The Ugly Launch of EA’s SimCity

A cautious tale about failing to live up to high expectations and probably what not to do when faced with it.

It’s been a pretty bad week for Electronic Arts – no duh, says the Internet.

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The March 5 launch of Maxis’ SimCity has been devastatingly interrupted like a Bowser attack in the SNES-port of the original city-building sim, as crippling server failures and technical issues have kept millions of players from accessing the title due to its required always-on Internet connection.

Even single player in SimCity sits behind this online wall, a fact that’s been thoroughly ravaged by purchasers, enough to the point where the all-mighty Amazon pulled the digital version of the game. Temporarily, though. Hours later it was put back up with a disclaimer, but with over 1,500 one star reviews, I’m hard to think of anyone who would currently buy it.

Public consensus about SimCity right now – despite its once favorable reviews by critics before this whole server mess (note: some reviews have been lowered in the aftermath) – is dreadfully low. Sheesh, probably lower than the review scores for the disastrous Aliens: Colonial Marines, and that’s certainly saying something. Oh and protip: don’t buy Aliens: Colonial Marines.

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Just what’s a videogame publisher to do? Well hopefully if they’re smart enough, EA is working on the following things:

1. Fixing SimCity as soon as possible.

That’s a given, sure, and reportedly that’s what EA is in the process of doing; adding more servers to help with connection problems due to server overloads happening worldwide. It’s amazing that the one thing that could go wrong when EA announced that you needed a persistent online connection to play SimCity, not only did come true, but in such a massive way.

I’ve heard from the grape vine that some players have experienced wait times as long as several days just to play SimCity – no, I’m not kidding. Even after some people downloaded the game – or at least managed to on the night it went live and eventually crashed – a good majority of them were locked out from starting up a game due server capacity being severely handicapped by the amount of players trying to all play at once.

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2. Respecting your customers for Pete’s sake, especially when they feel like they’ve been royally burnt.

Playing off all negativity with sly comments – i.e. an EA spokesperson saying the reason severs failed to meet the crushing weight of users logging in was because “players were having such a good time they didn’t want to leave the game” – does not help! That’s some waving the red flag in front of the bull kind of spin.

Oh and refunds. I don’t care if it’s a digital product and it’s against Origin policies to due so, EA. If Amazon can immediately change their tune and offer refunds to customers who bought SimCity, so should you. No more of this “stop complaining or we’ll ban you” nonsense that’s been anecdotally spreading across Internet message boards.

You goofed. You goofed mighty big. Now be a respectable company and do the right thing.

I’m hearing word right now that EA is promising a free game for anyone who bought SimCity during this whole fiasco, which is a good first step and I commend them for doing thusly. What they should do next though, is give a formal apology… But I’m almost cynical they won’t. If they do, I’ll happily do the Harlem Shake!

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Perhaps, and allow me to be tangential as I come to a close, this situation should give us gamers pause when heralding a digitally-reliant future, especially one that supposedly – if Microsoft’s rumors about their next console is true – is heavily dependent on having a broadband connection to play games.

What happens when the Internet, a not-so-sturdy infrastructure as we’ve seen on countless occasions, goes down for long periods of times? How will players access their games?

Even bigger picture wise: What will happen to the games we own once gaming companies decide to pull the plug on the online servers that host said games? What then? I mean, I’m certainly not against the ease of having our games at the click of button, but at what cost? Right now, with all the problems SimCity is having trying to save itself, we should probably have this particular discussion as a whole gaming industry about the future of our online infrastructures.

For now, SimCity’s launch is an abysmal – pardon my French – “clusterfuck,” although hopefully for those who’ve bought the game and have been patiently waiting for all server problems to be ironed out, the situation gets better in the days that follow.

It would be one thing if SimCity were just an average bottom-of-the-discount-pile game, which you could to some extent forgive all these online problems, but honestly it’s not. It’s a very good game. Probably one of the best of 2013, and one that unfortunately due to all this current launch mess only leaves a very sour taste to the mouth. It’s all quite disappointing.

Not disappointing? Why the latest buzz about the iPhone 5s possibly being in production, a classic Atari 2600 being re-purposed as an iPhone dock, or whatever else is happening on the Internet reported right here on Walyou!