Monday, 11 March 2013

SimCity Off to a Very Rocky Start

Pretty sure that this is worse than any UFO attack or nuclear meltdown.

I told you on Friday when I made mention of Good Old Games teasing the recent launch of SimCity with a tweet that promised that one of the older versions could be played offline and was also DRM free. It was a lighthearted jab to be sure, but one made at a situation that has turned into yet another debacle for Electronic Arts.

It had been known for a while that the latest release in the much loved series would be a game that required you to be online to play it, even in the single player modes. EA had no trouble telling people that, and despite the fact that the response they got was overwhelmingly negative in that regard, they went ahead and put the online requirements on it anyways.

EA. EA, EA, EA. Electronic Arts. Let me level with you for a second here, in the off chance that anyone that works with the company actually reads anything that I write or ever will. If you want to implement this system, then fine, implement it. People will hate you for it just on the grounds of the very thing, sure. You're probably doing more harm than good to your sales, that's nearly a given. If you want to ignore all that though, and insist that it's something that is necessary for your own protection from piracy and other malcontents, then here's my one, single piece of advice:


The blame for this is entirely, entirely on your own heads. If you knew that everyone would have to connect to servers in order to even play the game, then why didn't you make sure that you had enough servers? Go beyond that; take the number you think you'll need, then double it, triple it even. Just make sure that you have enough resources that you can handle the demand that's going to be placed at your feet, again, because of your own insistence upon it.

You're not some one room development team who put out a game on their one server, only to be overwhelmed when it became more popular than you thought it was. You were putting out Sim-FUCKING-City, and you didn't expect there to be a metric shitload of people who were going to download it and attempt to play it in spite of their misgivings about your system? You don't get to feign ignorance for this shit. Not today.

And yet, this is exactly what happened. Your launch was a disaster, your game has been taken apart on pretty much every site just on the basis that no one can play it long enough to make a decent judgement of it. Amazon temporarily disabled digital downloads of it due to the huge amount of negative feedback (note: Amazon is currently selling it again, with a warning that people have been experiencing connection issues, the number of 1-Star reviews is also at over 1,500 at the time of this writing), you're not giving refunds for your broken ass game either, because apparently that's just awesome business practice at work, right?

Even your own people are saying that the negativity is well earned; in an internal memo obtained by Polygon, EA Maxis general manager Lucy Bradshaw had these things, among others, to say:

"I'd like to say that it's not fair — that the game score shouldn't be punished for a server problem," she wrote. "But it is fair."

"SimCity is an online game and critics and consumers have every right to expect a smooth experience from beginning to end," she wrote. "I and the Maxis team take full responsibility to deliver on our promise."

At least someone is trying to make amends, I suppose.

And oh, how I wish that were the end of it.

No. Instead, we end on this little gem.

"What we saw was that players were having such a good time they didn't want to leave the game, which kept our servers packed and made it difficult for new players to join,"

Those are words written by Kip Katsarelis, posted to EA's forums. So, basically, the problem with the game is that there are so many people that want to play it, that people can't play it.

Incredible. Just. Fucking. Incredible.

Only now, with the industry as absolutely fucked up on so many levels as it is, could a publisher -- one of the largest ones, on top of that -- point to a game and say, "Well, there's your problem! It's too popular!"

I need a drink. I need twenty. Catch up with me tomorrow, that is, assuming I haven't died from alcohol poisoning before then.

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