Machine Zone's Gabe Leydon on why he cares about more players' time than their money

Machine Zone's Gabe Leydon on why he cares about more players' time than their money

Few people in the mobile game world are more passionate or outspoken than Gabe Leydon.

So if the founder and CEO of Machine Zone (previously Addmired) has been quiet recently, it's with good reason.

He's been working on a new game .

"It ended up being much more than I thought it would be," he says of the 16 month development of Game of War: Fire Age.

"It took on a life of its own."

Something different

Never one to shy away from an ambitious goal, Game of War is Machine Zone's latest attempt to combine the best elements of a PC MMOG with the 24/7 accessibility of mobile gaming.

It's a process that started for the company way back in 2009 with games such as iMob Online, Original Gangstaz and Global War.

Game of War is the culmination of those millions of downloads and ten of millions of hours of gameplay, not to mention the $8 million investment round Machine Zone closed in March 2012.

In Leydon's view, it's also a very different game from what's being offered by other mobile developers.

"We're going in the opposite direction to the mid-core trend," he explains.

"This is a complicated game. We're trying to make it more complicated. I think players need to feel like they are mastering something."

Making it mobile

It's a decision that seems to be bearing fruit, though.

During a prolonged soft launch in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, France and Mexico, Leydon says that the average player has been spending two hours daily in Game of War.

He says it's an amazing figure, particularly as it's broken down into across 10 sessions per day.

"People are playing it more than people play PC MMOGs," he says.

"It's because we put everyone into a single, persistent, real-time world and they can always play it, because it's on their phone. That's the strength of the game because that's the strength of mobile."

In this way Leydon argues developers who look to bring 'console experiences' to mobile, don't understand the market.

"You don't need to bring a console experience to mobile. You need to focus on the unique properties of mobile," he says.

"It's not about the graphics. And it's not about the touch interface. It's about accessible and persistent online gaming."

More than money

In a similar manner, Leydon has strong words about the industry's approach to monetisation.

Game of War is free-to-play (exclusive to iOS) but it's a longterm project for the company.

"If people play your game for 100 hours, it's not a big deal for them to spend money. But it is if you're trying to monetise after two hours," Leydon says.

Indeed, Machine Zone's entire approach is to focus on getting people to play its games, for long periods of time, and getting them deeply engaged with social features; in the case of Game of War its alliances system.

"There's special alliance currency which can be used to buy premium items for free," he points out.

"Getting people into an alliance is more important to us than getting money from them.

"Free-to-play isn't about pushing people to spend money. Not enough developers realise this."

It's about time

And this is why, for Leydon, the key metric is always time.

"I want players' time. Making the game fun is about trying to capture more of the players' time, and the time a player puts into the game is what makes it fun," he explains.

"We have loads of features in the game. There's a hierarchy of players, there's the whole history of your gameplay, and the game is a means of broadcasting this."

In that context, monetisation is a necessary - but secondary - outcome.

"The bottomline is you can't make money with free-to-play games if people aren't playing your game," Leydon ends.

"Free-to-play is the monetisation of time and this game is going to running for years."


A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.


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Gerrit Brinkman
create a controle what is paid for also must deliver. many of us are not being taken seriously, spend many money on the game butI got not delivered was for bought, send many tickets, but alwasy they send back, it is delivered
I wonder whether the helpdesk are there for the players.
Scott Lewis
I had to get a new phone about month ago and I haven't been able to log back into my account since. I have tried to contact MZ multiple times but I haven't got a response. I spent over $600 on this game. I guess it's time to contact an attorney and file a class action suite.
GoW Exposer Director of Technologies
Hello to those who are concerned with Game of War. As of lately most know that a Boycott was held within the last two weeks regarding a lot of issues with Game of War. The community elected Spokesman "Stayalive77" is the current emperor and community leader for Game of War and also the organizer to the Boycott. Many issues were addressed towards MZ during the Boycott time. The only issues they responded back to in fixing are as listed below
1.) Faster game load (if you don't close the app fully)
2.) 200 new Customer Service Reps and a new CS facility in Las Vegas (which the community pays for)
3.) "Unfair combat buffs" are removed for Kingdom Event winners.

