A month ago, Electronic Arts, a Bay Area-based video game producer and publisher, released its subsidiary's new and highly anticipated SimCity game. SimCity is a city building and urban planning simulation, the first major installment in the series since the release of SimCity 4 back in 2003. So why talk about a game a month after it came out? The release was, according to Wired's Chris Kohler, a complete disaster.
Prior to its release the game garnered some prestigious awards, but as soon as it went public a wave on consumer outcry overshadowed the gameplay entirely. Sites like Reddit, 4Chan, and Kotaku were flooded with posts and comments from angry users complaining of game-breaking bugs. According to an EA press release SimCity sold over a million copies in the first two weeks, but the backlash just kept coming. Amazon even went so far as to suspend sales of the game and subsequently add a 'buyers beware' warning label to the game's main page on the site.
The main problem? DRM (digital rights management) software was included with the game -- as it is with most video games published these days. The difference is that while SimCity games of the past were installed only on each player's personal computer, now each player is required to play in EA's servers at all times. This means that if an internet connection is lost, running slowly, or if EA's servers become overloaded, players can not access their cities at all.
Herein lies the debate that has upset the online community over the past few weeks. EA makes the argument that most players have reasonable access to the internet these days and the "always on" DRM protects the company from those intent on pirating their software. The fans argue they bought a game, not a subscription and they should have access to said game whether or not they have internet access (or EA should keep their servers running smoothly, which clearly they have yet to do).
A month later Maxis is hoping a tuned up, bug-free version of the game will win over players and help wash away the bad taste left behind by the disastrous launch. But with server lockout, lost saves, rollbacks, and throttled play speed to protect overloaded servers all still active after an entire month, it's hard to see the good name of SimCity coming clean anytime soon. Along with controversies over the game's first downloadable content (add-ons to the original game) being just a tacky Nissan product placement. It doesn't look like the game will be running smoothly, especially in the minds of fans, for a while to come.
It has been a rough start to 2013 for EA, SimCity's rocky start was followed by a round of major layoffs, including the closure of at least one mobile development studio. Then, EA was voted the "Worst Company in America" by Consumerist. With many fans already calling for a boycott of EA's next major release, the new Battlefield, we'll have to wait and see if enough gamers will join the protest for EA to take notice.