Three Chic Geeks

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Why This Week’s SimCity Launch Might Be One of the Worst Launches Ever

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Chances are, if you used a computer with any sort of regularity in the past decade or two, you’ve encountered the franchise that changed gaming forever. Before Will Wright created the very first SimCity game, the closest thing we had to an open-ended city building game experience was the option to edit custom maps for other games. SimCity was the first of its kind, focusing on the goal of running a city rather than defeating an enemy in battle. In theory, you could play SimCity forever without ending the game. Over the years, Maxis have released several sequels to SimCity, each one more innovative and groundbreaking than the last. When the latest, prettiest and most complex SimCity game (and the first one in about a decade, if you don’t count SimCity Societies which no one does) was announced, hardcore gamers were dying to get their hands on it. Then, the fire nation EA attacked.

So what went wrong? A number of things. Problem numero uno was (and is) definitely the always-online requirement. If you disconnect from the internet, you cannot play SimCity. This is a measure that has become popular in recent times. One big release that had an always-online DRM requirement is Blizzard’s Diablo III. While there were some glitches and hiccups during the launch, the demand for servers was filled and bugs sorted out at record speed when you compare it to EA’s handling of the SimCity disaster so far. Now, it made sense for Diablo III to have an always-online requirement, in a way – I have  many fond memories of hours spent on Battle.net, back when Diablo II was the best game money could buy. However, EA alienated a large segment of potential buyers outright by slapping an always-online requirement on a game that has been single-player for, oh, all of its existence.

Unless you count SimCity Social. Which we don’t.

So, basically, what we’ve got here is many people who want to play a single-player game, which has to be played while connected to the internet for no good reason, and not enough server space. This has proved to be a recipe for disaster over the past week. Though EA is busy adding new servers, Twitter’s #simcity hashtag is filled to the brim with angry players who are stuck waiting for server space to free up.

Twitter isn’t the only social networking site swarming with people who are tired of staring at a queue timer. Redditors bemoan the existence of DRM while pondering how long it will be before a cracked version of SimCity starts making the rounds. A large number of people detail their struggle to obtain a refund, after finding the game to be completely unplayable due to the DRM requirement. Though Amazon is offering buyers refunds, those who have purchased it from other sources are left out in the cold. EA has previously had customer service employees threaten people with the ban hammer for daring to requesting a refund, they now say it is perfectly alright to do so (good luck actually GETTING one, though). People have also taken their rage to Amazon. As of 11pm EST, both of Amazon’s listings for the game (the limited and standard versions) hold a combined total of 4172 one-star ratings (out of a combined total 4554 reviews for both editions). The number of 5-star reviews, by comparison, is just under a hundred when you count the number of them on both listings; however, majority of them are Uhpinions-worthy material such as this one:

Got me off my video game addiction!, March 6, 2013
This review is from: SimCity – Standard Edition [Download] (Software Download)

You’d think I’d be mega unhappy like everyone else at the constant waiting and lack of actually being able to play a game I purchased.

Well, you’d be wrong.

The hours upon hours since launch that I haven’t been able to log in, whether it be sitting in queues, or server busy messages, or just plain old not working screens, I’ve managed to do a heap of things that I never do when I’m locked in my man cave playing video games.

I’ve washed the dishes, the laundry, changed the oil in the car, mopped the floors, dusted, did a spot of gardening, greeted my children who I hadn’t really seen since Christmas, walked the dog, asked how my wife’s day has been and listened to the entire response, restocked the groceries and many more things! My family has never been happier that they’ve got a father and husband again.

In fact, I feel like Simcity has given me a new lease on life. This wouldn’t have been possible without the seemingly crazy decision to have constant online connections and server side save points even for single player.

So I can only thank EA and Maxis. Your failures have been my rewards. 5 stars!

The SimCity launch has been so disastrous that Amazon had taken the “purchase download” option off the site for almost a full day yesterday. It is back today, though with a warning that any mortal who tries to play this game shall perish face incomprehensibly long waiting times. EA themselves have recently thrown their hands up in despair and sent out a memo to all affiliates asking them to stop promoting SimCity. Maxis have also been forced to deactivate some of the gameplay features until the situation is more manageable. Redditors are busy pointing out all the ways that EA has failed to adequately prepare for the influx of players at launch, detailing the shortcomings with the tenacity of Johnlock shippers deducing whether or not John and Sherlock are involved, if you know what we mean. Just look at this:

What is EA’s take on all this? Well they’re claiming that SimCity‘s issues stem from too many people wanting to play it. Everyone wants to play it, so there’s not enough space. This couldn’t possibly be our fault for not holding a beta test or for putting more effort into planning the experience. Yeah, they’re for real with that. We have no words that are fit to be uttered in polite company.

Fortunately, players have options. SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition has just climbed back up to Amazon’s Top Sellers list (and darn it, now I want to reinstall my copy). A handy list of the best SimCity 4 mods is at the top of r/SimCity’s “hot” list. And, in a brilliant marketing ploy, Tropico 4 is on sale for 75% off on Steam. Those who are really determined to have the full SimCity experience for free are urged to check this freeware fully functional version (no really click on it we’re not kidding).

