So you guys might have heard about this game called Sim City that came out this week. Apparently lots of people are playing it, and everything that EA has done with the launch has been so brilliant that people are throwing parades for it, both in their game’s city streets and in real life. It’s being heralded as the way to do a launch right, and a bastion of hope for how to do an “always online” DRM.
OK, none of that is true. At all. In fact, lots of people can’t even play the game yet.
In what might have been a worse launch disaster than Diablo III, Sim City points to a somewhat grim future for “always online” single player games on the PC. The game’s servers have been so overloaded that people are having trouble playing, saving cities, seeing their friends and more. In fact, EA is having to turn off features that supposedly made “always online” necessary in the first place, just to help people connect.
But it doesn’t stop there, really. Polygon, in a rather unique move, has downgraded their original 9.5 review to a 4 over the course of the last few days, since gamers are having trouble playing. Amazon temporarily stopped selling digital versions of the game, which also has an average of a 1-star review by angry consumers. And Origin is faring no better, having ran into some issues when their community manager promised people they would refund the game to unhappy players, only to have the position changed by the official Twitter account later (the original forum post was modified).
In short, this thing is something of a fiasco. It would be laughable even, if the game hadn’t sold so well that no message will get sent to other developers who try to force these kinds of connectivity settings on gamers in order to protect a bottom line. While I generally don’t care about “always online” games, and have even defended them (seriously, how many gamers are not online when they’re at a computer these days), this certainly points to a future of video games that I don’t want.
So far, I haven’t been able to play Sim City at all. While I’ve done my best to be patient about this, and I know that like Diablo III, eventually the whole thing will blow over and I’ll be able to hop in and have my fun, I’m disappointed. The most disappointing thing about this is that it was cheaper for EA to botch their launch rather than to make sure that it worked for everyone, and their no-refund stance shows that they don’t want to make it right in the future. At first I balked when Polygon lowered their review, feeling like it was just a stance that was intended to get more viewers on the article. But over time, my thoughts have changed on that.
I hope every site lowers their review scores. I hope more retailers stop selling the game until it works or offering refunds of their own. Since Origin isn’t offering refunds, I hope hundreds of thousands of gamers are dissuaded by bad reviews to buy this game for the moment, because I’d like EA to receive some kind of message from all this, one I doubt they’d get other than to “try better” next time.
I’m not one of those guys that think EA is evil. I really don’t. But their absurd PR spinning this entire time has shown how deep they’ve got their heads buried in the sand (or their own asses) about what gamers are experiencing, and instead of owning up to it, apologizing, offering some offline only mode fixes and doing right by consumers, they’ve backed into a corner and started snarling. Remember when the War Z’s launch was so terrible that Steam made it right to consumers by offering full refunds for a broken game? If EA wanted Origin to be a viable platform, they’d do the same.
As it stands right now, I’ve had an amazing game that I paid $60 bucks for several months ago that I still can’t play. And I’m not livid about it, I just think it’s a shame.
How do you guys feel about Sim City’s launch woes and “always online” DRM measures? Do you think people overreact to this kind of thing? How do you think gamer response has been, as well as EA’s? Go!