SimCity Launch Intricacies
SimCity was one of those games that had assembled a strong fan community over the many years. Virtually everyone had heard, played and liked SimCity and what was there not to like? It was fun, challenging at times but ultimately rewarding.
With EA botched release of their remake – because no preload, always-on-DRM with a ‘weak’ server was bound to work, right? - they managed to piss of a lot of people. And yes, with a lot, I mean more than the usual amount for the company is not known to have the greatest of reputations in the industry.
Visual representation of SimCity launch.
Lucy Bradshaw, General Manager of Maxis Label, has now come out to address the issues and over somewhat of a compensation to those players that suffered from the less than optimal launch. She admits that the number of people logging on to play the game was much higher than expected and that the Beta had not prepared them for this.
‘So what went wrong? The short answer is: a lot more people logged on than we expected. More people played and played in ways we never saw in the beta.’
It’s a rare day indeed when a major publisher does not know that Beta’s usually have less people playing and that a big release like a remake of SimCity would not attract a huge mob of people that literally waited for the clock to tick Zero. But hey, at least they apologies, so you got to give them credit for that.
‘OK, we agree, that was dumb, but we are committed to fixing it. In the last 48 hours we increased server capacity by 120 percent. It’s working – the number of people who have gotten in and built cities has improved dramatically. The number of disrupted experiences has dropped by roughly 80 percent.’
Sound good? Yeah, that’s because that’s how it should be – even though it is not yet entirely optimal either but Bradshaw is confident that a coming update will put the game into the state it should have been at launch.
‘We’re close to fixed, but not quite there. I’m hoping to post another update this weekend to let everyone know that the launch issues are behind us.’
So this ‘compensation’ I was talking about? Well, before I get to that important part, I first have to tell you about the usual stuff said by developers and publishers. SimCity is, server issues aside, generally perceived to be a good game etc. etc. Or, as Ms. Bradshaw puts it,
‘The good news is that SimCity is a solid hit in all major markets. The consensus among critics and players is that this is fundamentally a great game.‘
Why don’t you sit down and relax.
But now, the thing you really wanted to hear. What about the goodies? Well, I’ll again let Lucy Bradshaw talk for me because at least then I don’t have to worry about getting anything wrong…
‘And to get us back in your good graces, we’re going to offer you a free PC download game from the EA portfolio. On March 18, SimCity players who have activated their game will receive an email telling them how to redeem their free game.
I know that’s a little contrived – kind of like buying a present for a friend after you did something crummy. But we feel bad about what happened. We’re hoping you won’t stay mad and that we’ll be friends again when SimCity is running at 100 percent.’
Friends again? Mmmh, yeah, if you learn from this mess and don’t eff it all up again.
But let’s be serious. In light of this tragedy, EA have actually taken some steps that could be seen as…well, reasonable. They might not be offering refunds, but they have instructed affiliates such as Polygon to suspend any kind of active advertisement of the game until the server issues are fixed. Affiliates were asked to:
‘Deactivate all SimCity text links and please remove any copy promoting SimCity from your website for the time-being.’
Unsurprisingly however, any monetary links between EA and its affiliates continue:
‘To be clear we are continuing to payout commissions on all SimCity sales that are referred, however we are requesting that you please stop actively promoting the game. We will notify you as soon as the SimCity marketing campaigns have been resumed and our promotional links are once again live in the Linkshare interface. ‘
This is probably one of the reasons – Aliens!
It is probably one of the most rational step the publisher has taken in the whole SimCity story. Apart from taking the game out of stores across the world and temporarily seizing digital sales – in that regard, some sellers have already acted such as Amazon who took SimCity out of their catalogue – this was the only viable alternative. Yes, new buyers might face the same problems as those that bought the game pre-launch, but with new and direly needed patches rolling out, the chances of hitting the same kind of wall as the unlucky mob that pre-ordered, is fairly low. At he same time, EA are covering their back by this step and, by that, also take away some of the impulses one might get upon stumbling upon some advertisement. So it’s not just beneficial for them, but also for us. But it’s a small deed in a major disaster.
SimCity is still hampered by many problems and early fixes such as the removal of the ‘Cheetah’ time-compression did nothing but further upset customers. It also didn’t help that a, what eventually turned out to be a Maxis/EA employee, anonymously went on NeoGAF and tried to damage-control there as an allegedly member of the community. That’s not how you should do it.
Really, we can only hope that EA learns from this. The SimCity story probably put to shadow even the Aliens: Colonial Marines fail and Ubisoft DRM’s from the old days. Oh dear.