Machine Zone did absolutely NOTHING to reference the majority player requested changes to the game in the way that it is "scamming" players out of money to be able to participate in the game.... Sure the game is "Free to Play" but you won't get anywhere without spending. This is an RTS (Real Time Strategy) ALOT of the researches are 1,000+ days which no player will ever achieve playing for free. The drop rate of required materials (Golden Flakes, Blue Flames, Turquoise/Green Fireballs) is less that .05% chance per chest open! I personally spent about $1,000 USD just to test the drop rate percentage. I opened over 2,500 Xena Chests that drop Golden flakes. I received ZERO T6 Golden flakes and ONE T5 Golden flake out of over 2,500 chests. Thats less than a .05% drop rate. Well that is insane you might say to spend that much money on a video game let alone a video game with worse graphics than a 20 year old Windows 95 game Diablo 2... Why yes it is insane but the most insane part about it is you NEED that gear to be able to participate even slightly end game. There are 7 pieces of Xena gear that require 10 T6 Golden flakes. Through this test you would have to spend around $10,000 USD to create the full set of gear.... That is clearly a scam in the game forcing players to spend. Outside the Resource cost of Research and Training troops (which you have to buy $100 packs just to get the resources and speeds needed) the Inferno/Kingdom Event point cost is set so high that saving up Speeds/Resources you may freely receive in the game would be IMPOSSIBLE to reach these Event costs. For example an Inferno event costs me 70million points to complete. This will require the use of over Twenty Five 30day speed ups and will reward me 2 30day speed ups, some gold and 20 chests that will provide me less than a .05% material drop rate on required materials for gear.

Machine Zone ignored our requests and demands for change in the game. And, on top of that after the Boycott they released an updated ToS that "forced" you to accept or you could not log into your account you may have spent 100s-1,000s of dollars on. The updated ToS states that your account has NO value and any attempt to put a value on it will be an automatic ban to your account. As well as using any in game services created by people to make the game a bit easier, IE: Resource exchanging, help alliances for faster help button pushes. Due to these new ToS giving 100% control of paid for account to MZ and the lack of valued customer service and scamming from Machine Zone the community has decided to open a Class Action Lawsuit against MZ and filing complaints with the FTC and the European FTC. You can support the Lawsuit here:

Many thousands of attempts for change through requests has been ignored, a demand in change through a boycott was ignored. This is our next step in action and I advise anyone thinking of picking up this game and investing into it to do some research and talk with current players. The game is a scam and is NOT free to participate, you must spend or expect Days of work to be gone in a matter of minutes.
Richard L. Clark-Bartlett
If a Lawsuit happens, please add my name to the list. I want to file on behalf of combat veterans. This customer support button don't even work now. PLEASE GABE LEYMON CONTACT ME. 2nd attempt will wait by law 30 more days...MountDew007 Atreo Kingdom #663
Richard L. Clark-Bartlett
How is it you allow Kingdom Atero Leaders T6 to degrade,belittle,and down right affend. My screen name is MountDew007 and I pay money each month. But Mz doesn't correct the problem. I sent in multiple complaints on game and no response from developers. I am a combat veteran with disabilities that T6 leaders in a low population kingdom break the rules and isn't corrected. I want either a full refund of all money spent each month or I want a merger with another kingdom. It's sad after level sh 5 you can't move. The game terms of agreement state that this type of verbal bullying isn't allowed it's still going 3 months now? Please respond to my email and answer if this is what you want from your game?
Robert Weber
The rich definitely are getting richer when it comes to the top grossing mobile games, which enables companies like Machine Zone to buyout the largest amount of available distribution.

