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.
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.
“So, what made you decide to major in urban planning?””Well I was going to play #SimCity, but I figured this would be faster.”
— Aaron Draczynski (@developer) March 8, 2013
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, 2013This 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.