Update 3/11/2013: Maxis releases a statement saying the SimCity problems are almost behind us. EA has also ponied up and offered a free game to SimCity “Early Adopters.” Having been able to play since Saturday with few issues, I think they might actually be getting their act together.
Update 3/8/2013: Amazon has resumed selling digital copies of the game, but keeps it’s warning up. EA pulls all SimCity marketing materials from affiliates until further notice. Wow.
If you’ve been paying attention to the internet, you probably know there was a release of a game 2 days ago, that has been pretty rough. By pretty rough, I mean that EA flubbed the SimCity launch…hard. As in, a large amount of people weren’t even able to play the game kind of flubbed. The issues are varied and despite the cries of the internet, all the exact causes aren’t known. The generally accepted culprit are is the controversial “Always On” internet connection required by the game. Essentially, your copy of a single player game must always be connected and in contact with the core SimCity servers. EA spins this as a good thing, providing content and new depth of game play through the use of Regions where other players can connect to your city, and trade, as well as a slew of other features. The internet generally holds that the impetus behind the “Always On” connection is to help prevent piracy through the DRM (Digital Rights Management) scheme.
The Saga of the SimCity Launch
Regardless of the reasons, EA didn’t adequately anticipate the demand of the SimCity Launch and servers were swamped, crashed and repeatedly kicked players off. Players were unable to even play private games without any multiplayer elements because the game had to authenticate with the servers, where were down. In backlash, players took to Facebook, Twitter, the official EA Forums and just about every other possible venue to vent their frustration and anger over the issues keeping them from playing the game. At the time of this writing, Amazon had the game as a One and a Half Star rating, and actually pulled the digital download version of the game to the issues, and processed refunds for it as a faulty product.
EA promised refunds for those who found the server issues to be too much, but I’ve heard of several cases where people were denied refunds after the announcement was made. Customer support times were atrocious to call, Live chat was disabled on the website. In what reads as a desperate move to save some face, EA actually turned off non-critical features just to get the servers up so people could play. Let that sink in–they turned off parts of the game, so that other parts would work. I mean, really?! this is what the summation of the SimCity launch has become, “We gimped the game so bad, we had to gimp it in other ways just so you can play.”
The controversy around “Always On” DRM schemes started with the Diablo 3 launch where Blizzard announced the controversial plan for the single player game. So controversial that some governments weren’t overly happy with the scheme. The Diablo 3 is largely regarded as one of the most disastrous in recent gaming history, with users again unable to access the day for days, or weeks at a time. Assuming EA would have taken a note from Diablo 3’s short comings, many purchased the game despite the Always On DRM scheme. So many in fact that the disaster SimCity’s launch has largely eclipsed the Diablo 3 debacle, likely due to EA’s almost complete lack of planning or customer communication.
Cracked versions of the game started showing up on torrents for people to download mere hours after the game launched. Interestingly, users with cracked versions of the game seem to be consistently enjoying their SimCity Launch, whereas those with legitimate copies of the game are repeatedly hindered with the inability to log into the game. Officially, EA has yet to say anything about the launch but I think it’s clear that this will be known for a while as how not to launch a game. As for far-reaching implications on game design and the future of SimCity, it’s unclear.
However, at the time of this writing, EA stock is still in the green. I have to wonder if this trainwreck will have any impact there.
Via: The Escapist (and just about every other gaming outlet on the planet)