See Machine Zone CEO Gabe's comments on rising ad costs -
Daniel Eastman
Hello this maybe off of topic so sorry. I have been playing GOW for 5 months now it is a great game . But recently when I get the gold packs yiu buy from MZ there have been issues. Last week I bought 1 and it took 4 days for everything to get into my acct.. today I bought another one and still haven't received any of it. My card was charger. My PayPal acct sent me a receipt. But I have nothing to show from MZ. I have messaged them several times today with out a resopnse. Is this a new trend for MZ.??? I hope not.
Josh Clark
Yall are some straight up money hungry scam artist. This game of war is all about greed and anyone who has played the game for a while knows it. I'm nit gonna telk you how i know, but tall put players in the game to zero people making people have to spend and rebuild. Yall also will send signals to certain ip addresses making there gsme lag or even feeeze up atcritical moments allowing thwm to get hit and lose power. Yall made it when you log in, your email no longer pops up automatically after typing a few letters making log in slower cause yall know that could be the difference in getting a shield up and getting hit. How am i doing so far. And speaking of shields, yall drop peoples shields before they expire allowing them to be volnurable to attacks. Yall have done it to me twice. Luckily i have been lutting together some stuff and i have an app that records your screen so that is documented. Not only that, when i emailed about reimbursement because of getting rallied due to lags, yall said there was nothing yall could do yet yall compensate another player 100 -7 days speeds for nearly tje same thing happening to her. When i confronted yall about it, yalls reasoning for not compensating me changed. I can only assume they got compensated because theres really was a glitch and mine was an attentional attack. No other explanation. I got more but no need to spill all the beans yet. So with that said, yes, all u care about is the money. You might fool some but not all. We know the real you and you will have your judgement day
Gordon Riley
I no you are a very busy man and. Problemly leave things up to your employees to handle but I'm having a problem with trying to get my account back I tryed to open a new account an . Used the same pass word and email now I can't get my old account back I have emailed your support over and over for three day and have got no help I did get a reply from a Michelle allen and she put a one day shield on my city then I never heard from her again I no your not envolved with your company but could you please help me I'm house bound and your game has pleased me very much I've spent lots of money on the game its. Probably not a lot of money to you but it a great amount to me I'm not rich. I just want my account back can you please help me your the only one I can't turn to I'm very desperate and depressed please help me if you will can you just get some one to email me and help a little guy out. I begging you its been over three days thank you just in case you help me gord..riley
David Heyden
Dear Mr Leydon, you appently are full of shit. Not only does machine zone not provide any support you have now moved your company to Pakistan to avoid paying people a working wage. You have absolutely zero support, you allow ios users to hack the game and you do not police what is going on. Support should be your number one priority however you don't have any. I believe that your company is one of the worst I have ever had the displeasure of dealing with. I hope you are happy I Pakistan and can live with the guilt of stealing money from every person who was dumb enough to start playing. The truth is about to come out.
Tim Porter
Dear Mr. Leydon,

My name is Tim Porter, before I explain my issue please take a second to understand a little about me. I am 48 years old, married with 5 children ages 26-2 and 2 grandchildren. Technology has always been an interest, I had my first real computer in 1985 just a few years after my first gaming system. I am a soldier, I joined the Army in 1987 as an aviator, have been to war, and still serve in the Army national guard as a leader of soldiers, holding the highest enlist rank possible. I am an active Christian, and local politician, I even ran for Sheriff last election. I say all of this so that you can understand, that I am no child, I am mature, intelligent, and well respected.

That being said, I tried Game of War, and really liked it. I have 4 accounts, and sometimes play on 3 devices at one time. I am new to the game, playing only for the last 6 months or so, but I have three alliances and am actively working within the 414 to educate new users on the gameplay. I have spent hundreds of dollars on gold, I accepted that. I also accept that there will be users that spend way more then everyone else to feed their need to be more powerful, and i get it.