In the long-term, EA’s failures at launch are probably going to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Already, the company has done all it can to bleed every single cent from its customers – from DRM to DLC that you have to pay extra for before you can get your game to actually work, and beyond. Already, there is talk of a class-action lawsuit against the company for failing to deliver a functional product and then refusing to offer refunds. A petition asking for the institution of a standard industry-wide refund policy in the case of non-functioning software has already made its way onto WhiteHouse.gov, and Forbes magazine’s blog. It is clear that, even if EA fixes the issues within the next day or so, there will be severe reprecussions for their failure to pay attention to their consumers.

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Author: Katherine Erlikh

I love candlelight dinners, long walks on the beach and killing demons. Usually you can find me at rock concerts. 90% of redditors believe me to be male. I'm pretty sure I'm Loki.

5 thoughts on “Why This Week’s SimCity Launch Might Be One of the Worst Launches Ever

  1. EA did win the Comsumerist’s worst company (in America) of 2012. EA’s unofficial response was that the majority of the votes for (or against in this case) them came in the form of international consumers who were either more used to products that catered to their specific tastes or weren’t part of EA’s target demo, a claim which was never substantiated but would immediately appear to be false. I say unofficial because the tweet containing that response, by a mid level EA exec, was promptly deleted by the user and has not been referenced again.

    Officially EA tried to pass off the ball to other, much “worse”, companies: http://consumerist.com/2012/04/04/ea-responds-to-worst-company-win-by-name-dropping-past-worst-company-winners/

    In the intervening months since then and now a few significant things have happened. Whether or not EA was directly involved in the mess that was Mass Effect 3’s ending, or whether a game can be directly subject to executive meddling (given the way games are produced EVERYTHING is executive meddling of some form or another), they were held up as a reason for the massive drop in quality towards the end of that game. I saw “a” reason because there are MANY theories about it, while I haven’t seen the volume of Johnlock shipping (I’m a hermit) I can imagine that you can make similar comparisons. And the “space magic solves everything forever” mess was only made worse by EA’s insistence on making every last buck they could in the form of DLC, including one released… on the same day as the games release.

    EA isn’t doing themselves any favours but the key problem is that, as a company, they’re just mediocre enough to keep themselves afloat and indeed making a profit. Thus keeping the people who actually have the power to do anything, no not the executives the investors, from getting on their case about it.

    However there are signs that a year long campaign, visible across media outlets around the world and soundly beating the old “the twenty-four hour news cycle forgives all sins” can change things.

    http://consumerist.com/2013/03/06/ea-backtracks-a-bit-on-the-whole-microtransactions-in-every-game-thing/

  2. don’t get me wrong. i love building and consequently destroying a good city now and then but SimCity has never been worth $60 to me. i’ll sooner buy the katy perry sim3 pink-wig-o-rama nightmare than lay down the cost of a circa 2011 mmorpg. the fact that the servers are fail just makes me all the more convinced it will be on sale mighty soon. meanwhile there’s steam. magic anyone?

    • Remember when the Sims came out and expansion packs cost $30 a pop? Yeah… those were the good old days. These days, thirty bucks’ll get you a mediocre content pack from the Sims 3 store.
      Worst part? After plopping down $60 on a steaming pile of turd, EA expects SimCity players to pay $14.99 for a single building in their soon-to-come in-game DLC store? Yeah, um, how about NO.

      And, with that, I’m off to reinstall my SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition.

      • it’s entirely true. not trying to be cheap but when you grow up in front of a screen you have the attention span of a chipmunk. i have to be careful feeding my addiction. otherwise i get bored and twitchy and wind up spend $50 on an expansion that gives my sims kitty wigs.

        lately, there really hasn’t been anything that keeps me up late at night just aching to play. the last time i pulled a 48 hours stint was with swtor beta. sure, i’ve flirted with tera and boarderlands2 waiting for guild wars2 to drop but everything was just so disappointing. are we expecting too much for the next released game to be better than the last? and the cost of it all.. watching a game you paid full with subby go completely free *cough TSW* it’s enough to make you want to go classic and unearth some roms. just die in pajamas feeding a blob jellybeans.

  3. I didn’t have nearly the level of trouble with the new SimCity that everyone else was having… but the always-online was definitely annoying. I miss the good old days of the original SC and SC 2000, where you’d build some huge cities, save, and then unleash the fury of the disaster menu upon the poor unsuspecting sims. When EA offered the free game, I looked through the options – most of which I already had on the 360. I laughed when I saw SC 4, then realized its value as an offline “fix.” Thankfully, SC4 was sitting in my drawer, so I promptly installed my old copy and picked Dead Space 3 to play on PC with headphones so the kids won’t hear the screams and swearing from the XBox version.

    Your article was a delight, and more importantly, the SC 4 mods was an unexpected resource I’d never have been interested in until about a week ago. Thanks for the awesome tip!

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