This means that as soon as the blogger or webmaster blocks one Evony ad, another pops up. They can't seem to stop Evony from advertising on their websites. One blogger went so far as to write a tutorial on how to block Evony ads. He explains you need to block 30 different URLs in the content filter.
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OMG! Where's the Porn?!?
What do all these sexy ads mean for those who play the game? I now have a city on two different servers in Evony and there is a common theme on both servers. The chat is bombarded with statements like “Where's the porn?”, “I clicked the ad 'cause of the half-naked chick, anyone else?” and “Are there any girls playing this game? I'm horny”. I'm really only quoting the more friendly comments that I've seen run through the game chat. In fact there were so many comments in one chat that you couldn't even keep up because it was moving so fast. This seems to be having multiple affects on the game community on both servers. Mostly, when those that are looking for a little cyber hook-up don't find what they are looking for, they leave after a few minutes of harassing comments. The other affect, the more dangerous affect for Evony, is that players who would stick around to enjoy the game are getting annoyed with the constant sex talk in the chat.
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Comment Spam You Say?
Outside of the game, bloggers have another complaint. Not only are they being bombarded with Evony Adsense, but comment spam as well. Evony has a referral program called iEvony. This program allows a user to put referral links in email or a comment on a blog. If the link is used the user will get some in-game bonuses. Evony claims that spamming blogs across the internet with hundreds of spam is the work of one player who has since been banned. To me this seems a little far fetched, but I couldn't find any details disproving the fact. One Blogger, Bruce Everiss of Bruce on Games is convinced that Evony is malware. After a fair amount of research I'm not convinced of that. Unfortunately I wouldn't discount it either.
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Accusations of Stealing Material
It's bad enough that Evony has been spamming the internet with their ads in multiple forms, but some of the ad material isn't even theirs. One of the first Evony ads, when it was still called Civony, featured a photo stolen from a costume company. After discovering this I wondered if more of their advertising was stolen. I was able to find two photos used in Evony ads on Istockphoto.com, a microstock photography company (photo 1 and photo 2). This means they most likely purchased these photos for their newer ads.
Evony has been known to steal more than just ad photos. Most of the item descriptions in Evony have been taken directly from Civ 3 and 4. They have also been accused of stealing graphics from Age of Empires and Age of Mythology.
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Evony Over the Long Term
This type of advertising definitely brought Evony to where it is today. One wonders if this misleading advertising campaign and the iEvony spamming hurt the long term success of the game. That said, after using these tactics, should Evony continue to have success? Personally, I don't think so. These tactics are too underhanded for my liking, which is a shame because I have been enjoying playing the game.
Only time will tell what will happen to Evony, but I see only two possible outcomes if their ad campaign remains the same. It's possible that the porn-seeking surfers finally realize that the game has nothing to do with sex or porn and thus leave. The people who enjoy the game for what it is remain. Then Evony cleans up all their shady comment spam practices. They also do as they claim on their forums and change all the stolen graphics to graphics of their own creation.
Judging from their past, the likelihood of this is relatively low. More realistically, those who would otherwise enjoy the game will get fed up with all the porn-seekers. A general mistrust about the game's methods covers the majority of the internet. All the porn-seekers also leave the game as there isn't any porn to be had. The servers become ghost towns and Evony flops.