My issue is with the Facebook interaction. I am a huge fan of social media. We started an alliance FB page, and I even have a FB page for each MZ account, and the friends there are multiplying faster then I can mange. Which is why I did separate FB pages for gaming.

When I built my first goldmine, there was no warning to verify which FB my phone was logged into. My phone was logged into my personal page, which i limit to friends and family. So as you well know, it automatically linked to that FB account. I did not know want his, and did not even realize it had happened at first. I upgraded my goldmine to the max, because I did the math and realized I would see a gold profit in a short time.

The trouble was noticed when I started getting the friend requests on my personal page. The reason I keep a separate page for friends and family, and professional links is most do not enjoy seeing gaming stuff, and it clogs up the stuff that is real in our lives.

So I thought I could fix this. I deleted the goldmine, deleted the app, unlinked that FB from GOW, and reloaded everything. My surprise came, when that did not work. GOW will not break the bond with that Fb page. So i started sending feedback.

My replies have been varied, from we are working on the issue to there is nothing we can so.

I find it hard to believe that there is nothing that can be done about this. i am asking you for your assistance to fix this issue. It is one of the only things bringing your game bad reviews, and it is fixable. I want to get behind the game, but I can not push it right now. Please help me, so that i can help you.

the other thing that is slowing your expansion, as great as what it is right now, and its not the money spending, is that there are no limitations on who can attack who and when. I have been all over speaking with newer players and they all ask for the same thing, BRACKETS. do not allow a 300,000,000,000 power player to attack a 10,000,000 power player. i have seen players with more power than an entire alliance of 100 members combined wipe them out in minutes. this allows no time for the news to grow, and they quit.

Something simple and broad, 0-5,000,000 5mil -25 mil, etc etc,

Better yet,and even simpler would be within a certain percentage of your own power. say 50%. So a 300mil empire is limited to attacking range of 450-150mil empires. 100mil is limited to 150-50mil, 50 mils are limited to 75-25mil, 24mil limited to 36-12mil, down to you real newbs 1mil is limited to 1.5mil-500k empires. THIS may be the thing that keeps more people in the game than anything else you could do.

Let the big spenders fight each other, let the low spenders stay in the game, and maybe they will start to spend as well, because they are not loosing everything daily.

Lastly, throw in some forced NAP days like Mon-tues-weds NAP. doesnâ
David Heyden
You will not receive any help from this company, they have moved there operations from California to Pakistan. They are allowing people to hack the game and do not ever provide tech support. You sound like a nice guy but do a little research about these doushebags. You are crazy if you want any help they don't do that anymore.
Lee Paul Hoenderkamp
This is comedy. I cannot get a resolution to the fact their incompetence locked me out of my account and I got zeroed. Spent a lot of money building and they are willing to give me a 7 day speed up in compensation for 400mil power. It's utter crap..... I think enough people are unhappy with MZ that a class action could work.
David Heyden
They won't help you. Maybe if you are I Pakistan you can get support. They have enough moved there
Daniel Mutchell
Lol MZ are happy to take your money but the customer service is one of the worst i have ever experianced they dismiss anything that goes wrong and will not compensate for losses. So i disagree you are not about the players at all this game is purely based on how much money you can make. Its free to play but if you do not spend money by the time your account is at a power level thats decent you will be old and wrinkly... one research takes over 1000 days to complete how is that fun for non spenders?
Igor Petkovski
Why is there no response from MZ on my account being lock, 8 days without response over 20 emails. I spend over 1000$ on the game, this is nothing else but SCAM, there is no players first if you ever care about players you will respond to emails.
I been in business all my life and never seen someone so irresponsible, it's a great way to destroy a business, either you are surrounded by incompetent lazy people or you just don't care, for now I'll stay with the second one, by the way you just lost a great customer and if you look around the internet not the only one!
John Paul Hazen
It may be totally true that Gabe feels this way but I can assure you it is NOT how it has translated in Game Of War. Especially when it comes to their customer service. If he cares so much about players time then their customer service team would be actively engaged with a customer who has literally invested thousands of hours of time only to have it wiped out in seconds by a glitch in their system. It would be very easy to identify this glitch however they chose to simply respond with canned replying blaming connectivity. Poor poor care for the gamer. No compassion or service whatsoever. The entire community is talking about the glitches yet they refuse to acknowledge them. I will never support another product offered by this company. If you want to invest hundreds of dollars and hours of time to have it lost in the blink of an eye then this game is for you. Enjoy.
Igor Petkovski
This article is such a lye, my account was compromised I spend well over 1000$ on it, my city destroyed damage well over 700$ and still no reply from MZ on my 11 emails, I can't log in to my account. I haven't give my login info to anyone or used public wifi, the only other way that my account info will leak will come from MZ, today is day 4 with no reply.
Jamison Holliday Mcginnis
Her cares more about the gamers than their money.....riiiiiiight. that's why the premium packages are 100$ freemium isn't free yo
Bambino Lennen
Ya same happens after I reply to the so called support.. They never actually give a answer they just brush it off. Finally got someone to reply and they literally told me they can do what they feel is right since terms of service are subject to change without notice.
Albee Digi
If machine zone wanted people to keep playing they would help people like me who, during a server maintenance 2 weeks ago had there kingdom not stole but just disappeared. I have spent some money on the game and spend close to half my day playing. I have send ticket after ticket and they are not doing anything to fix it. They just keep asking the same question that I have answered 3 times and it seems I am dealing with a different person with each email.
Bambino Lennen
Its a fun game I enjoyed up to when they scammed me and refuse to contact me back or answer the questions I have provided.. Long story short I have a lot of money in the app (dumb I know) and got muted by a moderator for playing the game.. (destroying other players) and they claim I tried to sell my account when its a lie and I even had there customer service admit that its bull and have no grounds to do this.. I can provide evidence to every part of this so.. Honestly don't waste your money and get scammed like I am.. Anyone know of anything to help fight this let me know looking to get the info out and the evidence...
Lyndol Burns Military at United States Navy
This is hogwash. This company does NOT care about its customers. I've sent several emails and messages to this company for over 5 hours now with not one reply back to even say they were looking into it. Heck you can't even find a phone number to contact them at for help. I bought 2 different 99 dollar gift packs this morning on Game of War. One anniversary pack and 1 Cerebus Pack. With the Cerebus pack I was supposed to get 5 600,000 casino chips with it and I have not gotten any. I was also supposed to get a 1 day VIP with both of them and only got 1. I Honestly don't know what all I did get and did not get at this point but I do know I spent 200 dollars and expect to get what I paid for! With the amount of money I spent it should have been fixed ASAP and for me to receive EVERYTHING I paid for instead of being completely ignored. After reading reviews I see that this is a common problem and they apparently never contact people back. I have sent so many messages and emails over several hours and still have not received one single email or message ever stating they were working on it. Apparently they are rated F with the BBB for this exact reason.
Beshoy Atef
It has been more than a week, Their has been an error with my order
I asked for help
I ordered 3 Legendary packs on 1 day 17/9/2014 but i got 2 Legandry Packs and 1 VIP (Which i didn't order). I contacted the support for help.
Her reply was "The system shows that their was no error with your order"
I wonder is that how all you support team acts when facing a problem ??

This problem caused me to lose an inferno event which had 70k gold as a prize

I request the the issue or be fixed and your support team to learn how to properly treat customers.

If the issue didn't get resolved i am sorry but i will report to Google and will report the issue to the Department of Consumer Affairs in California . THANKS for the worst Support and treatment i have ever had
Carolyn Schweitzer
I agree with what many have said, the game is very engaging but there is NO CUSTOMER SUPPORT. I bought a "jackpot" gold package two days ago that downloaded without the jackpot aka casino chips. Spent $100 and got less than half of what I paid for. This is not the first time I've been cheated by MZ and not the first time I've tried to get help from them but it may be the last time. After 9 months of play and never getting a reply from their "feedback" form, I've about had it. This guy seems to agree:
Griff LongFeather | 11:52 - 20 February 2014

BE AWARE this game has no customer support. You may say, who cares but think about this I have put in a HUGE number of hours into an account and have lost access to that account via hacking or account corruption but honestly not sure how I lost access but after weeks of trying to contact them through their advertised methods of support they refuse to even answer my requests for help and support!!! So I am trying to make people aware that if you start playing this game do so at your own risk. IT does NOT matter if you have spent money in game or not and I because of the lack of customer support I would highly recommend you NOT spend any money in game.
Victor Arnold
As a gamer of many different types of games and platforms I have some experience with mobile games. A previous game I played became unsupported and as a result. I left as did many players. Word travel to me that a few hundred people had started playing GoW so I downloaded and started playing. At first all liked the game, but with the events always changing, and now the prizes for these events make them not worth doing we have became very uninterested. Also you seem to be punished for reaching higher llevels in the game with hundreds of days wait.
Calixto Sanchez
Support is awful, i sent a request four days ago, and nothing, even though i keep pinging every day

Just the worst support ever!
Gabriel Leydon
Simon, as I said "accessible (always with you /in your hand) and persistently online" so we pretty much agree. Our only difference in strategies is we choose to focus on long term (measured in years) engagement and you choose to focus on as you say "over the shoulder" virality. This strategy has obviously worked quite well for you so there is no argument there from me.
Lee Paul Hoenderkamp
Gabriel this is nonsense. I can give you total documentary evidence of a situation where your employees allowed me to lose 400mil power. If you have a contact mail address please put it out so people can show you exactly what's happening in your company.
Igor Petkovski
Why is there no response from MZ on my account being lock, 8 days without response over 20 emails. I spend over 1000$ on the game, this is nothing else but SCAM, there is no players first if you ever care about players you will respond to emails.
I been in business all my life and never seen someone so irresponsible, it's a great way to destroy a business, either you are surrounded by incompetent lazy people or you just don't care, for now I'll stay with the second one, by the way you just lost a great customer and if you look around the internet not the only one!
Simon Moller
Mobile devices are special because they are always with people. Not because they are online. Most pc's are online. Lots of consoles are online. In fact, lots of people with mobile devices aren't online all the time because of geography, connection problems etc.

Being online allows for a few things:
A) Social connections to other people (making people content to people, lowering costs of developing new content as people have a meaningful relationship to the game and each other).
B) You can't monetize people who are offline directly
C) It's more fun when the game-world isn't empty

The reason why graphics are of vital importance to game quality is virality - and subsequently to UA cost - it's what I sometimes refer to as "Over the Shoulder Syndrome". People can discover other people playing a game without ever getting a direct referral. One person can ask another in the bus what he/she are playing. They can download it immediately because it's free.

It can explode in user base fast - because of graphics and interface and accessibility.

Quality of your graphics are naturally going to be an arms race, just as all the other times in the past when a new family of devices got powerful. It helps get mindshare. It helps you to get noticed. It helps virality immensely, and if companies don't have millions of dollars for initial user acquisition, that's important.

Multiplayer/Online play has always worked very well. Ever since the first network cards became available to most people when the prices we're cut in the 90ties. But it's not why mobile devices are special.

It's because they're in your hand.
Gabriel Leydon
I dont see anywhere where I said graphics were "irrelevant" nor do I believe such a thing. I believe you you are referencing is the quote:

"It's not about the graphics. And it's not about the touch interface. It's about accessible and persistent online gaming."

Our focus as a company is online technologies because we believe that the core differentiating features of mobile devices is that they are easily accessible and persistently online. From a design perspective we also believe online features are the most scalable in terms of capturing players attention over long periods of time.

Simon Moller
Graphics are irrelevant? Really?! You honestly mean that Mr. Leydon?
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